Today 50 Cent and DJ Drama’s much hyped The Lost Tape was finally released. The project finds two mixtape champions hooking up at last—years after they were supposed to originally team up for Blood In A Gangsta’s Grillz. 50 is hoping that his second mixtape in the past few months (he dropped The Big 10 late last year) will build some excitement for his upcoming album.
Complex headed down to 50’s offices to talk with him and Drama about their mixtape but as with every 50 Cent interview, there’s so much more to talk about. Curtis sported an IV bandage on his right hand—evidence of a recent hospital visit where doctors discovered a blockage in his small intestine. But he’s feeling much better now—well enough to talk about his perceived decline, performing with Eminem at SXSW, and what the best 50 Cent rant is.
But that’s not all. With a framed, oversized picture of Don Vito Corleone hanging in the background (though, knowing 50, it really ought to be Michael Corleone), 50 talked about how he overcompensated for G-Unit artists in the past, why he’s had a change of heart when it comes to guest features, and why MTV’s Hottest MCs list doesn’t matter.
Interview by Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin)
You guys are finally hooking up after all these years. Drama, you work with a lot of artists. What’s the difference between working 50 and all the other artists you’ve worked with?
DJ Drama: It’s a different place for me because a lot of the artists that I’ve worked with, I came up with. Probably the closest thing, for me, to working with Fif was Fabolous because what Fab and Clue had did in the mixtape game, I felt as though I was a student of it. So I look at my empire, my dynasty, and my run as being built on the groundwork that Fif laid and what he brought to the mixtape game. The mixtape game is pre-50 Cent and post-50 Cent, and after 50, I’m probably the next biggest brand.
The mixtape game is pre-50 Cent and post-50 Cent, and after 50, I’m probably the next biggest brand. —DJ Drama
50 Cent: It is.
DJ Drama: So for us to come and do this project, it’s pretty special for me. It’s exciting because—I’m sure Fif will tell you, too—he gets a lot of criticism these days. He hears the rumblings of “Fif’s not as relevant” or “His music’s changed” or “He’s making too much money.”
50 Cent: Right.
DJ Drama: So to be able to bring my brand, which is so potent, and to be a part of Fif and us bringing this excitement together, I think it’s dope.
50 Cent: I think those rumblings come from my initial marketing. Because I have so much material that I put out, for promotional purposes, I spoiled my core audience. They’re conditioned to hear a lot of new material. We’d drop a tape, one week, and they’d be like, “OK, cool. Do it again.”
When you look at the level of sales of artists that they put in comparison with me, career-wise, those guys make the single off of their album and deliver their album, make 12 songs. So far on this album I had The Big Ten, The Lost Tape and most likely there’ll be more tapes following this before the actual album reaches. So you’ll be saying, “That’s three albums worth of material that he just gave away, before he actually put out the record.”
But for me, what it does is it allows me to put my finger on the pulse of what’s going on. I see what was effective, what wasn’t effective, how they responded to different things that I tried. Then I come with my selection of music that I put on the side for my actual album. That way I make the right choices, when it comes time to pick songs and sequencing my actual album. So it’s cool. I benefit on every level.
But I think I’ve conditioned my audience to want something from me that they can’t get from any artist that has had the level of success that I’ve had. They respond by saying, “It don’t feel like it used to feel because it used to be something new coming out on you so often, that you had to talk about what just happened.”
I think I’ve conditioned my audience to want something from me that they can’t get from any artist that has had the level of success that I’ve had.
Within the culture, now, even the radio game has changed. It would take six to eight weeks for your record to peak at radio. What does it take now? 16 to 18 weeks. It takes that much longer for your record to reach a peak point, and then, because the hip-hop consumer has a low attention span, they look, and they go, “What song is popping?” and you’ll think the song is over, and the song is ready to go, now.
For instance, 2 Chainz’s “Riot” record. That song ain’t over. That song is right now. The system has gotten off the record and moved on to his Drake song. Then, Drama suggested I actually do the record for the Gangsta Grillz, and I did a remix. When the song was at a negative, going backwards on the charts, it turns completely around and is at a positive. It gives Def Jam something to do and turn around and go work that record. It just makes sense for you to go get it, now.
You’re giving away favors to Def Jam now? [Laughs.]
50 Cent: At this point, I don’t even care about how what I do shifts the culture or how it helps another artist. Like, I’ve worked with YG before, a brand new artist out of L.A. I worked with Mann on the “Buzzin” record. Even with Jeremih on the “Down On Me” record when he was a brand new artist. You’ve got to look at those artists and look at the budgets and realize that there was no financing there for them to pay the legitimate fee for me.
Yeah, that takes me back to that line, “They’re calling me to feature, man. Fuck yo’ money.” Why do you do it?
50 Cent:I did those records from just having the opportunity to just be an artist. At that point. I said, in the “Down On Me” record, “This is a number one.” Then, when the record goes number one, I say, “I told you so.”
I had to do a lot of shit to get Def Jam to actually move. After coming out of kids’ closets [Laughs.] and a bunch of other shit. When the record jumps to number 11 on iTunes, everybody’s eyes opened, and all of a sudden, you’ve got radio support.