By EW Staff
Updated June 27, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

It’s not quite the hard-knock life for 50 Cent and Jay-Z, who’ve gone from rags to riches to our summer music cover (#712, May 30). But readers are divided over whether the pair has serious talent. ”After years in the game, Jay-Z is still unable to express himself outside of a ghetto comfort zone that limits his lyrics to the drugs, thugs, and womanizing formula,” says Ami-Kenya Reese of Gary, Ind. Meanwhile, Simpsons fans spied what they consider an inexcusable oversight. ”How can you have an article about Albert Brooks and not mention his many superlative voice cameos on The Simpsons?” wonders Brent Brown of Horse Shoe, N.C. ”Jacques, Marge’s tempting bowling instructor; Bob, the fast-talking RV salesman; and, of course, benevolent supervillain Hank Scorpio are just a few of the memorable characters Brooks has voiced as A. Brooks.” In a word, D’oh!

That’s a Rap!

Thanks so much for putting Jay-Z and 50 Cent on your cover. These two artists deserve all the fame and fortune they’ve achieved. Sure, their music contains sex, violence, and profanity. But Jay-Z’s explanation was a good one: As much as people like to deny it, those three things are what people want. LEA QUEZADA Forest Hills, N.Y.

Normally, I really don’t like rap, and so I was surprised by what 50 Cent and Jay-Z had to say. I thought what they said could really make all kinds of people understand what these rappers are out to do. CHASE FERREE Charlotte, N.C.

I was disappointed in your interview with Jay-Z and 50 Cent. Instead of reading the same old questions about sex, violence, and profanity in rap lyrics and videos, I would have rather seen questions that yielded informative responses. For example, ”How did a kid without a rich daddy or a college degree build a multimillion-dollar-a-year clothing company and his own record label?” Or why not point out that many of the lyrics are extremely witty? I don’t think you would ask Donald Trump questions only about his hair and the girls half his age that he dates. Hip-hop is a multimillion-dollar business and should be respected as such. ROXANE R. FRITZ Sacramento

A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO, I concluded that if one wanted to be photographed as a legit rapper, you needed three things:

(1) Incredibly ugly jewelry. Show your public where all that bling-bling is going.

(2) Don’t smile, dog — you’re a rapper. You have to grimace or scowl to show the emotional pain of growing up in the hood.

(3) You need to make some kind of menacing gesture with your hands.

Half Dollar’s got the accoutrements and looks like he needs more fiber in his diet. And Jay-Z’s balled-up fist looks like it’s going to go 12 rounds with my face. J. WHITE Alamogordo, N.M.

You want to know why American Idol is so popular? Look at the alternatives presented in your issue. The two guys on the front (50 Cent and Jay-Z) look like a smile would break their faces, and Ozzy, Marilyn Manson, and Mudvayne inside the magazine look like something the cat dragged in. Ruben, Clay, Kimberly, and the rest present polite, fresh-faced alternatives to a listening audience tired of wading through rude, vulgar, and trashy musicians. CAROLYN O’NEAL Charlottesville, Va.