Where Do I Start With 50 Cent?

Slate's Culture Blog
June 6 2014 11:02 AM

Where Do I Start With 50 Cent?

98859378-musician-and-actor-curtis-jackson-also-known-as-50-cent_1
Believe it or not, 50 Cent was once one of the best rappers in the business.

Photo by ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Believe it or not, 50 Cent released his fifth album, Animal Ambition, on Tuesday, and plans to release a sixth album, Street King Immortal, later this year. This may come as a shock: 2009’s Before I Self Destruct just barely cleared the half-million mark in sales, and 50 hasn’t charted higher than No. 20 on the Hot 100 since 2007’s “I Get Money.”

Lest we forget, though, there was a time when 50 Cent dominated hip-hop with an astounding string of hits. Born Curtis Jackson, 50 was an up-and-coming rapper out of South Jamaica, Queens when he caught the eye of the late Jam Master Jay, and he was eventually signed to Columbia Records thanks to that affiliation. But a string of violent altercations—including the infamous drive-by shooting in which he survived nine gunshot wounds—and his controversial song “Ghetto Qu’ran” derailed that deal. His debut album, The Power of the Dollar, was never released.

Advertisement

Not discouraged, 50 assembled his rap collective G-Unit—Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo, Young Buck—and played the mixtape circuit, releasing Guess Who’s Back and 50 Cent Is the Future in 2002. He soon caught the attention of Eminem who, along with Dr. Dre, took Jackson under his wing and signed him to his imprint, Shady Records.

In 2003, he released his first proper album, the groundbreaking and critically acclaimed Get Rich or Die Tryin’, which Rolling Stone named one of the 100 best debut albums of all time. Off the strength of songs like, “In Da Club,” 50 Cent became a household name. That album and its 2005 follow-up, The Massacre, cemented his status as the most talked about rapper in hip-hop—arguably overshadowing his mentor, Eminem.

And, for a time, he was the best diss rapper in the business. From as early as “How to Rob,” his planned but never released first single, 50 has picked a fight with just about everybody in rap, most notably former G-Unit compatriot and mentee, The Game, as well as his Queens rival, Ja Rule. Those feuds fed some of 50’s best diss records.

He lost most of his mojo by attempting to recreate the magic of his first two albums on their successors, Curtis, Before I Self Destruct, and even his most recent effort. They aren’t bad albums, really, but they’re the work of a rapper past his prime with no story left to tell. While 50 once represented the epitome of gangsta rap, the entrepreneurial savvy that now frequently lands him on Forbes lists—“I took quarter water sold it in bottles for two bucks/ Coca-Cola came and bought it for billions, what the fuck?”—eats away at the image he capitalized on in his heyday.

But we shouldn’t let his latter-day mediocrity obscure his former greatness. So whether you only know him for mushy one-liners (“I love you like a fat kid love cake”), infectious hits like “Candy Shop” and “P.I.M.P,” or hardly at all, here’s an introduction to the better-than-you-may-realize work of 50 Cent.

How to Rob” ft. The Madd Rapper (Power of the Dollar, 1999)

This Is 50” (The Massacre, 2005)

I Get Money” (Curtis, 2007)

We Up” ft. Kendrick Lamar (Street King Immortal, 2013)

Dee Lockett is Slate's editorial assistant for culture.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Photography
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 21 2014 11:38 PM “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow” How Futurama’s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare.
  Health & Science
The Good Word
Sept. 21 2014 11:44 PM Does This Name Make Me Sound High-Fat? Why it just seems so right to call a cracker “Cheez-It.”
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.