Actor, entrepreneur, model, and musician—Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson is more than just a jack-of-all-trades business mogul. The Jamaica, Queens-raised rapper has transformed into a mainstream brand embraced by millions thanks impart to his “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” credo and numerous ventures. No stranger to making noise on the financial or social media front, the multi-platinum rapper has been going hard on the promotional front over the past two years for his headphone company, SMS Audio, which also has producer Timbaland onboard as an equity owner.
His latest stop on the promotional trail would be the year’s biggest tech expo: CES 2014. We caught up with Curtis in Las Vegas to discuss a number of topics: including his company’s new line of headphones, “goofy” hi-tech eyewear, G-Unit’s status as a collective, and of course, our plea to have Pharrell produce his next LP.
Interview by Alex Bracetti (@AlexBracetti)
So you’re back in Sin City for CES 2014. The lineup is sounding dope. Tell the people what the new SMS collection consists of.
We got about five or six new products for 2014, but there is an additional product coming out for different areas throughout the New Year. The two biggest things announced were the Sports Edition Over-Ear and Carmelo Anthony’s participation with SMS Audio. The passion for music is a consistent thing because for professional athletes, they have to discipline themselves physically to be conditioned for the actual sport and play at the top level. Music takes their mind off it.
The headphone game is ridiculously crowded, and unless your name is Beats, it’s difficult to snatch a piece of the audio market. In what ways do you see SMS winning right now?
I’ve launched SMS in 59 countries. We pretty much turned it into Adidas. Nike is strong in America, but internationally, Adidas has soccer. Huge. It’s a lot of different things and territories. I don’t know if it has a connection with my touring at those territories. If you’ve had huge success out there in the hip-hop culture over the past decade, you have the ability to tour in areas that weren’t open markets before.
Being out here in Vegas, what’s some of the hottest tech you’ve seen at the show?
There is so much cool shit out here that it’s crazy. Depends on what you into. I like nice stuff in the house.
When Google Glass has eyewear companies creating lenses for it, it’ll change. You’ll probably see Ray-Band, and Cartier with the clip-on. It won’t feel goofy then and will look different.
You're probably talking 4K TVs. Maybe Vizio’s new 120-inch screen would look dope in your mansion.
I’ll look for all that stuff. Now, I rather have small spaces than have everything I want in them to create comfort for me. I own really big properties. So you know, I rather have the Jetsons house and a two-bedroom joint on the top of the building, and still go outside so I don’t have to deal with people than the really big house. I don’t use the space. No matter how many bedrooms you have in your estate, you’re only gonna sleep on one bed.
Wearable tech was one of the biggest trends at the show. Bunch of Google Glass competitors came through. What’s your view on computing eyewear?
It looks goofy, until they start to change the lenses. When Google Glass has eyewear companies creating lenses for it, it’ll change. You’ll probably see Ray-Band, and Cartier with the clip-on. It won’t feel goofy then and will look different.
Would you rock a pair?
Yeah, it depends on what though. I’m afraid of what happens to it when everyone is conditioned for it. Cause then it takes away all the privacy. So if you wear Google Glass while dude is at the urinal, every little thing becomes, “Oh, my man 50 Cent was kicking it in…”
Let’s put the spotlight on your SMS co-partner, Timbaland. We haven’t heard or seen much from him regarding the brand. What’s his status in general at the moment?
He was the right guy to develop the signature sound for the headset. So it is a process. Before when I would get different headphones tuned with different sounds to test, he gets them now. So I don’t have to go through that process. Overall, implementing different functionalities is how you improve the product.
Speaking of dope producers, I have to bring Complex’s open letter to Jimmy Iovine on having Pharrell produce your next album. Is that something you’re even remotely interested in exploring after dropping the next LP?
I respect Pharrell as a producer and like a lot of material from different people. But I haven’t had a project come out with one producer. Get Rich or Die Tryin’ didn’t have one producer. The Massacre or none of my other material either. I’m flattered that Complex would put that out publically, but when you guys say what you would want, I don’t give a fuck what you would want.
A magazine company doesn’t tell me how to make a record. Just be a critic of what I actually create. I’m fine with it whether they like it or they don’t. But no one should tell an artist what the art is. You don’t tell a painter what to paint. I don’t know what that shit would be. How do you know? How do any of them know if the records aren’t produced?
There’s a point where you have so much success in front of people, the artist community creates this cloud or shadow of a doubt on whether you think he can do it. They feel that way at the moment. And because they see you consistently winning, when the new material comes out they say, “oh, it’s cool, but it’s not Get Rich or Die Tryin’. We’re experiencing it right now. They’ll talk about [Lil] Wayne’s new mixtape. I thought Dedication 5 was dope. And when I hear that energy, I know he’s going through that. That’s the Curtis thing, the Curtis album and where I was at during that point.
There’s an album I am putting out before Street King Immortal. The title is called Animal Ambition. It’s an untamed desire to win. The record is overall about prosperity, ambition, and has an entrepreneurial energy—it’s all from a distorted perspective.
Good point. So is Street King Immortal still on deck as your next music project?
There’s an album I am putting out before Street King Immortal. The title is called Animal Ambition. It’s an untamed desire to win. The record is overall about prosperity, ambition, and has an entrepreneurial energy—it’s all from a distorted perspective. I just been really excited about the concept, been writing and had a lot of time to create material for the release because it’s taken so long.
So when you listen the record, you’ll see it because I told you it, it’s about ambition. If I didn’t say that, you wouldn’t listen to the record and say what’s that song called? Cause when Biggie was saying, “Damn, niggas wanna stick me for my paper,” that’s writing prosperity, but the effects of it from others. Jealousy is created from you moving forward. I wrote it from a lot of different angles in order to create an album with all the facets I was comfortable with so it could all have one thing.
We’re gonna cut to the chase on this one: What’s good with G-Unit right now?
G-Unit is something that I built, with the momentum of 50 Cent and the music I created. They had the opportunities. The object was to grow it outside from the people that was around me, but people change and won’t stay the same. As relationships grow older, everyone is off into their own little things. Unless you gonna hold them into the way they think like—“you better not think you gonna do something else,” like that—that was the Death Row motto. They kept them in check so they didn’t move out of the way. And if you don’t do that because you wanna see them grow to their highest potential, and they don’t want it: Where is it?
Tell me where’s the interest from G-Unit members. You got new guys out there that don’t have the support of record companies and are working, just to sustain and generate that energy that’s there. I like to collaborate with them, did it for a long time. Maybe there’s a point that we’ll come back together and make a disc. And whom do you mean when you say the whole G-Unit?
We can talk about the big three or the infamous five. Shoot.
It’ll never be five. That’ll never happen. I don’t even know if that’s possible because I don’t talk to them. I haven’t had communications with Young Buck since he been out of jail. I’ll never work with Game.
True. But you know Buck trying hard right now to get back in the game.
I hope he get it. But for me, I couldn’t move forward with the things that I want if I was concentrating on holding someone else back. Buck is out and active, but even when saying you seen him doing stuff: Where are the other members? See what I’m saying. You see the news and all the video stuff, I guess they expect me to shoot it and do it.
But let me ask you a question: How would you feel if you were a boss of a company, which you had to pay for, and the people who work for you switched to you work for them? If they are not moving and waiting for you to do it, that means you actually did the work. So it’s like, “you can call me when you’re ready to work for me.” If they are sustaining energy and building their own thing, we’re talking a different thing.