50 Cent: Higher Learning [Excerpt From the Dec./Jan. 2012 Issue]

50 Cent is at a crossroads. A decade ago, the man born Curtis Jackson III, 36, overhauled the rap game with a legendary mixtape run that earned him a blockbuster deal with Shady/Aftermath/Interscope and had other labels feverishly combing the country in search of the next street-approved MC. Ten years and four albums later, however, the artist once considered the standard-bearer in hip-hop has actually become something of an anomaly. Aggressive content, as he liked to put it, no longer dominates the charts. Instead, a softer style of emotional, R&B-tinged rap rules on radio, and weirdo MCs populate the blogs, making Fif an outsider once again. “I don’t see what I fell in love with,” he says about the current music climate. “So now I gotta make music that reflects what N.W.A made. I have to make music that has the moments that Nas had. I have to make music that has what Biggie offered.”

Coming off his least successful album, 2009’s Before I Self Destruct, which sold fewer than 500,000 copies, these days, 50 has a larger profile for his endeavors outside of music than for those inside the recording booth: the $200 million deal he struck in 2010 with Lions Gate Entertainment to launch his Cheetah Vision Films production company (through which he has written, produced and starred in Gun, with Val Kilmer, and Things Fall Apart, with Ray Liotta); the multimillion-dollar stake in Glacéau’s Vitaminwater; his newest label, G-Note Records; his first business venture, G-Unit Records, to which he recently signed Atlanta trap rapper Shawty Lo; and his latest business, SMS Audio, which has resulted in SYNC by 50 headphones. This last venture, of course, puts him in direct competition with Interscope chairman Jimmy Iovine and Aftermath founder Dr. Dre, who debuted their Beats by Dre headphones in 2008, and who are the same executives 50 may or may not negotiate his next recording contract with, after the release of his forthcoming album.

His lips are sealed when it comes to such decisions. Today, Fif is prepping an as-yet-untitled five-song EP and focusing a lot of his energy on his Street King charity campaign to feed impoverished kids in Africa. He sat down with XXL in October, at Fast Ashley’s Studios, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to talk about the future.—Interview by Carl Chery and Jayson Rodriguez

XXL: During the photo shoot, you asked to listen to some new hip-hop artists. What do you think of the current regime in rap?

50 Cent: The whole culture, I think, is a little…confused. It’s not what I fell in love with, you know? So my job is to make a album that doesn’t have any holes in it, that is a representation of all of the elements I fell in love with. So, like, I look at artists to find what I like about them or why they’re hot or why they exist. And then you see that we’re creating momentum. We’re creating synthetic heat for new artists to generate interest and revenue. So the sales is some shit that ain’t really hot. You see what I’m saying? Like, the actual business of music is saying, “Oh, he’s hot!” and “Let’s try and do something to market it and sell it.” But there’s some shit that’s organic that’s out there that you see, like, without record-company assistance. People are gravitating to it.

How does that affect you, as a vet, to see that going on?

When I was in the mixtape circuit, there was a lot going on. I was able to take things that I wish I made myself and do ’em over. Now it’s not a lot of shit out there I would do over. I’m like, Nah, that ain’t even it right there. You know what I’m saying? When Black Rob had “Whoa!,” I wish that was my record. I wish “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See,” by Busta Rhymes, was my record. Fuckin’ “Lean Back,” I wish that was mine. You see what I’m saying? And you know me and Fat Joe don’t get along. You know what I’m saying? But to the culture, when you have those moments… And I’m sure they’ll tell you they wish they had “In Da Club” and “P.I.M.P.”

Does it make it harder for you to get inspired?

You know what? It makes it a difficult process of building a album. ’Cause when I hear somebody else shit is hot, I go, Oooh, I got to top that. That’s the competitive nature of hip-hop. You can’t take what’s in the DNA of the artist out. You’ll see, at different points, when I’m not active, you’ll see there’s still competition going on quietly between artist to artist. Or they’ll listen and go, I’ma kill it. If you take your time building a project that you feel is an impact on the time period—’cause that’s what it is—it’s important; music marks time. Then your peers that are in cycle are doing exactly what you’re doing. You know what I mean? So there’s no way that you can’t be competitive with what they’re doing, on some level.

So who are you competing against?
Well, for me, I’m still up against what I’ve done. So in order to top it, I know it’s a difficult task. You know, I see the bloggers. My audience hasn’t grown with me. They keep saying, “Aw, man, I want the old 50!” ’Cause those people, it would take them on a safari. I was bringing them close enough to the animals, without being able to get hurt. I was taking them into my neighborhood, where you can very well get your ass killed.

FOR MORE ON THE 50 CENT FEATURE GO TO PAGE TWO

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  • Officer Ricky

    Real nigga shit if you weren’t around in 2002 you don’t know what 50 has done

    back in 95 while i was doing strip searches on inmates he was out on the block

  • Ninja Boi

    lol at dude above but Fif A Kool dude he just need 2 find himself again n make awesome music

  • gunit4life

    fif just needs to go in the booth for couple weeks,drink some henny ,put pic of weezy on a wall,and make songs to prove why he is still the king of rap.Fif sometimes overthinks things a little.also have gritty beats but they can still be gd production even tho they sound gritty as in what up gangsta pt 2.a full song going at weezy as a first single off new album would do the trick totally body the lil weasel.like he did ja.the songs nowadays are all emo type lets all party and get along songs.perfect time to go against the grain.

  • frankj

    fif just needs to go in the booth for couple weeks,drink some henny ,put pic of weezy on a wall,and make songs to prove why he is still the king of rap.Fif sometimes overthinks things a little.also have gritty beats but they can still be gd production even tho they sound gritty as in what up gangsta pt 2.a full song going at weezy as a first single off new album would do the trick tottaly body the lil weasel.like he did ja.the songs nowadays are all emotype lets all party and get along songs.perfect time to go against the grain.

    • Blaxamilliaon

      I agree. This soft rap era needs to end.

  • white panther

    Just give up already. 5o you’re turning into Ja Rule.

    • $yk

      ^ smh

      * makes circle by temple *

  • CaponeMOB

    i look up to that nigga 50,i just finished reading his book from peices to weight. the problem he’s having is like what he said his audience hasn’t grown with him cuz trust me,if you were in your 20′s or teens back in 2003, your taste in music is MUCH diffrent then the lil dumb teenagers or niggaz that are in their early 20′s right now. matter of fact,most niggaz i know have just complelty stopped listening to hip hop,regerdless of who’s hot or what ever,cuz we came up in a time were you actually had to have some skill to be hot,
    even if you werent a lyrical rapper,you still had some sort of skill,like having a great voice with a great flow,and great song making abilities to go with the great beats. now in days niggaz dont have any of those qualities, is not an opinion is a fact.i grew in a time were the south was about to take over shit,but alot of people really dint complain like now in days,back then you only had 1 or 2 niggaz talkin shit about the south but most dint care,IN FACT niggaz even fucked with down south music that normaly only listen to NY music.
    but now in days niggaz complain about southern music every chance they have,especially east coast niggaz, and is not cuz the east is not relavant no more,but is because down south music now in days is completly garbage.and they just dont understand how shitty records and shitty rappers get 1# hits on the radio. ima give you an example,i grew up with three 6 mafia, project pat,c-murder,the hot boys,master p,outkast,

    and for the east coast,nas,biggie,shyne,dmx,jay-z,wu tang,50 cent,mobb deep, jadakiss, lil kim…ect

    how in the fuck me growing up to those artist,is goin to make me go out and listen to wocka fllocka? rick ross? gucci mane?
    nicky minaj? drake? are you serious? thats like me watching the scarface movie on blu-ray disc on a fukin 80 inch plasma tv
    ,and then a year later i go watch scarface on a fukin black and white TV on VHS TAPE….SMH

    EVEN the producers dont need to be hot no more either,that nigga lex luger gotta be the most garbage producer 2 EVER become that hot and popular,every thing now in days is just higly overrated. the nigga lex luger is a mixtape producer AT BEST. how in the fuck did he became as hot as the neptunes or timbaland? i just dont get the rap game and these dumb kids now in days.

    back then we had juvenile with a song produced by mannie fresh,we had project pat with three 6 mafia production,we had jay-z with a timbaland beat,or jay-z with a neptunes beat.or snoop dogg with a DR DRE beat.

    who we have now? a rick ross song produced by lex luger?
    and that shit becomes the hottest shit? wocka flocka and lex luger? really? and niggaz say oh now in days all you need is a hot beat and a hook and you pretty much got a hit and im like where are the hot beat at? now in days niggaz dont even make hot beats no more. and thats 50 cents problem
    he needs to start getting hotter beats on his albums,cuz if the song aint good enough to hold some one’s attentiion,then you pretty much lost them,but if atleast you got a hot beat,then they might come back and listen. and the rap audience now in days got shit taste for music,so what sounds good to 50 it aint goin to sound good to them,you gotta study the game like drug dealers study them corners,or like bank robbers study them banks,like musicians learn to use an instrument.
    thats what i did and now niggaz are hittin me up for beats like never before they want that hard trap shit,but i put my own twist on my beats i just give them enough of the shit they want and the rest i put my own flavor on it. thats what 50 gotta do. REAL TALK

    • jrash87

      true shit ,you know were you stand with hiphop and i respect that. but remember the times bro when it was just hard beats with rhymes that made you go “holy shit thats sick i wanna hear that again” and you try for the next 4 days to recite the whole song? that in hiphop except a few, has gone. its now replaced with synths, singing and shit. wtt, take away the beats, and do you quoteable lines, not really. love your comment dude,1 intellegent fuck and i respect that.

    • mindyoccupant

      wow!!! 5 paragraphs worth ashit…seems like you must be close to 30 or so and still talking like you in your teens..niggaz this and that…
      and…non one is gonna read a damn page worth of you praising 50 cent when he dissed ja rule for singing and rapping when he started to do the same thing..candy shop was crap and he just sucked after that..people dont like 2 faced rappers who makes a career of dissing and beefing with people.

      • CaponeMOB

        @ mindyoccupant and what the fuck you care about how i speak for? even if im 35 lil nigga just cuz i turned 35 im supposed to not be hood no more? you dont know where i came up or with what type off niggaz i came up with. kanye, young jeezy and rap vets is still makin relavant music is all in their 30′s and they still say nigga. and once again if you even read my LONG comment right you would see that i wasnt praising 50 cent you dumb NIGGA. i do look up to the nigga 50 for the way he muscled his way into the game and how he actually does come from the streets selling crack and shit
        i was just saying what he needed to do to get back on game.
        dont even comment next time you dumb nigga,talkin shit about i still talk like im in my teens but you CANT EVEN READ like if you WERE in YO teens,you read like a fuckin pre-schooler. dumb bitch.

    • mindyoccupant

      quit blaming beats and producers quit finding excuses for 50 cent man…u dont listen to his lyrics he trash..all the producers that was around in early 2000 is still here so your argument is trash… lyrics trash..

      • CaponeMOB

        @ mimindyoccupant all you bitches talking shit about my long comment talking about nobody is goin to read this or that are fuckin stupid.its funny cuz it seems to me that your dumb asses read it, on top of that to mindyoccupant . i know all the producers from the early 2000′s are still here,but nobody is fuckin with them cuz they all up in lex lugers dick,you dumb cunt.
        and i never said 50′s lyrics were GREAT. but if yo dumb ass would of read the comment right,or read it period,you would of seen that i said even back then you dint need hot lyrics to make a hot album,get rich or die tryin wasnt lyrical at all,but it turn out to be a classic,even bitch ass rick ross admitted
        that shit. so how is my argument trash? plus i like 50 cents hustle not his lyrics,if you pay attention to the way he came up,you would learn a thing or 2 and apply it to your daily life idiot.

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  • jrash87

    and i dont care what anyone says. before i self destruct is a sick cd. mad beats, slick lines. yall dumb cunts slept on cuz ya shit

  • RTL

    say what you say but that nigga 50 Cent is smart as hell!!
    I don´t care what you homos say – 50 is still the shit!!

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  • http://facebook.com bigtrol69

    too bad his bitch ass a snitch and aint ever gonna be hard again cause no one thinks he is. go tell on more people

    • FUFU

      why don´t you put a dick inside your mouth?
      I´m sure, a bitch like you will enjoy it!

  • antix

    50 career ended when he tried to beef with game.. he became a victim and he been trying to climb out since get rich was his only good album…. his career in rap is over… period

    • jrash87

      thats bullshit and you know it bro. if his rap career is over why do people still listen to his music,or comment at his articals?

    • FUFU

      you should put a dick inside your mouth too!
      just ask that bitch – bigtrol69 – he´s a dick lover just like you.

      • jrash87

        aww dont cry whats the matter? asked dad 4 dessert got bent over made a creamp pie? faggot you couldnt get laid by a transvestied.yeah ill be puttin a cock in me, at least ill get laid tonight, bitch you shitting me? ill fuck your babies worse than paranormal activity.internet crinimal,ya comments do bare minimal, slave aboriginal, next time you holla cunt, make it original. BIATCH.

        • Arashg

          Antix you must be really stupid, whats your argument, that fiftys over? well i got news for you, game sold like 90 thousand copies with his latest CD.. doesnt exactly say WOW this guy is hot..

          And I like the game he’s one of my favourites.
          But please focus on whats matter 2 hiphop, what fifty says is true.

          We need people like both game and fifty.

          And fifty if you read this, stop thinking so much, just make a CD with hot beats and please go after that Lil smurf and Crapman and Gayrke and since busta joined them, fuck up that old ugly ass-only-thinks-about-himself-and-not-hiphop looking motherfucker

  • oba

    50cent…..the best rapper alive.love it or hate it but dats the fact.he is a very wise man dat do things in his own way……..50CENT DA KING….

  • mindyoccupant

    UR MUSIC SUCKS 50…PLAIN AND SIMPLE..THATS WHY WE DONT WANT YOU HERE NO MORE…YOU STUCK TO THE SAME CANDY SHOP AND STARTED SINGING …THE SAME REASON U DISSED JA RULE FOR SINGING U STARTED SINGING…FANS DONT LIKE 2FACED PEOPLE…On the other hand LIL WAYNE REINVENTS HIMSELF.

  • King

    this dude 50 is actually cool n smart….no hate for him from now…wish he was cool with Game….could have been the best rap duo in the hip-hop history

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