Give Up The Goods
In 1999, the rap business was thriving, with multiplatinum plaques, million-dollar videos and popping bottles of champagne. Rookie Southside Jamaica, Queens, MC 50 Cent just wanted a piece of the action. His debut record, “How To Rob,” told folks how he was gonna get it. For the song’s 10th anniversary, it’s the making of a classic single.
Compiled by Matt Barone, Rondell Conway, Jesse Gissen, John Kennedy and Rob Markman
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the December/January 2010 issue of XXL Magazine.
Some say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. 50 Cent was on that train of thought when making his debut single, 1999’s “How To Rob.” Then, the grimy Jamaica, Queens, MC was signed to TrackMasters/Columbia Records and prepping his solo debut, Power Of The Dollar. Although the LP never came out, “How To Rob” dropped on the In Too Deep movie soundtrack, in August of that year. It wasn’t a hit, but it did become a staple on NYC’s late-night mixshows, gaining much industry and street notoriety for its threatening content.
Recorded in the spring of 1999 at three New York City studios (the Hit Factory, The Cutting Room and The Lion’s Den) and released to the streets via New York’s Hot 97 soon after, the fiery debut single took aim at more than 25 established celebrities, relieving most of them of their cash and jewels. A jab at Mariah Carey, who was divorcing her then-husband, Columbia Records president Tommy Mottola, stirred so much controversy before the record’s release that it had to be pulled from the original version. (“I’ll manhandle Mariah, like, ‘Bitch, get on the ground/You ain’t with Tommy no more, who gonna protect you now?’”)
The Madd Rapper, a comedic act and MC alias of former Bad Boy producer Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie, was added to the song’s hook for levity, saying, “This ain’t serious/Being broke can make you delirious/ So we rob and steal so our ones can be bigger/50 Cent, how it feel to rob an industry, nigga?” That helped cushion the blow, but folks still caught feelings. Several rappers fired back, most notably Jay Z, who spit his response onstage at the 1999 Hot 97 Summer Jam, rapping, “I’m about a dollar, what the fuck is 50 cents?”
Still, the track hit hard and sparked both love and contempt for 50. While he eventually achieved mega rap stardom with his real solo debut, 2003’s Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, hip-hop heads will always remember the first big 50 Cent song. To mark the 10th anniversary of his official arrival, XXL took a trip down memory alley to reminisce on one of hip-hop’s greatest heists. —ROB MARKMAN