Percy Zvomuya
Percy Zvomuya

Putting money on hip relationships

Patrice Motsepe, South Africa’s football and mining oligarch, last week took time to chill, as they say, with visiting US Hip Hop star 50 Cent. Motsepe even attended 50’s show at The Dome, in Johannesburg. And to compensate for Motsepe nodding and humming along to rather strange music in the company of teenagers and 20–somethings, 50 visited Motsepe’s platinum mine in Lydenburg, Mpumalanga.

Afterwards Motsepe and 50 went down to Cape Town on the mining magnate’s private jet for the other leg of 50’s show. Reports say Motsepe was trying to use 50 to stoke young South Africans’ interest in the rather dusty profession of mining. Frankly, one can’t think of a more appropriate ambassador for the metallic produce of the earth.

With a neck almost bent because of all the gold and the platinum he has worn over the years, a wrist watch whose constituent metal could easily fill a crater, and a ring that on a less muscular finger would result in thrombosis, 50 could well get young South Africans excited about mining or, more likely, the earth’s metallic produce.

50’s association with South Africa’s oligarch fits into a pattern in which American Hip Hop stars are courting rich friends on the other side of the Atlantic. US Hip Hop artist Nelly also has an association with Mojalife, a local company whose chairman is ANC treasurer–general Mathews Phosa, to distribute Pimpjuice, Vokal and Apple Bottom Jeans. (Pimpjuice is a non–carbonated sports drink which was launched in the United States in 2003 amid controversy over the use of the term “pimp”.)

Phosa, showing the sort of acumen that has seen rappers rise from poverty into overnight stardom, said that the word pimp in fact is an acronym for “positive, intellectually motivated persons.”

The Americans are not only courting Africans. In 2006, the Hip Hop mogul P Diddy, formerly known as Puff Daddy whose ‘government name’ is Sean Combs, took time to hang out with Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson. While Diddy was chilling out with Ferguson, he was presented with a Manchester United shirt. Ferguson even invited the rapper to become an honorary Manchester United supporter.

But it would seem pimpdom has not pruned Diddy of his street cred and his loyalty to his homies. “I’m a loyal guy. There’s a couple of other football teams [that] tried to recruit me, but I’m staying true to Arsenal. Arsenal fans have inducted me as an honorary official Arsenal member.”

Although he declined the invitation to become a supporter, he nevertheless sent Fergie two cases of his cologne and invited the team to attend his UK concerts. Not that the team would need invitation, after all, Sir Alex’s defender stand–in captain Rio Ferdinand likes to play Diddy’s rather noisy music before games, although Sir Alex prefers classical.

Musical tastes, cultural background and racial origins apart, Diddy and Ferguson are not that different. Both were shaped on the streets: Diddy in Harlem and Sir Alex in Glasgow’s Govan District. When cornered they are wont to use expletives and rant at their enemies.

The knight has gloated about how his “greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their f***ing perch” and bizarrely claiming that Argentine Juan Sebastian Veron, whose time at Old Trafford was rather insipid, was a “f***ing great player”.

Despite the similarities, it’s a bit difficult to imagine a conversation between these mutually admiring but otherwise different people. On the jet trip, to Cape Town imagine Motsepe saying to 50, “did you see Paul Scholes’ screaming shot in the Champions League tie between Manchester United and Barcelona” and 50 distractedly nodding while looking to segue the dialogue into more familiar US Hip Hop territory…