Albums Released Between 2000-2009: Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2003), The Massacre (2005), Curtis (2007), Before I Self Destruct (2009)
Classic Mixtape: 50 Cent is the Future (2002), No Mercy, No Fear (2002), God's Plan (2002)
Group Albums: G-Unit's Beg for Mercy (2003), T.O.S (Terminate on Sight) (2008)
Biggest Billboard Hits Between 2000-2009: "In Da Club," "21 Questions f/ Nate Dogg," "Candy Shop f/ Olivia," "P.I.M.P f/ Snoop Dogg, Lloyd Banks & Young Buck," "Disco Inferno"
In 2013, when most rap consumers look at 50 Cent, they see a guy with a bunch of businesses who was once a famed rapper, since gone cold. That's the most simple version of the story. The truth is that 50 hit the new millennium with the power of a nuclear bomb and redefined what it meant to be a superstar rapper forever.
Ever resourceful, a strategic genius from the start, 50 first won attention by gleefully taking shots at every breathing rapper who mattered. 1999's "How To Rob" served as the perfect launchpad for 50 Cent to take off into the stratosphere. Catchy and controversial, it taunted rappers far more famous than he was, calling for a response that would raise his profile. "I'm about a dollar," Jay Z would go on to say, "What the fuck is 50 Cent?" He was on his way.
That was before he got shot. Nine times. Including a slug in the face. This too, he somehow used to his advantage. Bullet shrapnel in his tongue? No biggie. He perfected a slow, lisp-filled flow with a distinct southern accent that made him stand out from the rap pack.
Everything about 50 was different. The Look: A heavily tatted, chiseled thug with a smirk who looks like he could serve as easily at Rikers Island as he could in The Avengers. The Talk: A smirking, no-fucks-given attitude with a bloodlust for conflict. And what distinguished him most? What set 50 apart in a way that image and style can't compensate for, no matter how great? The Music. 50 backed everything up. He was the first rapper in too long that the radio and the streets truly believed. Ask anyone how they felt from the summer of 2002 to 2003, and they might tell you it was one of the most refreshing, fun, crucial moments in rap. Legit checks for 50 Cent? No such thing. Those two quarters dropped and it was a wrap for anyone who stood in the way of the former gold-glove boxer from Southside Jamaica, Queens. A megastar had arrived, the hype was crazy and the music that was being put out was something special.
Every rap fan was trying to claim that they were the ones who put you up on 50 Cent, but the real truth is that he did it himself. After going on a mixtape run (50 Cent is the Future; No Mercy, No Fear; God's Plan) that may never be topped, 50 delivered a classic in Get Rich or Die Tryin'. From gritty anthems to diss tracks to club bangers to even, yes, the occasional singsongy pop monster, 50 was rap's renaissance man, one studio record out.
Everywhere you went, on every corner in the New York City you'd hear 50 spitting over popular beats like Mobb Deep's "Bump Dat," and Wu-Tang Clan's, "Y'all Been Warned." He was not just co-opting other rappers' records, but reconfiguring their ownership. He'd take a beat and do with it as he pleased—it's his now. In fact, if you were among the unluckiest, he would take your whole career and do with it as he pleased—you're a stepping stone now. Sorry he's not sorry.
Every rap fan was trying to claim that they were the ones who put you up on 50 Cent, but the real truth is that he did it himself. After going on a mixtape run (50 Cent is the Future; No Mercy, No Fear; God's Plan) that may never be topped, 50 delivered a classic in Get Rich or Die Tryin'. From gritty anthems to diss tracks to club bangers to even, yes, the occasional singsongy pop monster, 50 was rap's renaissance man, one studio record out. And it wasn't just the streets of New York. Or L.A. It was Tokyo. Paris. London. The suburbs. The college campuses. And everywhere in between. Never has a rapper in the contemporary era felt so ubiquitous.
Think about the catalogue: "In Da Club," "21 Questions," "Candy Shop," "Disco Inferno," "I Get Money," "Ayo Technology," one after the other, after the other. Oh, and that first G-Unit album, Beg for Mercy? Fire. When was the last time a crew record from a major rapper actually delivered? In 2004, 50 would go on to executive produce Lloyd Banks' Hunger For More, which ended up selling more than a million copies. Not only was 50 a ruthlessly efficient machine unto himself, he gave away hits ("Hate it or Love It", "How We Do,") to put then G-Unit affiliate The Game on the map. It's this songwriting prowess is what should define him, and go a long way towards defining the decade itself. He masterfully fluctuated from hardcore gangsta rap to radio fare your mom and sister would two-step to, singing along with every word.
Sure fans and critics of rap have a very what-have-you-done-for-me-lately attitude when it comes to 50. But men lie, women lie, numbers don't: 30. Million. Sold. If you've followed 50's career, you know dude is always one smash hit away from owning the clubs, again. On May 24, 2000 he cheated death. Thirteen years later, 50's resume does more than just hold up, it's immortal.
Yes, sure, 50 went cold. He's not the unstoppable force he once was. But it's hard to hold going cold against an artist who was once as hot as he was. When you can't get any hotter without turning to vapor, you're bound to to cool off. —Joe La Puma