So by now you're aware that the 50 Cent of today isn't the 50 Cent of 2003. Or is he? The "aggressive content" is still there, the issues with other rappers are still there, and the hunger to get rich or die tryin' is definitely still there. But while there's a the-more-things-change-the-more-they-stay-the-same feel to it all, there are notable differences between Curtis Jacksons past and present.
He just did a New York reunion show at Governor's Island where he embraced Jadakiss (whom he's had problems with in the past), he hasn't flown off the handle about his placement on the MTV list like he two years ago—and yesterday, as we sat down with 50 Cent in his unfinished new office, his answers to our questions seemed more methodical than ever. While he preps to release his oft-delayed album Before I Self Destruct on November 23, we spoke to 50 about possible tension with Dre, Fat Joe's first-week sales, pulling a gun on Diddy, and how he really feels about Jay-Z's "no one is scared of 50 Cent" comment. Yup, some things will never change...
Interview By Joe La Puma
Complex: Okay, as far as the the new album, we've heard a radio-friendly single with Ne-Yo, but you also have gritty tracks like "Flight 187"... .
50 Cent: "Flight 187" is a bonus track, it's not on the album. I started the project, and I wrote exactly what I wanted on it, and then I thought out the actual singles at the very end. The album changed, because there was a time period around December of last year, that I was ready to put my record out and I was a little anxious. I usually release on schedule; it's usually a two-year cycle for me before I release a record. In December, I put out the "Get Up" record, and then Interscope had a transition, like the entire music business did. So the majority of the delays of this project have been readjustments to what's actually going on, not [because] the material wasn't up to par or completed. There's been a transition that we experience in technology—for instance, right now we're talking to Complex.com instead of Complex magazine. That right there shows you that things are totally changing around. Instead of fighting things, I embrace them.
Complex: Are there any other guest appearances on the album?
50 Cent: R.Kelly, that's also a bonus cut. I kept this album shorter. I kept it down to 16 songs, so people could continuously play these songs and fall in love with them. I'd rather jump in the car from Banks' house to Manhattan listening to my entire album. Listen to the entire record and then on our way back, listen again. I was getting that a lot when I was talking about the War Angel LP, creating content that directly impacts the actual environment—I wrote that for them. Most artists' first album is like that because they don't think "world music." They think "let me make the coolest thing here, right now." And the influences and their surroundings make them write something that reflects their experience.
50 Cent: If you looked at Ready to Die, Reasonable Doubt, Illmatic, those artists would probably tell you that that record was written for their neighborhood. Those are the records that they are working to live up to and can't quite match because they got big. Reasonable Doubt wasn't even a gold record. It went gold after the other albums were successful. Illmatic too. Imagine 50 Cent now with a gold record. It just doesn't work. Those artists no longer can create the aggressive content, because they shifted their lives to where they can't create from a genuine space.
Complex: So that's the big difference between you and those artists?
50: The way I responded to the financial stability, it comes with being successful as an artist. My interests reflect on the struggle and how far I've came, versus indulging in how great it is where I'm at now. A lot of these artists write "I'm rich," the coolest shit about being rich, "I'm at the clearport, I'm doing this, I'm doing that." They aspire to write about luxury and to excite an audience and the demographic that comes from where they come from, saying "I want to be like him." I write material that makes [the listener] feel like he's like me. The guys on the corner can relate to 50 Cent in a different way because they knows that I've had the same experience and I'll be inspiring to them.
Complex: People said that Blueprint 3 came off very braggadocious, just like you alluded to—Jay bragging about the stuff he has.
50: But that's a career trait. That's a style. The choice that he's made as an artist. He's done that his entire career. He felt he could shift trends with the things he's actually saying. I mean, it's cool, it's an option to write that when you're that successful. I just feel like writing imperfection instead of creating a superhero is interesting. I'll write the things they're not willing to say because they think it affects their "cool factor" to the point where they feel like it puts them in the box. They're limited to what they can say and do. I don't give a fuck. I can say and do what I want. So I write those defective characters.
Complex: So you had the big "50 Fest" show in New York recently, where you reunited with a lot of artists. Seems like that was a big step for you. Is that part of the maturation process?
50 Cent: Well, for me the New York show was an opportunity. It was actually branched revenue for Thisis50.com. And at the same time, an opportunity for me to work with artists and have them seen in the same light. There's no middle ground in hip-hop. It's either you're rocking arenas or you're getting top dollar, getting money out a nightclub. You can't really get more than that $75,000 threshold, that's really it in the nightclub circuit.
Complex: You originally had problems with Jadakiss because he did a song with Ja Rule. How would you feel if, after this concert, he went out and did a song with someone like Rick Ross?
50 Cent: You know what? Check this out. I have an issue with anyone who's trying to keep someone who I deem my enemy in a good position. Where I'm from, if you have an issue with one guy and someone keeps standing next to them, just hit him too. Just kill him too. It's just the way I use my gut. I use my moral compass to tell me when to go in on somebody. I dealt with that, it doesn't make sense for me to continue to beat that dead horse. When the artist that I intended to destroy has completely been destroyed, why would I be bothering him? I could tell you as soon as I wrote "Piggy Bank" what was going to happen.
Complex: How so?
50 Cent: I knew Fat Joe's pride would bring him out first, even if he wasn't in the position to win. And he would go and go and go because he has the tough-guy aura. He's tougher in his head than he is in reality, as far as his Don Cartagena shit is concerned. It feels great because everybody's paying attention to them and talking on the radio about them. Mind you, while they're going out and doing all of this talking, I'm just chilling. I'll send them out like they're a rap fan so they can market me. So everywhere they go, nobody cares about your record or what you're doing. The number one question is "So what's up with you and 50?" They're not smart enough to come up with a new disrespectful way to talk to me because I've heard everything you could fucking think of. Then I move away because I'm competing with another artist, and the spotlight moves with me because I'm actually creating the material and generating the interest. So when I move to do that, you're in darkness... to the point where you drop your album sales to 8,000 copies.
Complex: Were you surprised that Fat Joe only sold that many his first week?
50 Cent: Well, I have 8,000 friends. So that's extremely low.
Complex: It's very low...
50 Cent: Watch this. Want a prediction from me? I'll tell you what a psychic told me. Triple Cs is next. And then Rick Ross is going to follow that failure. Def Jam dumped a whole lot of marketing dollars into trying combat me with Rick Ross. More money than they should have. What his numbers were versus what Jadakiss did, didn't make financial sense. So the next go-around, they're going to give him his fair share instead that extra piece of pie. Then you're going to see where he really is.
Complex: You told people not to hold their breath about a collaboration with The Game. Are there still real issues with him?
50 Cent: I really don't know Game. I worked with the kid for six days. I have bigger issues with the actual system, the company, people who work in it. Initially, people would be like, "Yo, we know you wrote the fucking records! You think we give a fuck about that?" Game built this thing on the West Coast, they desperately needed him to come out—they didn't have anybody since Snoop. That's what made it a good business opportunity to begin with. But I had to make sacrifices in order to have Dre put the record out, the same way they waited eight years for Dre to put his album out.
Complex: Is there tension between you and Dre?
50 Cent: There's no tension. There will never be a beef between 50 Cent and Dre. And it's not based on 50 and Dre's relationship, it's based on Eminem and Dre's relationship. My relationship with Em is what Em's relationship is to Dre. If I was to say something disrespectful to Dre, it would effect Em and I value that relationship too much. So I won't say anything, I'll never say anything negative about Dre.
Complex: Does it bother you that it can take Dre so long to mix your records?
50 Cent: Oh no, that's just him as a producer. He takes his time. He loses interest in shit. I don't care how great you are. He's great, but he loses interest in himself at points. So the making of the record at this point is motivation. He'll tell you himself that that's what he feels.
Complex: How do you feel about him working with Game?
50: I don't care. It's better that you shut up sometimes than for you to actually express your judgments when you're close to home.
Complex: Shifting gears, in your VH1 Behind The Music episode, there was a part that talked about Diddy taking a meeting with you, and him getting shook because you brought a gun to the office...
50 Cent: This is what happened. Jennifer Lopez told Puffy that I was a great writer because Corey Rooney signed me to Columbia Records. Jennifer had been exposed to my material, so she told Puff she thinks I'm somebody he should work with. I came down to write and I was in there writing a couple of joints and Puff left the actual room. There was rustling and rambling at the door and shit like that. I jumped up—when you get hurt as bad as I got hurt, either your fear consumes you or you become insensitive. So I jumped up and figured "as you come through the door, I'll shoot your ass down right there in the door." The paranoia heightens your senses. You start to see every little detail, every little thing. You don't want to miss anything and have it turn out there's someone shooting you again. When I heard the rambling outside, I jumped up, I had a Mac-10 on me. Pulled the joint out and Puff came in and looked, said, "Oh shit, I can't do this."As a matter fact, it was Shyne and Wolf, wrestling outside. Puff was going through that actual case when he called me in to write and I'm in his office with a Mac-10. He was like, "I can't do that." After the fact, I looked at it and was like, That's a legitimate call.
Complex: How do you feel about MTV's Hottest MCs list?
50 Cent: Well, I try to figure out what they're looking at and what their criteria is. They pick trying to be aware of the art form. For you to leave off the highest selling rap album of the year in your Top 10, I don't know what the fuck your criteria is. That's Em's project. If you don't have a rap record sell more copies, how could you miss that rap record? It's just people's personal preference. Fuck if MTV does a Top 10, everybody has their own Top 10. As long as you're on the list, you're straight.
Complex: A lot of people felt that Eminem should've been on the list, just off of the strength of his verse on "Forever." You said a few weeks ago that Em didn't even know who was going to be on that record...
50 Cent: He didn't know everyone who was on the record. And it was remixed, they remixed his vocals. When I make records with Em, Dre mixes my vocals in the beat, then sends the beat, and Em sends his vocals until it sounds the way he wants it. Then we wrap it up. So he did his verse on the actual song, they moved it around, put other people on and he didn't even mix his vocals back yet.
Complex: He didn't like that?
50 Cent: Well he doesn't like not being able to hear himself the way he wants to hear himself. So those are somebody else's ears saying "this sounds like good Eminem" instead of Em's.
Complex: Someone who made the list who has actually been through some real street shit like you have is Gucci Mane—how do you feel about his placement at #6?
50 Cent: I understand Gucci Mane has something that the other artists don't have, and that's authenticity. Because he's had the experience, they'll glorify it. Think about how many times I've been asked, "How does it feel to be shot?" That's their personal interest, their amazement in the situation. I don't ask people, "Ask me how did it feel to be shot. Could you ask me what I was thinking when I was shot?" If it was up to me, it would've never happened. I see where they see significance in the content, based on them knowing that the backdrop of a story has some truth to it. These are the things other artists completely lack. Like Rick Ross is exactly the opposite of a Gucci Mane. I'll listen to Gucci Mane despite what his cadence choices are. As opposed to listening to a Rick Ross, who is talented rapper but is lying. I just don't want to hear rappers rapping lies. I don't want to hear that shit.
Complex: Getting back to Jay-Z, who ended up #1 on the list. Much has been made of his recent comment saying "no one is afraid of 50 Cent." Regardless, it seems like the general public agrees that Kanye wouldn't have pulled that stunt if you were on stage instead of Taylor Swift...
50 Cent: He wouldn't. You can't convince the public, you can't convince Kanye to say he would've did that. If I was there and he did that to me we would have had an altercation. Right there. It's clear. He [Kanye] would have avoided that, just being intelligent. The interviewer who asked [Jay-Z] about the Kanye situation made him feel like a punk. His presentation is really simple and you can't have both. You can't be gangster Jay from Marcy and be the good guy Jay-Z on Oprah. You just can't. They don't let you in. That's Mr. Knowles, he just got that pass. There ain't any tickets to an inauguration ball with niggas. If you're from the hood, you have that element or that aura around you, there's no tickets for you. It's "safe" people there. This is why those things are happening. This is why he has to convince the person that he's talking to he's not afraid of anyone.