50 Cent is always thinking about how he can impact hip-hop and its structure. At the beginning of 2014, the 38-year-old MC announced he was officially going independent, leaving Interscope after more than a decade and securing greater creative control over G-Unit Records and his music. To keep things in motion, 50 signed a new worldwide distribution agreement with Caroline/Capitol/UMG for his fifth album Animal Ambition, which means he’s no longer held back by the major label system.

After a strategic marketing plan where he released a song per week in the months leading up to the project's release, Animal Ambition is officially in stores today. The 14-track LP marks 50 Cent’s return to solo form since his last album, 2009’s Before I Self Destruct, and he’s hitting all the right pockets that made him a household name in the first place in the early 2000s. On Animal Ambition, 50’s tapped his loyal circle of producers to create a smooth and gritty body of work that’s similar to his come up days. Names like Jake One ("Hustler," "The Funeral,"), Ty Fyffe ("Chase The Paper"), and Nascent ("Flip On You") are veterans in 50’s producer pool that know exactly what he's looking for. Others are fairly new, but show out on impressive radio-friendly singles and street bangers that have the potential to be summer favorites.

When someone of the caliber of 50 Cent is making the push for a comeback, it’s no question that XXL goes deeper into the project's creative process. Speaking with all 14 producers involved on the LP, we get a sense of his work ethic and, honestly, his untamed desire to win. So dust off your G-Unit sneakers and get ready for the stories behind how every track on Animal Ambition came together. This is 50’s finest hour. —Eric Diep, Christopher Harris, Christina Kelly, Chris Mench, Emmanuel C.M. and Dan Rys

animal ambition

"Hold On"
Producer: Frank Dukes

Frank Dukes: Initially, I started working [with 50] via the regular Internet shit where you're just sending beats to the A&R, and then you know, the next day you see your song on the internet. [Laughs] This was at a time when G-Unit was doing a lot of mixtape stuff. They had used three of my beats in a row, but I don't think he knew those beats were from the same producer. When I reached out to his A&R, within like two minutes I was on the phone with 50. He was really cool about it; he basically explained that he didn't know [those beats were all mine], but he liked my beats and he offered me a song deal. So I did a song deal with him, and that was four or five years ago at this point.

I wasn't in the studio with him when he recorded “Hold On,” but when I first met 50, he was very welcoming, really cool guy. I'm guessing he recorded that one a while ago, since I sent that beat to him in like 2009/2010. It was a surprise to me, when I heard it eight or nine months ago, because I had sent it to him so long ago, but I was glad he used it because it was one of my favorite beats. It was really cool that he decided to go back to that old beat.

50 has a good ear for taking any and everyone's beats and making really good songs from them, and that's exactly what he did [with “Hold On”]. It was one of the first beats I played on, because I played the guitar and bass and put some vocals on that one. I didn't make the beat specifically with 50 in mind, but he definitely added personality to it. He took a beat I forgot about and made a really killer song out of it. I mean, 50 is kinda the king of taking something really small and making it huge. A lot of his albums have beats by relatively unknown producers, but he knows how to make a great song with their work. —As Told To Christina Kelly

frank dukes

"Don't Worry 'Bout It" featuring Yo Gotti
Producer: Charli Brown Beatz

Charli Brown Beatz: The beat I had given to 50 was made around 2008; I had completely forgotten about it. I probably sent it to Tony G [50 Cent's A&R] in like 2009/2010, that's how long it's been. It's been an honor to work with someone of 50's caliber. I wasn't in the studio with him—I never got to meet him—but it must've been recorded a little while back.

I heard [the finished song] when it was on the radio. The day before, Tony G called me, letting me know that they were gonna drop the video that night, but during the day somebody tweeted that they were playing it on the radio, and that's how I heard it. It was an honor to hear it like that, 'cause I've been a fan of 50 since Power Of The Dollar. Me and my friend used to ride around listening to that over and and over again. I would've never guessed that one day I would be working with him.

I think the song is really catchy. Everybody goes through situations, and so everyone can relate to it because there's always someone trying to be in your business. And sometimes you just wanna say to them, "Don’t worry bout what I'm doing." —As Told To Christina Kelly

charli brown beatz

"Animal Ambition"
Producer: Swiff D

Swiff D: Every producer has those crazy joints that they want to get off, like a signature sound, but just on some other shit that's not the typical, standard sound that most people like to go for. So when I was making the joint, I had found these crazy sounds, and then I was like, okay, let me just try this out, and then that joint came out about an hour later. And I was like, okay, this sound crazy. There was this girl here and I was like, "Who do you think this sound good for?"—and I was already thinking 50, that this could only go to 50—and she was like, "I could hear 50 Cent on it." So basically, Lloyd Banks had cut a record where he remixed my "Antifreeze" beat, and then I heard that 50 wanted some beats from me. So I definitely sent them that joint—that was the first one I sent out—and then I heard back and they was like, "This joint right here is definitely going to 50."

I was hearing about it for a long time or whatever, and then I was excited, because I was like, this is one of those joints that just sounds completely different from anything out, and anything I had out. So I was glad to be a part of it, for real. They had reached out, and I already had some shit in the stash for him, but I had made that beat kind of around the same time that they asked for it, so I was just glad this met that batch. It did what it did. It's a dope record, the beat is crazy, and I'm just excited for people to hear it.

I found out quite early actually [that I had made the album]. I was on [the Interscope] album, and then he left the label and went with Animal Ambition. And I called someone from G-Unit and he was just like, yo, 50 still wants these records for Animal Ambition, so I was like, cool, it's still gonna come out. So once I heard the date I was like, cool, it's confirmed and I'm on there. So that was straight. From what I heard of it, I was pretty excited about it. It was everything that I had envisioned; when I make beats thinking about an artist, I'm somewhat of a songwriter when I'm making the beat. But I can't write at all. [Laughs] With that joint, I was like, I could hear 50 doing something like this, and then he did it, and it was even better than what I thought it could be.

I've never been a part of something like this to where I got the title track. And you know, one of the first few records on the album as well, so both of those are hitting home for me. It's dope. —As Told To Dan Rys

swiff d

Producer: Shamtrax

Shamtrax: I’m really into instruments. That’s my strong point as a producer, so I pretty much started out by just going through a couple of instruments. I had some horn, kind of like stab samples. I don’t know if that makes sense, but you can take it down. It’s like some horn stab samples, and I looped it up, and then I began to build the drums around it, because normally I like to build my drums after I get a feel for what melody I’m going to use.

So I put the track together and my management from The Sound Killers, he took a meeting and he got word back that 50 really liked the track and that he was jumping on it immediately. When it got to the next stage, the A&R from G-Unit, Tony, who’s actually a really cool guy, he had some input that 50 said he wanted to have more live instruments on it. And that was perfect for me because that’s just my passion, I’m very musical. I play a couple of instruments; I play like three different instruments. So that even just made it more home for me.

As far as the end product goes, I was really pleased with it. I didn’t get to meet him. Normally the way I work with people, I’m in the studio with them or I get a chance to sit in at least during the mix portion or whatever, but in this situation I didn’t get to meet 50 at all. So I was very pleased with the end result. I love how the hook came out and I’m really happy about the responses that are coming back. They’re very positive and a lot of people want to hear more things from me and The Sound Killers. —As Told To Chris Mench


"Smoke" featuring Trey Songz
Producer: Dr. Dre, Mark Batson and Dawaun Parker

Dawaun Parker: If I’m not mistaken, we made that beat in Hawaii. There’s a studio that we’ve worked out of there a bunch of times. So yeah, a track that just came to us, the melody and the drum idea just throughout how we come up with anything else. I don’t remember anything particularly special about that day, but once the track started to be made, I know that people started to vibe to it, and it became one of the contenders that we would play that people seemed to gravitate towards. Then once 50 got on it, it just ran from there.

50 always comes through. He always comes around periodically. I did “Okay, You’re Right” with him, I did “Fire” with Nicole Scherzinger and him. So whenever there’s a new batch of stuff he’ll pop his head in the studio and see what’s cooking. So he really liked what that was and I guess the formulation just started there.

I think this was a thing where 50 recorded his vocals while he’s been touring and shooting his films. Thank God for technology now, I think that has a real effect on what people are able to do. It really lets you record whenever they vibe and they feel like their voice is at the right time, and that can be whenever. So that’s how that one worked out.

[Working with Dre is] an incredible experience. He’s taught me a lot. I’ve learned a lot just being able to work side by side with us making beats together, and then him even showing me how he produces vocals and allowing me to even produce his vocals at times. He’s just been a real tutor, a real mentor in the game, and I wouldn’t be able to do half the things that I could do if it wasn’t for his guidance. If you hear the chord progressions say in the synths on that track, when the chords come in, that’s my thing. [Mark Batson is] playing the string element, I think, and then obviously just the groove and the kind of space and sonic approach that it has, that’s Dre all the way.

For me, I never knew that it was going to come out or that it was something that was going to be a track until the rest of the public did as well. I kind of, from my experience, know that things are never set in stone until you see it in the store. So for me, I just really look to what the public thinks, and then kind of just go from there, and so I’m already thinking about the next track. —As Told To Chris Mench

Dawaun Parker

"Every Time I Come Around" featuring Kidd Kidd
Producer: Steve Alien

Steve Alien: Funny story—the beat is actually five years old. It's just a simple one-bar loop beat I made in five minutes. I emailed 100 beats to G-Unit back in 2009 but never got any word back and just kept it moving. Fast forward to 2014, and I received a call from an A&R who played me the beat over the phone and asked if I produced it. I had even deactivated the email account from which I had sent the beats, so they weren't able to get in touch with me online. Thank God I never changed my cell phone number or else they may have never been able to contact me and the track may never have seen the light of day.

After the A&R touched base with me, he asked for the original files, and a second obstacle was raised—finding the original file, as the beat was five years old. Over the years I was averaging making a couple of beats a day, so we're talking five years of hundreds of beats per year to search through. Finding a needle in a haystack would have been easier. The crazy part is I was unable to locate the original beat and in a panic had to re-make it again from scratch. I found all the same drum sounds and re-created the beat to sound even better than the original.

A small part of me wishes that the newer version of the track had been used, but they stuck with the original beat I sent them, so I'm not complaining. People say the track is reminiscent of the old 50 and I'm very pleased with that. It's my favorite verse from Kidd Kidd thus far.

It's a great accomplishment [to work with 50]. I started out years ago aspiring to become a successful hip-hop producer. One of my dreams was to produce a 50 record, but when my music wasn't taking off after years of grinding I switched hustles and started dabbling in film and editing videos. I had put a lot of effort into producing, but I found I had much more success with film. Working with 50 was a longtime dream I had that has finally come to fruition years later. It validated all the hard work I had put into making beats for nights on end for all those years. I'm definitely proud and thankful. I'm blessed to to have these opportunities and be able to work with such veterans of the music industry. —As Told To Christopher Harris

steve alien 50 cent

"Irregular Heartbeat" featuring Jadakiss and Kidd Kidd
Producers: G Rocka and Medi

Medi: The actual beat for "Irregular Heartbeat" was created in 2012. I clearly remember making this one, even though it was a couple years back, and it was around 5 a.m. I definitely knew I wanted to start with that classic drum pattern, and use a rimshot as the snare. The synth melody you hear over the drums I did on the 16 pads of the drum machine. At the time it was just another beat that I sent over to G Rocka in a batch of beats to work on and mix.

G Rocka: I was putting together a batch for 50 back in 2012 for J Hatch at I-Standard and that was one of the ideas that Medi had shot over. That's usually how we work. I'll shoot him unfinished records to be completed or written to and vice versa. I got the files from Medi and started completing the record. I made the kick and rimshot hit harder, added a bass line and keys over what he had already had and mixed it. The original beat was actually a big production.

Medi: As far as inspiration, I was going for that same bounce and vibe that I grew up hearing from Dr. Dre and my other favorite producers.

G Rocka: My team at I-Standard was actually working the record, so they got word from 50's guy Tony G; shoutout to him and I-Standard. They told me he had a song to it, so right away I called Medi and hit him with the news. I was tripping because it was a whole two years later and it was actually a record I envisioned would work for him.

Medi: We've been getting a lot of love from it. It's dope to see how many people the song is reaching; the music video went over a million views on YouTube just a week after it was released. This song is not only changing our lives, but also everyone who contributed to making this happen.

G Rocka: It's actually funny because as I was listening to the record I kept waiting for the big production we did to drop, but it never did. 50's ear is so crazy, he only took the bare minimum—the synth, kick and rimshot—and literally made a hit out of the most basic of production. He kind of proved that all that extra shit is not really necessary for a hit. 50, Jada and Kidd all bodied the track.

Medi: Man, finding out Jadakiss was on it just took it over the top. Like, I really grew up listening to these dudes, this rap shit helped make me who I am, so to have it all come back around like this is crazy. I'm just very thankful for music. I'm glad Kidd Kidd is on the record too, a lot of people telling me they think he had the best verse. —As Told To Christopher Harris

g rocka medi

Producer: Jake One

Jake One: I’ve never actually met 50, but I have been working with him since 2003 when I was on the Beg For Mercy album. I was on Curtis. I was on the Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ soundtrack. Probably missing a couple other ones. G-Unit’s Terminate On Sight. I've probably done 20 songs with him at this point, if you count mixtape stuff.

You know, it’s weird; I don’t know [what he likes about my style]. I think we are probably like the same age or whatever. I think I definitely have the feel, classic old-school shit. It isn’t exactly the same as that. It kind of works, especially for what he is trying to do. I don’t think I ever necessarily set out to make any of the songs for him. I feel like when I do that, he doesn’t like them. I kind of do the shit I vibe with and luckily he’s been receptive to it for a lot of years. It’s kind of a trip that it’s been 10 years, working with him.

I think one thing people don’t give him credit for is he has kind of shown a lot of integrity. He’s not trying to catch whatever the hit sound is at the moment. He’s never really done that, and most artists panic and do that shit. And I definitely appreciate him for not doing that. It’s very rare in all genres of music. To me, I don’t think he’s ever really gone that much off track. Some of the records might have gotten a little R&B, a little softer. He’s always had those hard, prototypical street records. He’s always got some of those on his album. I think that’s his zone. He’s the best at doing that. —As Told To Eric Diep

Jake One

"Twisted" featuring Mr. Probz
Producers: Kyle Justice and JustHustle

JustHustle: We sent the beat like two and half years ago. My manager, Matt, was 50 Cent's publisher at the time and he gave it to Tony G. [The track is] a summer slapper; when I hear it as a whole, it's warm, something you listen to in your car with the top down.

[I was] completely shocked [when I heard it], because I never thought 50 would pick that joint up, especially since we sent it so long ago. 50 killed it and Mr. Probz killed it.

Nah, we weren't [in the studio with him]. He doesn't really work with producers in-studio, but hopefully one day we can get a chance to meet and maybe work. Too much of the same music is in rotation; the game needs something different. Something street and something real. This is only the beginning. —As Told To Eric Diep


"Winner's Circle" featuring Guordan Banks
Producer: Ky Miller

Ky Miller: I’m actually 50’s engineer, so I was there through the whole process of recording and mixing this whole record. With that particular record, it was done before, but the sample couldn’t get cleared on the record, so I re-created a whole new feel to it. So that’s how that record kind of came about. What I did was a different version of what the original was. I think it made the record bigger.

We did that record probably a few months ago. When we couldn’t get the sample cleared...that whole process of clearing samples and all that, it gets kind of real crazy sometimes. I thought [the track] was incredible. 50, his lyrical content and his music, really reflects his life and really what is going on with him. Just being a part of that is nothing more I can ask for in this world.

I think [Guordon Banks'] voice is incredible. He brings an element, like a soulful element. Like an old school-type of feel. That was perfect for that record. Just reading the comments on the blog sites, they saying he’s got an R. Kelly-type of feel. I listened to it and I was like, Yeah, he kind of does have that feel. Like a new R. Kelly-type of sound.

[This song] gives you side of 50 that...it’s just a different perspective. If you listen to the aggressive content like this, it kind of matches the flow of most of his records. You have that aggressive content, but you still have that positive record like “God Gave Me Style.” His projects usually have that type of feeling. I think that record is perfect for where he’s at in his life right now. To me, when I hear it, it can apply to anybody. —As Told To Eric Diep

ky miller

"Chase The Paper" featuring Prodigy, Styles P and Kidd Kidd
Producer: Ty Fyffe

Ty Fyffe: I don’t even remember when I gave it to them, but I send them so much music. 50 is from around my neighborhood, so we already had the connection. We knew each other for years. Me and Yayo, we always stay good. Yayo used to give him my music a lot. I just been affiliated with the whole G-Unit through Tony G and Dre and all of them. What makes it different is 50 is in a different realm right now. And I guess he’s going a little more like his older stuff, should I say.

When I was making the beat, I actually, you know, I study music. When I was creating the track, I listened to a lot of older—not older, I listen to all kinds of music, I listen to soundtracks—but I studied great music. Like D’Angelo. He’s like one of my favorites. The first album he did, Brown Sugar, I was a fan of his production, so when he made that album, there was a track on there I used to listen to back and forth. I didn’t do the exact same bassline, but I mimicked the bassline. I used the funkiest bassline and then I created the guttural sound around it.

His engineer, he told me about [making the album]. And then I heard a video he was doing something with. And then I saw a leak online, I was like, "Oh shit, sounds good."

Any artist likes 50. He’s one of the best artists, period, [best] rappers that has ever done it, period. It’s good energy. That’s what is needed in New York. G-Unit is one of the best groups that came from New York. 50 is one of the best artists that came out of New York. He is New York. Some people have made big records from New York, like Jim Jones' “Ballin’,” Mims' “This Is Why I'm Hot.” To be an artist that collectively come out with non-stop hit records from New York, it's difficult. 50, he crossed over and he is still in the streets. It’s difficult to be attached to both.

Of course, I always [see myself working with 50]. We from the same neighborhood. I respect him. I respect his business ethic. He’s just a real person. He never fronted on me from day one. He knew how long I’ve been in the music business and he always gave me a shot, so I respect him. —As Told To Eric Diep

ty fyffe

"The Funeral"
Producer: Jake One

Jake One: I made that beat, I think, in 2010 or 2011. I can’t remember. I was listening to a lot of ScHoolboy Q’s project [Habits & Contradictions]. The one with “Hands On The Wheel.” It had a lot of dark, hip-hop stuff on there. I was kind of shooting for that. Did the track, gave it to him. I didn’t even know 50 used that beat until maybe like three months ago. He’s been sitting on that for a while.

I thought [the finished version] was really dope actually. I thought he really nailed it. Most of the time, when I do something with him, I like it. He sounds good over the kind of tracks that I do. Whatever reason, we got a good chemistry for somebody that’s never met. [Laughs] You know, it just works. I can’t even explain it.

I was just working with my boy Swish who does keys for me. I’d been listening to a lot of old Dr. Dre production and kind of the evil sound. Kind of the combination of that. They have me in that zone. That’s kind of what we came up with that day.

Man, I’m not that morbid like him [to be able to relate to the lyrics]. I’m not gonna lie. I think it's kind of bugged out. I think about his career sometimes and it's like a lot of guys that have success early on—it’s almost like the longer they live, it's bad for them in rap somehow. It's ridiculous in itself. I don’t know if he’s trying to come across with that or not. I just thought it was a cool story record. He doesn’t do those often. I like to hear the detail in the kind of joints he does. It’s not your typical, shoot ‘em up, bang-bang type of song. —As Told To Eric Diep

jake one

"You Know"
Producer: Soul Professa

Soul Professa: I sent the instrumental to my guy Tony G over at G-unit earlier this year. I just do what I do, I'll let the listeners decide the rest. I'm actually going to hear the finished product with the rest of the world. I'm amped to hear it.

I'm a fan, first of all. [50]'s not needed in hip-hop, he's needed in music, period. He consistently makes quality music, whether it's a mixtape or album. We're living in an era where everyone is trying to sound like whoever is hot on the radio. In the end, everyone starts to sound the same. We need that balance. We need those bangers!

After hearing what he did to the "Major Distribution" track I produced, I would definitely hope [to work with him again]. That record is lethal. —As Told To Eric Diep

soul professa

"Flip On You" featuring ScHoolboy Q
Producers: Nascent and QB

Nascent: Me and Q have been working for a couple of years already. A beat that we had sent to 50, Tony G set the play up, and that’s basically how it happened.

QB: At the time we were finishing the score in the short film Top Floor. We had some down time; we wanted to do something that's our shit. We created all over the place, we've done all kinds of beats. We went in, did our thing and Tony G set it up.

Nascent: We were trying to create a different sound, too, on this record. The records that we usually do are harder and grittier; this is more soulful. I don't know what his reaction [was] because I wasn't there but I know he took it to ScHoolboy. It was supposed to be a ScHoolboy Q record for his album. So [50] brought it to him and he liked it but it didn't fit the sound of his album, so 50 picked it up. But he picked it up really last minute. Like, he called me the day he had to turn his album in. That's why it's a bonus track. If it weren’t for that it would have been included in the original tracklist.

QB: The sample drops are definitely my doing; I'm strongest at 9th Wonder, Dilla shit. As soul drum connoisseurs, we were just rocking it. That’s pretty much what we did, just went back and forth until it was right.

Nascent: Q started and I finished it. That's how we usually rock out. He sent me the samples already chopped and I added the drums and that was it. The beat was probably done about a year ago. One year ago we sent it out.

QB: It was a good look, especially after this past weekend. He shut down Summer Jam and pretty much had the Internet going crazy with the G-Unit reunion. It feels really great right now, having that record that everybody is talking about. The record that everybody is really rocking. It's a really good feeling. —As Told To Emmanuel C.M.

nascent qb