That part of South Carolina had a rep for housing racist militias and noted segregationist Strom Thurmond is from that area as well. Did you get a sense of that part of the town’s history?
The Red Shirts [a group that was a precursor to the KKK] were founded in this area. The interesting thing about the Irish-Scots who settled in this area is that they had a different honor code. We did the research and you had people who would gauge eyes out, bite people’s ears off, stuff like that to settle arguments. It’s a place with a very violent past. We thought it was good to get a perspective from both sides. Personally, I feel like people who want to wave confederate flags, that’s their business. It’s their right. There are things as an African-American that I can say about the American flag and what that has stood for in the past so if Southerners want to be proud of their heritage than that’s cool. 50 interviewed a woman who was very proud of her southern heritage but at the same time had some old ideas. But she did she vote for Obama which I found interesting.
How is the town now? How is the power structure set up?
In the area now we ran across some black people in positions of power who looked like they were doing well financially. It’s not like NY though, it’s not a transient area with different races and people from different cultures and religions. It’s the same White people who have been here for 100 years and the same Black people who have been here for 100 years. But there was no strife that I saw.
Obviously you can’t speak for him but how do you think the experience impacted 50?
My last name is Jenkins and some of 50’s relatives last name is Jenkins. 50 and I talked about how it is to have a name forced on to your family. We also talked about how in his life he never had beef with any White people. Only people that looked like him. He said the only White people he knew growing up In Queens were his lawyers and accountants. The physical places he went impacted him. I think 50 came back with a different mentality since he was able to picture what they went through.
What do you feel was the impetus for VH1 to create a program like this?
VH1 stands for video hits one but they have gone away from their music coverage lately. They want to stay involved and they know that they have a large urban audience and they want to get in touch with that audience. There aren’t many Black producers who get to tell these stories so for me it’s a fantastic trip. I commend VH1 for putting up the dough to do a project like this.
What do you think will be the effect, if any, of this documentary?
I think people will see 50 in a different light. They will see him as a man. My problem with hip-hop for a long time was that it wasn’t cool to be smart or to want to know about things, to know about your history and the world. The gangsta rap era had a stranglehold on the culture and say what you want about tight jeans and skateboards but I think this new generation is starting to change that and see the world differently.