Go ahead. 50 Cent wants you to bet against him.
It's that same street-born confidence that led hip-hop dream team Eminem and Dr. Dre to sign the former Jamaica, Queens' crack dealer and music industry-shunned MC to their Shady/Aftermath imprint. The same sneering swagger that propelled 50 from underground mix-tape king to the top of Billboard album charts with his 2003 major-label debut Get Rich or Die Tryin', a landmark record that to date has sold well-over 10 million copies worldwide. And the same two-fisted ambition that saw the savvy hood entrepreneur lead his infamous G-Unit clique to multi-platinum glory, making 50 Cent's G-Unit record label a major player in the music biz.
Now with the release of The Massacre, easily the most anticipated album of 2005, 50 Cent looks to continue his domination of the hip-hop game and beyond. And for the man born Curtis Jackson that means destroying the competition. They have to survive me going around the country with this record, laughs the self-assured MC whose beef-igniting reputation has become as infamous as his street worn past. My thought process going into The Massacre took me back to the days when I was hustling. I'm looking to move the competition off the block. I feel like anything less than what I've accomplished with Get Rich is a disappointment. I had time to grow during the last two years, so I just feel like I'm a better artist. The album title says it all: I want all the rappers to move the fuck out of the way.
What may come off as hood nigga bravado is really a straight-no-chaser story of survival and redemption from a man who simply refuses to lose. More than living up to the proverbial hype, The Massacre finds 50 Cent expanding the parameters of hardcore rap, once again backed up by West Coast production icon Dr. Dre, hip-hop giant Eminem and G-Unit MC's Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo and Young Buck. The Scott Storch produced first single Candy Shop, featuring G-Unit first lady Olivia, is a soon-to-be club classic as 50 spits game to the opposite sex with addictive lines like, Isn't it ironic how erotic it is to watch her in thongs?/Had me thinking about that ass after I'm gone.
The incendiary Piggy Bank (Needlez), a bruising diss record too controversial for radio, takes aim at the usual suspects of would-be challengers to 50 Cent's street-tested crown. Talkin' Bout Me, highlights the MC's vivid story-telling prowess as he rhymes from the perspective of five different characters with their own views of the G-Unit captain. I love 50 Cent, that's my dad/But even my mom talks about him bad, he testifies as his own son over a stripped-down cut. The song is one of several collaborations with the legendary Dr. Dre, who 50 lauds, knows what's going to work with me.
The ominous Then The Guns Come Out finds the charismatic 50 at his menacing bad man best. And on the conceptual "Baltimore Love Thing (Q Beats), 50 Cent explores the dark relationship between a drug addict and heroin in all-too human terms. "Let's make a date, promise me you'll come and see me, even if it means you'll have to sell your mama's TVno one said loving me would be easy, he offers on the 70s soul era track.
For 50 Cent, the latter work underlines the dramatic range of The Massacre. "With this album I'm covering what was missed on Get Rich or Die Tryin'," he explains. "I'm more of a hustler than all of the other things. So I talk about that aspect of my lifethe struggles that me and everybody in my hood went through. Rappers I think take the easy way out. They write about how they sold drugs and did dirt as if there were no repercussions. They don't write about the affects of street life. They don't write about how that lifestyle alters them. And that right there is more interesting. When you do that you are touching a lot of people."
By now the hardboiled story of 50 Cent has become ghetto folklore. Born and raised in the notorious Queens, New York drug scene in the late '70s, a young and fatherless Curtis was forced into manhood at an early age as his mother became a casualty of the dope game. Y'all know the rest of the story. The steady rise to local drug boss; the lengthy jail-plagued rap sheet; the long hours perfecting his rhyming craft under the watchful eye of Run DMC's late great Jam Master Jay; the nine gun shots that nearly took his life. By 2000, 50 was dropped from his recording deal with Columbia Records, spending the next few months in recovery. With the help of business partner Sha Money XL, 50 landed back on his feet and released a series of G-Unit mix-tapes that set the 'hood on fire. The unrelenting tracks got the attention of bitter rival MC's and more importantly Eminem, who signed the rapper to a $1 million record deal in 2002. Hip-hop history was made.
However, 50 will be the first to tell you that he was not supposed to make it out his 'hood alive. Even after assailing to the ranks of true music superstardom on the eve of The Massacre release, he still marvels at the irony of it all. "I was granted a pass to the streets as a baby at age 12," 50 humbly says. "The niggas on my block were looking out for me. Somebody who was really in position told me, 'Yo, I'm going to stop feeding you fish and give you a pole.' He wasn't being evil. That hustling lifestyle was all he knew. But really I have to say that Eminem saved me from the streets. If I sat out there in the 'hood long enough the cycle says that you stay there until you kill somebody, you get killed or you go to jail. The music for me is a way for meaway from the bullshit."
Indeed, Curtis Jackson epitomizes the hustler's spirit. While most artists would have been content with the massive spoils of multi-platinum album sales, high profile magazine covers, sold-out tours and omnipresent coverage on MTV and BET, 50 Cent wanted more. He set up his own label with longtime partner Sha Money XL and presented his juggernaut G-Unit clique with the 2004 quadruple platinum Beg For Mercy. 50 oversaw the immense solo shine of Lloyd Banks (The Hunger For More) and Young Buck (Straight Outta Cashville), further expanding G-Unit's takeover agenda. A clothing deal with Ecko Unlimited for his G-Unit line and an unprecedented shoe endorsement pact with Reebok can be added to his successful resume.
50 Cent's rags to riches ascension did not go unnoticed by Oscar-nominated director Jim Sheridan (In America, My Left Foot), who signed on to direct the rapper in the upcoming motion picture drama Hustler's Ambition. And more recently 50 teamed up with Dr. Dre for the Aftermath/G-Unit joint release of West Coast savior The Game, whose no. 1 debut The Documentary sold over a remarkable 500,000 units its first week.
Yet, as release of The Massacre proves, 50 Cent is first and foremost an artist blessed with that rare ability to combine balls-out-realness with a heartfelt candidness that speaks directly to the underdogs of the world. "I really wanted to make this album to let people know where I was at," he says. "In the beginning my priority was to set my crew up. There's a reason why the first thing you hear on Get Rich is 'G-UnitWe in here!' I'm already trying to make sure that the public understands that this is my camp, this is a movement. And it worked out for me. But I know this time is a test. Before, people were not expecting me to sale 10 million albums. Now, I'm proving myself all over again."