Sally A. Edwards and Sarah J. Edwards met with 50 Cent on the eve of the release of his debut album "Get Rich or Die Tryin'". Take a look back at what 50 promised would be part of his future and how he learnt to rhyme.
The original story was first published in BLAG Vol. 2 Nø 1 print edition in 2004, this is an edited version.
Interview and Photography by Sarah J. Edwards
When 50 Cent is mentioned, not many fifteen- to forty-somethings out there would immediately think of the monetary value. Foremost in everyone’s minds right now is rap’s latest phenomenon: Curtis Jackson.
It’s a sunny afternoon outside the Landmark Hotel, London. From the distance a convoy of three Mercedes minibuses roll up, doors open, and out step fifteen or so men: there’s Lloyd Banks, Young Buck and a blending-in-more-than-you’d-think 50 Cent. The group is greeted by a bustling group of autograph seekers and paparazzi, all with an air of anxiousness. Hotel security look overwhelmed.
Ten minutes later. Curled up on a hotel-room sofa humming along to his Walkman, the BLAG ladies meet 50. Gentlemanly and well-mannered, 50 is on his best behaviour, rocking his very own RBK G Unit sneakers. A baby-blue and white towelling Varcity baseball shirt, teamed with an oversized, unrolled peaked NY baseball cap – infamous 50 style. Contrary to rumoured expectation and rumour, no Kevlar or security is present.
Sarah: Please introduce yourself.
50: Hey, what’s up? This is the kid 50 Cent.
Sarah: Describe yourself in three words.
50: In three words? Hmmm... New. Energtic. Progression.
Sarah: Can you describe your neighbourhood, because you’ve moved out of the area where you grew up, haven’t you?
50: Yeah! There’s a big difference, everything’s a little more relaxed, calmer. The people live so far apart from you at this point, that their problems are their problems and your problems are yours. You know, when you’re on top of each other, that’s where the friction comes. In the city, a lot of people are stacked up on top of each other in apartments, and if someone has a bad attitude then it’ll come across. If someone's having a bad day and you say ‘Hi’ and they say nothing back, or you say ‘Hi’ and they say something disrespectful, it’ll put you in a bad mood you know, a bad space, and it kinda filters through the whole environment. Yeah, so it’s more you don’t even say ‘Hi’, they don’t even care what you doing; you just mind your business and don’t deal with people and prevent putting yourself in a situation where you’re not happy.
Sarah: Can you tell us about when Jam Master Jay first taught you to rap in terms of music, when you really realised you could do it, and the feeling you got from it?
50: Yeah, he kinda, hmmm... He helped me with my song structure. He explained how to count bars, to know exactly when the verse should be over and when the chorus should start. So the way I build my songs now is kinda a reflection of what I learnt at that point. I knew how to rap, but what attracted me to him was that the lyrics in my songs were true, and I was wording it in a way that he thought was exciting, enough to generate people’s interest. So, he was excited about that, so he took the time to explain it to me and teach me how to put it in song format.
Sarah: So what kind of feeling did you get when you realised you were getting it and that you were on point?
50: Oh man, it feels good! It’s great! For me everything has been something that feels like you’re gonna progress, and then there’s a point that feels like you’re not. And there’s a point that feels like you’re going to progress and you have so many ups and downs, you know, that I had to kinda convince myself that it’s gonna happen for me. A lot of times when people doubt around me, you know, I had to stay focused enough to continue moving forward.
Sally: What advice would you give to someone who’s going through that at the moment, where they’ve got a dream and a goal?
50: You gotta be persistent. I mean, I’m an extremist now. You know, once I convince myself that I can do something, can’t nobody convince me that I can’t.
Sally: Let’s talk about the music business. It’s not really doing it like it used to be. How do you feel about it?
50: Yeah, you know what people used to buy, the quality of the material is not the same. You know, people would buy music more often if people would put the work into building the right records, and they’re not putting in the same quality material as they used to back then. The sales are going to struggle, people are going to lose interest in buying an album because it’s not that exciting anymore.
For entertainment purposes, if you pop a CD in people usually sit... I stare at the artwork. You know the artwork, did the person actually put together packaging for their album? That’s what I look at while I listen to the music. And if they don’t take the time to make images that coincide with the lyrical content, it’s gonna be less interesting to you. It’s, like, if they give you a package for the album and it just has flowers on it, but he’s talking about something totally different. There’s nothing for you, really. You’re like ‘Come on, he didn’t really do anything interesting enough on his record to go take good photographs’. You know, he just said: ‘Let the guy from the art department put flowers on there and put it out’. And he didn’t care!
If the artist is not putting that much energy into it, then you can’t expect the same returns. Like at one point I used to see Michael Jackson videos and I used to see people from different creeds and cultures, and I didn’t really understand it. It was wild to me to see all these different people and look at their music. I’m like, ‘Why did he do that?’. Now I understand it.
Sarah: What were your impressions of the UK, did it meet your expectations? Did you have any expectations?
50: [Smiling]Yeah! The UK is great. You know what I like about the UK? The women! I’m being honest with you! I think their accent is... They speak really proper! I like that, it’s exciting to me.
Sarah: Did you know that before you came here?
50: Yeah, I met a young lady that spoke like that in the States.You know, when I think something is different, it’s exciting.
Sarah: What do you think are the main elements of hip hop now, and how do you associate yourself with them?
50: Elements of hip hop? I think hip hop as a music is broader than every other form of music. And I base that theory on...like R&B music is generally about relationships and about love and things like that. And then hip hop music is so broad ’cause the rapper can be rapping about his clothes; you know, we went back from ‘My Adidas’, (raps) ‘I’m The King Of Rock’, you know, it would cross boundaries. Like you got rap rock music: you got rock bands that write their songs in rap cadences in order to attract, you know, people who listen to hip hop. And I think overall the people see how effective it is. Like when you’re as popular as hip hop, you become more attractive to the major corporations because they realise how much influence you have, or how much people enjoy listening to you, and it changes everything.
Sarah: Yeah, so you’re in a situation where the world’s your oyster now, because you’re at that point where people are waiting for the next thing. Is there anything you want to do that you think is missing from hip hop that you want to bring back?
50: Yeah, I think that the largest thing that was missing from hip hop was just brought back with ‘Get Rich Or Die Tryin’: people speaking about their true experiences. Like it was getting altered for a moment, it was like they was turning hip hop into R&B music. Artists like Ja Rule, they would put out records and all of their records would be relationship-based. All their records would have R&B singers on the chorus, you know? That’s why I put out the record that’s exactly about my experiences. Sometimes it becomes a little edgy and they start feeling like I’m too aggressive. Like, I’ve seen the cover of my album in the UK and it’s not the same cover as the album in the States. In the States it has a piece of glass that was shot through and I have a holster on and, like, there’s images that they’ll allow you to do for entertainment.
Sally: Had you not seen it before it came out?
50: Nah. So now what they do is, they changed it for here because they figured there might be a problem with the glass being shot through and the holster being on. There’s no gun present but it still says gun, you know? But I sat down, I had to figure out a way – what I could do? – that the majors would allow me to kinda get that across, but not be too explicit with it so that it’s not acceptable. But these are the same images they use so commonly with action films. You know different forms of entertainment, they’ll allow them to put the gun and do everything else they want to do, to get people attracted to the film.
Sally: Is there anything that you’d use now for your next opportunity, to try and direct your fans?
50: You know what, I feel that anything that changes too fast is no good. I used to love KRS:ONE when he came out with ‘Criminal Minded’, and now he’s ‘Spiritual Minded’ he changed so fast that he lost me, you kna mean? I think over time I’ma grow as a person. You know my experiences are different, the things you go through make you who you are. You know, it’s like, if I’m in a relationship and a person does something to me and I have no understanding of why this person just did this to me, when I get into my next relationship I go with my luggage. I go there not trusting, because the last person just did something to me, you know, for no reason. So, you still look at the next person, even if this person never did anything wrong to you, and your judgement changes. ’Cause you’re not sure, it might be like, she’s cool, she’s not like that, but I thought she wasn’t like that. You keep your guards up longer, you know? So, that’s just an example of why I look at things the way I look at them.
Don (50’s international publicist): I think we’re going to have to wrap it up now.
Sarah: We had a couple of questions about women. Don, can we ask them?
Don: Quickly. Let’s do it.
Sarah: OK. Tips on approaching ladies, and five things to avoid for a successful date?
50: Ah, man! Five things to avoid for a successful date? I mean, tips on approaching a woman... I think you should make eye contact before you say anything to her, so you don’t startle her, you know, when you run up on her. [Laughs] Don’t run up on her, you know! If you can make a woman smile, if you have a sense of humour, then that’s a good approach. If you can be someone that’s fun to be around, I think women are attracted to that. Ummm, what would I do? Don’t try to show the things that you’ve accomplished when you meet a woman, just meet her and let her accept you for yourself before, if she doesn’t already know the things you’ve accomplished, you know, ’cause power’s an aphrodisiac. People – women and men – are attracted to powerful people, you know, so a particular woman might not be the kind of person that you actually want in your life, when you meet her she might be... The idea of her may be attractive ’cause she’s powerful, in a good space, and vice versa too for a man.
Sally: And what about things to avoid?
50: To avoid? Oh! Avoid being really close to a woman if your breath is not right. [Laughs] Avoid being over flattering, as far as her appearance is concerned. Attractive women know they’re attractive. They get familiar, ’cause people proposition themselves often to attractive people. You don’t have to continuously comment on a women’s physical appearance, or how she looks. Just to comment slightly and keep it moving is good.