It’s been 10 years since 50 cent is the future dropped, and hip-hop hasn’t been the same. The game changed with the release of all those 50 and G-Unit tapes. Yeah, the game’s always changing, but back in 2002, the explosion of G-G-G-G-G-G-G-Unit and its plethora of assaulting, aggressive discs, filled with both original tracks and other rappers’ records made over… It was as if they were saying, “We make your song better than you.” You wanted to make someone else’s shit over, too. Well, I did, at least.

That was all the kickoff to something special and innovative, a movement we hadn’t quite seen in hip-hop. A determination that we joked around about but were impressed by. We all (okay, most) wanted to see whether 50 Cent could live up to being the musical monster, maniac and millionaire we envisioned and wanted him to be. Get Rich or Die Tryin’—could he do it?

Now, a decade later, there’s been a whole lot of 50. From albums to movies to shoes to clothes to cologne to condoms to drinks to… You know the deal. And XXL has shared in the 50 love fest with our coverage of the ever-controversial character. But you guys stay wanting to read about him when he’s on the cover, so don’t complain.

Still, the game has drastically changed since those days of G-Unit homemade T-shirts and 2(x)ist wifebeaters. Today, it’s as if you can only find hints of it in the old days, the early 2000s, LOL. Sure, things are supposed to grow and evolve, but 2002 hip-hop and 2012 hip-hop are worlds apart. The jump in technology took us to a place there’s no coming back from. I guess that’s fine. Depends on what day you’re talking to me and whose music is on in the background. And it really doesn’t matter what I think, anyway. What’s important is being able to change with those times, not get stuck in one spot doing just one thing. 50 Cent knew that. He spent the last decade making himself into more than just a rap star. So, over the years, he became bigger than who we met (again) on 50 Cent Is the Future and who we saw get rich with Get Rich (the album and the movie). Who we were impressed by with the Vitaminwater deal, and even doubted when we heard he was doing a good deed.

So, to celebrate the release of his upcoming, fifth album, we came up with The 5 Faces of 50—five covers, each honoring a different side of Fif: The Rapper, The Actor, The Philanthropist, The Businessman and The Bad Guy. The last cover he shares with his buddy Floyd Mayweather Jr., who also has a bit of a wild reputation, and talks so fast in spurts it’s amazing to listen to. Together, the two have a whole lot of green, and they brought a small chunk of it (a small chunk to them; an astronomical, unreal amount to me) to the shoot. It was a money party, and only two people were cele-brating. But that was cool, because they were the only two invited. The rest of us were just spectators.

So go cop all five covers. That’s it. Enough 50. Let’s talk the rest of the issue. It’s the end of the year, and some albums have come or are coming out. We caught up with Mac Miller (page 46), to talk about his movement. Common’s in rap mode, and he talked about it with Ben Detrick (page 86). Drake’s album dropped, we reviewed it (page 109), and he speaks on it (page 32). And, of course, there’s the fan-picked XXL Eye Candy of the Year (page 96), ready to knock your snapbacks off.

2012 should be a good one for hip-hop. (Putting positive energy out there is supposed to bring it back, right?) There’s a lot of new talent out there, which will make picking the members for our upcoming fifth annual Freshmen issue that much harder. But we have a special issue right before it and, of course, the masterpiece in your hands right now.

I got five on it, messin’ with that Endo weed.

Vanessa Satten (@vsattenxxl)