The 50 Cent cover saga…
This was the magazines 3rd cover behind the Star and Bucwild and Eve covers respectively. While the Eve issue has a story all its own, this cover is when things started picking up momentum.
Around that time 50 Cent was getting ready to drop his first album under his new deal under Eminem and Dr. Dre. Initially we wanted to get a cover with Dre, Em and 50, but were unable to pull it off… (XXL dropped that exact cover after we released ours). This was one of 50′s first solo covers if not THE first. This was before everyone and their mothers uncle knew the ‘Shot 9 times’ story along with everything else that followed which became 50′s template for interview responses. As a matter of fact any familiarity I had with him at the time was from this video below.
I thought he was from Brooklyn and this song was certainly one of my favorites at the time, due to the fact he filmed most of it around my hood I was somewhat of an instant fan. I get the assignment and met 50 at the Interscope offices. He walks in with an entourage of 6’7″ 325lbs dudes, now I’m exactly Prince when it comes to stature, but damn he could played running back for the Jets behind that line.
After a brief introduction by his publicist, we all walk into the conference room and instead of having his whole entourage en tow (like Jada, Cam and basically everyone else) 50 requested that everyone leave. So we’re sitting there, kicking small talk with the Interscope monitors in the background playing all the latest videos. After a little small talk about R&B chicks, (50 thought Amerie was the hottest chick out at the time..). We get into the Q’s. This was 50 pre Get Rich or Die Tryin sellin 15 million world wide, but still 50 cool, calculating, savvy and engaging.
Something that stood out was as we were getting the photos done after the interview was over, the photographer asked 50 to climb out the window on the ledge for some shots. I was taken aback by the request but even more taken aback at 50 jumping out the window no problem. If that is what would look the best 50 did it… all about results. Funny thing is 2 years later when we did the pre Massacre release interview he remembered me as one of the guys who made him climb out of the window. The article is below.
Trying To Make A Dollar Out Of 50 Cent
“ I run this city!” yells the South Jamaica Queens born and bred rapper 50 Cent, while on the roof top ledge of the Interscope office building in midtown Manhattan. Wrapping up a photo shoot promoting his new album “Get Rich or Die Trying” set for early release February 6th, the self proclaimed ruler surveys his alleged kingdom with a quick glance. Seeing the backdrop of the city visible under his outstretched arms you begin to wonder if this cat’s serious, or seriously joking. With the dust barely settled from the battle between Jay-Z and Nas for the New York Crown, does he honestly think he can lay claim to the once and again most prominent skyline in the world as his own? That remains to be seen. Sometimes 50’s harder to read than subway maps circa 1978 yet that half smile lets you know he’s playing around. It is true though that many a truth is said in jest. One thing’s for certain though, whether or not he can call the skyline his own, the streets have already crowned him king.
“I never really took rap serious till I was blessed with the opportunity to work with Jam Master Jay” says a more somber 50 thinking back on the fallen rap legend’s influence on his career. “The first time I ever made a song was with Jay. He helped me with my start, my style and my song structure. What I say and the way I am is because of who I am. But Jay did help me.” Because of this history it’s understandable why Jam Master Jay’s unfortunate passing hit a lot closer to home with 50 than with most of us. Though you couldn’t tell by his demeanor you get the sense that 50’s acceptance of such events simply comes with the environment he grew up in. He realizes you always got to look ahead. Jay was there in the beginning, but eventually they’d part ways. “Things come up. We all have our own agendas and Jay was being overwhelmed with his touring schedule by being a part of Run DMC. He wasn’t able to focus on me at the time so I had to move forward.”
Through the contacts he made while running with Jam Master Jay 50 was able to work out a deal with Columbia through Trackmasters. It isn’t a myth that most new artists, hungry to get signed, end up in bad deals and 50’s was no exception. “That deal wasn’t a great deal. Even with the Jay deal I never received anything outside of lessons on how to make records and what’s hot and what’s not.” Things at Columbia played a bit different. “The Columbia deal probably was like $250,000. I got $65,000 in advance. They negotiated a $50,000 release with Jam Master Jay and $10,000 went to attorneys. That left me with $5,000 dollars. I was back selling crack. So it was like through the whole first album I was still grinding.” That first album he’s referring to is of course “The Power of the Dollar”. It’s hard to understand how a deal with a major label could leave the artist with 5 g’s. That money, obviously not being enough to change his situation, meant he was still on the block while recording and the hood influence showed heavily. “I kinda put the hood in a nutshell. I thought most of the things that go on in the hood were financially driven.” That mentality fueled songs such as “How to Rob”, “Gun Runner” and “As the World Turns”. His effort to convey the harsh realities of his life through his music ironically led to the end of his involvement with Columbia.
Looking at Columbia’s roster of artists with such acts as Neil Diamond, Barbara Streisand and Destiny’s Child I’m sure they don’t normally deal with their artists getting shot. This event changed the way they dealt with 50. “I got shot. After I got shot I fell back. First I called back like wassup I’m ready to work. They ain’t have no answers for me so I fell back hoping they would drop the project and it kinda faded.” With the album never released due to heavy bootlegging and Columbia’s reluctance dealing with a potential liability coupled with the label’s wavering confidence in their new star, the deal fizzled out. Suddenly it was back to square 1 for 50.
The Mix Tape King
So 50’s lost his major label vehicle and his career is on hold. What does he do to get back in the public’s eye? “I worked the street. You got to use what you have access to. The way I capitalized with mixed tapes I don’t think anyone is going to receive the same response I received.” He may be right. He’s the only artist I know with two “Best of” mixed tape CD’s circulating underground. 50 launched a marketing campaign comparable to a campaign a major label would put together. This tactic solidified his “street credibility” and you get the idea this kid from Queens got a business sense to match his verbal capabilities. Slowly coming back from obscurity to become the people’s choice Emcee 50 stepped up his game and majors were checking once again for that cat who thought nobody liked him.
With mixed tape CD’s in heavy rotation and the buzz hitting a fever pitch only time would tell where he’d be signing and for how much. With deals on the table from Universal, Warner Bros., Jive, J Records and Capitol just to name a few, options were more than wide open. Though one unlikely option presented itself soon enough. “My attorney, Theo Stedmire and Paul Rosenburg, who represents Eminem, had a relationship. They got a chance to communicate and he gave Paul a CD. ‘Guess Who’s Back’ one of the mixed CD’s I put out. At the time he was in the middle of finishing up ‘The Eminem Show’ so when you in the zone you can’t really stop what you doing to do some other shit. His album came out and did 1.3 million his first week. Then he decided to listen to it. He told Paul ‘I got to do this’. They flew me out to Los Angeles on Friday night to talk.” 50 felt it was strange to go on a Friday considering when people normally talk business it’s Monday through Friday 9 to 5, but didn’t think much of it. With all the aforementioned deals, if nothing came from this trip to Cali then that would be that. Ultimately that wouldn’t be it. “When we sat and communicated with each other I knew that’s where I wanted to be.” He felt “Creatively I wouldn’t be censored. Dr. Dre, he’s from N.W.A. so he got to understand and Eminem’s music speaks for itself so I’m like this ain’t a bad idea.” “Then the fact that 1 million dollars came into play” didn’t hurt either. So understand that raps top selling artist and greatest producer decided to go “50/50 on 50”. This sent shock waves through the industry and 50’s stock soared. “You don’t have a lot of leaders in this business. When [Dre and Em] decided they were interested in 50 cent…the numbers the other companies were offering skyrocketed. Some offered 1.6 million. When those offers got that high I was like nah I need to go back to that situation.” So with that decision 50 cent became the flagship artist for Shady/Aftermath and became the guy between Eminem and Dr. Dre. With the star power, clout, experience and mainstream credibility that duo added to 50’s arsenal, he went from King of the streets to buzzworthy on MTV. That’s something usually beyond the reach of strictly street certified rappers. The hit ‘8 Mile’ soundtrack single Wanksta, a blatant gibe at Ja Rule, in heavy video and radio rotation led to 50 breaching that mainstream market all artists want, but he kept his street credibility. Maybe it’s the work ethic at Shady/Aftermath that keeps 50 on his toes. “It’s a competition. You got to understand that my pressure is being in between Eminem and Dr. Dre. Em’s so talented it becomes frustrating. When you got a guy whose second LP sells 16 million copies and his first film does 54.5 million in its first two days. When those numbers are being put up and his energy is exactly the same, like he’s still hungry, you realize the kids phenomenal. He has a real love for the music.” That level of success attracts attention both positive and negative with one detractor markedly taking shots at the entire label roster except 50. Is this highly publicized drama lyrical or literal?
“Em doesn’t have a beef with anybody” comment’s 50 when asked about all the shots being taken at his new boss. Though he admits to feeling a little left out. “Lyrically [he’s] been running around, running from me. On the records he is clearly saying ‘50 I don’t want it’. If he was inviting me I should have been on the same boat as D12, Obie Trice, he took a shot at everyone but me. His approach is from the hood standpoint, that’s where I’m strongest at. There’s nobody stronger than me in the hood right now musically. If you’re going to come at Em and be like ‘you the white boy that’s ruining Hip Hop’ and you’re representing the hood, how do you go at the kid that is the most popular rap artist in the hood? Then you move yourself into a space where you look like a damn fool, a real idiot, cause you have no grounds.” 50’s point is valid, basically saying streets need to match with streets. Buzzworthy clips and number one radio spots not withstanding. Like I said before though, success attracts both positive and negative energy.
“With Ja, it bothers him to see me do so good.” This beef stems from what seems to be a simple misunderstanding the way 50 tells it. “He got robbed. A friend of mine robbed him. I call the guy a friend cause I grew up with him. It’s not a person that I always fuck with, kick it with and shit like that. Son got robbed. Seen the kid that robbed him, didn’t do nothing, but afterwards carried me different cause he seen me kicking it with the kid.” Verbal exchanges have been made numerous times between the two. In situations like that, you can’t take words to heart. “A rapper will get in your face and say anything to you because you rap too. He’ll get in your face and say his rhyme, what ever he wrote and say it with confidence like he means it. Say some shit to you and ain’t been going through none of the shit he talking about. On the other end of that is myself. I’m hustling and I’ve experienced all of that shit that you hear. So I’m listening and I’m looking at them like ‘I don’t believe you’. Until I see something about him that makes me believe that’s a part of his character, he’s lying.” Evidently with no love lost between the two it seems nothing to cut ties and move on. Though he has had several strained relationship in the industry, he always seems to keep it moving forward.
50 and Nas had their shares of ups and downs in their industry lifetimes. According to 50, Nas saw a younger version of himself in 50 cent and invited him to join the Nastradamus tour. “Nas is a guy who says ‘50 you should come with me. You remind me of when Illmatic came out. The way everybody talking about you is kind of how they were talking about me when my record came out.’ He did show me things because I did go to markets I wouldn’t have been to because I hadn’t gone on tour before.” Perhaps it was this history between them that led Nas to recently comment that 50 was his protégé. 50 disagreed. “Hell no I’m not his protégé! I don’t think you can call someone a protégé unless you help put [that person] together, unless you help create that person. Jam Master Jay could call me a protégé cause he was at the beginning of my career.” “He is a great lyricist, a great writer, but his actions confuse the fuck out of me. Even his deal making, when he makes a deal I have no understanding of why someone would even be interested in making the deals he decides to try and make.” “And the things that he says, like he goes to radio and he says he just wishes him and [Jay-Z] and me and Ja and everybody would stop beefing, that we should all go do just one big tour. Saying that shit is like saying I just wish there was no violence in the world.” Maybe there are more underlying issues here than 50 chooses to reveal, but he claims, “I don’t have nothing negative to say about him, but I’m just not fucking with him. I’m not comfortable with not knowing who a nigga is and having him around me. It’s hard to tell how a nigga’s going to react in certain situations when just dealing with your homies regular, but this guy is out there so far already that fucking with him would make you look like a damn fool for associating yourself with someone that’s so unpredictable. He just contradicts himself.” 50’s sentiments can be better understood when you consider the “war” Nas waged on the industry and almost everyone involved a few months ago citing everyone from radio stations to fellow rappers as the problem. Nas later revealed that his mental state, with the passing of his mother being a factor, slipped a little and he acted out of character. It seems that 50 and Nas have to have a few words to clear the air, but eventually things will be straightened out. For now however, 50 keeps it moving.
“G-Unit is my record label. It’s going to be what Shady records is.” Another artist with another label huh? In cases when the artist wants to play CEO they normally go back to the block and sign everyone and their mother to non-lucrative deals that go nowhere. In most cases the label is only an extension of the artist’s ego, so what makes 50’s G-Unit different? “I signed Loyd Banks and Tony Yayo, That’s who you hear on the tapes. With me collectively they make G-Unit. I didn’t want to bite off more than I could chew. I don’t want to have 100 artists signed to a label. I want to be able to focus and make what I think can work, work right now. We go to work now, not a year from now. That’s what happens on a major [label]. You have to have your moment. You have to create a momentum and have people focused and maintain that focus till the release of your record.” It’s all about focus with 50. Already proven to be a capable marketer, his business sense shines through. “I established [G-Unit] last year, but we’re still in negotiations. I think…it will be more effective for me to finalize my deal…after my first week of sales.” says 50 grinning, like he has the answers to the final exam a week before the test. With the game mapped out things should pop off without a hinge right?
“I find myself in the middle of some shit.” It’s almost as if 50 expects the drama to keep coming. Soon after this interview 50 got caught up in “some shit”, more specifically gun charges. It was reported that 50 cent a.k.a. Curtis Jackson along with Loyd Banks a.k.a. Christopher Loyd, Tony Yayo a.k.a. Jean Benard and Timothy Bonaparte were charged with two counts of criminal possession of a weapon. On his way to perform at a pre New Years Eve event at a Manhattan nightclub, 50 and his entourage were approached by police officers in an unmarked taxicab. They then directed the black, bullet proof SUV 50 was in to pull up around the corner. Upon inspection of the vehicle they allegedly found a .25 caliber semi automatic pistol and a .45 caliber semi automatic pistol. The 2 guns reportedly belonged to 50’s two bodyguards, who are indeed licensed to carry firearms due to their profession. Bonaparte, who is also a bounty hunter, claimed the .25 caliber gun was taken from a bail jumper he had pursued. The .45 caliber gun reportedly belonged to Dream J. Robinson, who had exited the vehicle before the search took place. The way the story was played out in the media, it seemed there was some serious foul play going on, when all that transpired was some Bill O’Reilly style police work. They never did state for what purpose the vehicle was initially stopped. Just another day in the life of 50 huh? Remember that success attracts both positive and negative energy.
Thus far it seems the aforementioned charges are nothing more that a new link in a string of bad situations. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time or something along those lines. It’s not like he seeks these situations out “I’m not a thrill seeker. I don’t do things for no reason. I seen so many altercations and situations with me being involved either by name or actually physically being involved in [it]. It may lead some people to believe that I just like it. I’m comfortable with it. It’s a part of my life almost. Though it’s not like I wake up in the morning and say “Imma start some shit today”. Normally a label would shy away from someone seemingly so prone to such “altercations”, but Shady/Aftermath isn’t your typical label. Em and Dre have their own history with the law and understand how minor situations become major with a little media help. So if anyone can relate, they can. 50’s lawyer, Robert Kalina, proclaimed his client’s innocence concerning the matter. Based on the information available it seems 50 will leave this “situation” unscathed, less some legal fees. Law of averages suggests that perhaps next time he won’t be so lucky. So far 50’s been able to survive shootings, bad deals and the streets to become their chief representative. Though the old aphorism “art imitates life” and vice versa holds true. Will the inspiration for 50’s gift prove to be his curse? Who knows? Though as of now it’s evident. The only one with the power to stop 50, is 50.