Joe La Puma
Favorite Rapper: 50 Cent
In 2002, I was working at the Finish Line in Bay Shore, Long Island. My manager/mentor Brione Schneider kept playing a mixtape on loop for the 8-10 hour shifts I was clocking. It was 50 Cent's No Mercy, No Fear. 50 owned the mixtape scene then and his music was unlike anything I'd ever experienced before: His southern accent mixed with flashes of New York brilliance, and a knack for shit-talking on records.
"Wanksta" would play over and over. I'd go home from work telling everyone how big this rapper was going to be. To be fair, most people who were semi in-the-know knew 50 was going to be huge. But I was a legit 50 stan in the 2002-2008 era. My sophomore year of college, I even made a custom satin jacket with "G-UNIT" sewed on it. I remember stunting on Taliek Brown with it in the UConn Dining Hall.
Then Get Rich or Die Tryin' dropped in 2003, and 50 was a household name. I'd say that following 50's rise got me prepared to be a music writer/journalist. I was studying his every move, and prided myself on not missing any material he was putting out. I remember Gideon Yago announcing that 50 signed to Eminem and Dr. Dre's Shady/Aftermath. To this day, I play the "Till I Collapse" freestyle when I'm in a competitive mood.
A year after I got hired at Complex in 2007, I got to interview 50 Cent. It was pretty surreal. I asked him about the MTV Hottest MC list and he told them to suck his dick. The quote got me my first placement on Perez Hilton. I sent the link around to my whole family. Even my grandma looked the other way about the quote and was proud of me.
Over the years, I've interviewed 50 multiple times. But the best moment of my journalistic career was last year when I got to trail 50 as he surprised a Boys & Girls Club Foundation. Watch this video if you haven't seen it. It was a symbol of things coming full circle, as cliché as that sounds, and it made me thankful that I get to do a job that I love.