Monday, March 30, 2009
50 Cent Is Not A Rapper
I first heard about the rapper 50 Cent back in 1999, when my dude and former client Deric "D-Dot Angelettie, p/k/a The Madd Rapper produced and was featured on 50's 1st single "How To Rob". "How To Rob" was that perfect single for a rapper trying to get noticed in a market then flooded by Hip Hop superstars. On the debut single, 50 jokingly rapped about robbing several rap stars and entertainers from a hungry rapper's perspective. Deric's Madd Rapper ad-libs added to that desperate "I gotta get mine from these industry cats" vibe, egging 50 on from the background. The single also had legs on the radio, at least here in New York. Unfortunately some rappers named in "How To Rob" took offense, I guess they didn't find it as funny as the fans did. Some even responded with shots at the new rapper. Regardless, it was clear that the new rapper called 50 Cent had a shot at making a name for himself.
The next time I heard about 50 was in March of 2000. I received a call from one of my clients who was hired to produce a track for 5o in connection with his first album "Power Of The Dollar". That March, he and some members of his production team were in the famed Hit Factory recording studios with 50 Cent, in one of the smaller rooms. The Hit Factory was a enormous studio with state of the art equipment and many recording rooms, some large enough to fit an entire orchestra. On this particular evening, 50's rivals, members of the famed Murder Inc. were also booked in The Hit Factory, in a different room. 50's beef with Murder Inc. had been going on for some time, particularly with Ja Rule. Apparently, some members of the Inc. had peeped 50 in the building and decided they would roll up in his session and ride on who ever was present. Right in the middle of recording, 50's session was interrupted by what seemed like at least more than 5 crew members of the Inc. As the goons rushed the room, they decided to cut off the lights in an attempt to further "shock and awe" 50 and his companions. Shit got real hectic with the producers and 50 going for theirs in defense against their attackers. When it was over, 50 Cent the rapper realized that his beef with Murder Inc. had just escalated to a whole new level. Niggas was really coming for him, and not just on wax.
The third time I heard about 50 Cent was on May 24, 2000, when he was shot nine times and left for dead, lying in a pool of his own blood. The shooting was allegedly in connection with 50's beef with the Inc. Miraculously, Curtis James Jackson, III survived the shooting. In one fell swoop, he beat out Tupac Shakur in legendary street cred status, 'Pac having survived getting hit with "only" 5 bullets. All this and with only one single recorded. Still, even though Curtis Jackson survived that shooting it seemed that the rapper who was 50 Cent was killed or at least his career was. Severely wounded and now without a deal, 50 Cent the rapper was left to die.
Two years later, after the industry and fans alike had ample opportunity to forget about him, 50 dropped the mixtape "Guess Whose Back?" Having been blacklisted by most record execs, unable to find a studio that would allow him to record, 50 was forced to travel to Canada in order to compile "Guess Whose Back". Shit was unlike any mixtape ever heard. Containing some tracks intended for his unreleased "Power Of The Dollar" album for Columbia, along with some new tracks aimed at his foes connected with the Inc., the cd played like a concept album. In addition, the rumor was that the jewelry piece 50 was brazenly showcasing on the album cover, wrapped around his gun was actually a piece that once belonged to Ja Rule. The story was that 50 and Ja had gotten into a scuffle and the scuffle ended with 50 walking away with Ja's chain and diamond studded cross. Regardless if said story was fact or fiction, 50's buzz hit like a bomb. Industry cats once again started talking about the mixtape, about how hot 50 was. Kniccas in the streets and in the barber shops were also talking.
Dino, my boy who was an A&R at Universal and was the dude responsible for signing the Cash Money Millionaires had seen the opportunity and was the first exec willing to stick his neck out to sign 50. Dino wanted to lock 50 down with the quickness and 50 needed a lawyer so he called me, asked me if I was interested in meeting 50, or if I was scared, shook like a lot of our fellow industry colleagues on account of 50's beef. I told Dino I wouldn't mind working with 50, especially since the mixtape was fuego. Dino knew that if hired by 50, I would make the deal happen unlike some other attorneys who had a rep for drawing deals out, making things difficult for all parties involved. Fifty called me shortly after. We arranged a meeting to break bread and discuss whether we could establish a working relationship. On the day of our meeting 50 showed up promptly to my office. Most rappers feel that showing up late for meetings must be some kind of cool. Even though he had "taken some time off" to heal and recuperate, niggas was still out in the streets gunning for him. Because of that, he was rocking a fresh bullet proof vest, accompanied by his manager Sha Money XL and one other dude who mos def looked like he was a shooter. Me and one of my law partners sat down with 50 and we began to build.
Curtis was incredibly focused. Perhaps the most focused person I had ever met during my time on this planet. Calmly, the man spoke with incredible clarity as to his immediate and future plans, how he was going to get his family out the hood, how he would put together an album that wouldn't just shock the world but would also make him very rich. How with his newfound wealth, he would put himself in a position of power and build an army to take care of all his rivals who placed him in his current position, a position of having to move quietly, carefully, of having to constantly watch his back. With very little emotion, but with the charisma of a star, Mr. Jackson explained how in a short period of time, the tables would be turned and how he would be sitting on top of an empire that would extend far beyond any record deal. No bravado, none of that "nah'mean" swagger lingo that so many rappers brandish when inflating their infantile images to the public, just methodical well thought out step by step plans that would ensure the success of his goals. Curtis conducted the entire meeting looking both me and my partner dead in our eyes, but it was apparent to me that he was looking through us, beyond the here and now.
Dude saw the future, not just the end result, but every effin brick he would have to lay in order to transform his visions, his dreams into reality. Curtis was also very forthcoming about a possible deal with Eminem, with Dr. Dre, Shady, Aftermath and Interscope. Told me that Em's people, including Em's lawyer reached out to him. Curtis was extremely respectful in taking the time to meet with me, respectful in maintaining a good relationship with Dino but explained that he might not take the Universal deal on account of how it wasn't in his benefit to replay the role of a solo artist left out in the cold to defend himself against his enemies who were Goliath like in stature. How Em and Dre might just could put him in a position of power and how he most likely would rock with Em's lawyer. We concluded the meeting. After Curtis Jackson, Sha and their shooter left the building, me and my partner were quiet, in awe at the meeting that had just taken place. We knew immediately, that whatever endeavor he set out to accomplish, Curtis Jackson would be incredibly successful. I also realized, at that moment, that two years earlier, on May 24, 2000, the rapper who was 50 Cent was shot nine times, died while lying in a pool of his own blood. What was left in place of the slain rapper was a man reborn with the intimate knowledge of the relationship between life and death, who knew first hand the meaning of war, of strategy, of alliances, of power and how he would claim his power. It was also evident that once 50 claimed the power he so desperately needed, he would never relinquish an inch of it.
Six years after the release of his first album"Get Rich Or Die Tryin'", 50 Cent continues to remain relevant, remains in full control of his power. He also continues to manipulate the media and the masses to believe only what he wants them to believe. That thing with Kanye and their album beef? So clear that 50 was playing with us all. The jabs at Diddy, at Wayne, at damn near anyone that might could even resemble a future threat, just pawn moves in his ever evolving chess game with the world. Recently, I've been most entertained with his relentless and ruthless public flogging of the former CO turned rapper Rick Ross. I'm also amused when people complain about how he no longer releases quality music, how all his posturing and beefs have all but destroyed his career as a rapper, how his endeavors in acting and in video games have cheapened his street cred, how his vast amount of public beefs have killed his record career. I'm so amazed at how the man Curtis Jackson p/k/a 50 Cent continues to pull the wool over so many people's eyes so concerned about him as a rapper. True he can go back into his past life and pull out rhymes, songs and even albums, but 5o Cent is many many things, a rapper he is not. I keep wondering when all these other rappers will realize that 5o Cent the rapper left the building years ago, so many years in fact that no matter how prolific and masterful they are with their word play, their rap battles exist on an entirely different plane, a completely different playing field than 50's, and as these rappers continue to swing at shadows while 50 lands critical blows from afar, in an arena much broader and far more complex I'm asking myself, "why did these niggas do it to themselves?"
And as long as he continues to be everything but a rapper, I will continue to enjoy the ever continuing saga that is the 50 Cent show. 50 Cent the rapper is dead, long live 50 Cent, the world's smartest entertainer.