: Hip Hop
More so than any other music since the blues, hip-hop is all about stories. And its stories are both criminal minded and grand, making them enthralling and unbelievable, but also making them only as interesting and convincing as the teller. That's why, despite being blackballed by the industry, without a major-label recording contract, heads still gravitated to Jamaica, Queens' realest son, 50 Cent, like the planets to the sun. 50 Cent, born Curtis Jackson 26 years ago, is the real deal, the genuine article. He's a man of the streets, intimately familiar with its codes and its violence, but still, 50, an incredibly intelligent and deliberate man, holds himself with a regal air as if above the pettiness which surrounds him. Couple his true-life hardship with his knack for addictive, syrupy hooks, it's clear that 50 has exactly what it takes to ride down the road to riches and diamond rings. 50 is real, so he does real things.
Born into a notorious Queens drug dynasty during the late '70s, 50 Cent lost those closest to him at an early age. Raised without a father, 50's mother, whose name carried weight in the street (hint, hint, dummies), was found dead under mysterious circumstances before he could hit his teens. The orphaned youth was taken in by his grandparents, who provided for 50. But his desire for things would drive him to the block. Which in his case was the infamous New York Avenue, now known as Guy R. Brewer Blvd. There, 50 stepped up to get his rep up, amassing a small fortune and a lengthy rap sheet. But the birth of his son put things in perspective for the post adolescent, and 50 began to pursue rap seriously. He signed with JMJ, the label of Run DMC DJ Jam Master Jay and began learning his trade. JMJ would teach the young buck to count bars and structure songs. Unfortunately, caught up in industry limbo, there wasn't much JMJ could do for 50.
The platinum hitmakers Trackmasters took notice of 50 and signed him to Columbia Records in 1999. They shipped 50 to Upstate NY where they locked him up in the studio for 2 1/2 weeks. He turned out 36 songs in this short period, which resulted in "Power Of A Dollar," an unreleased masterpiece that Blaze Magazine judged a classic. 50's stick up kid anthem "How to Rob" blew through the roof and playfully painted him as a deliriously hungry up-and-comer daydreaming of robbing famous rappers. But 50 and the fans were the only ones laughing. Unable to take a joke, Jay-Z, Big Pun, Sticky Fingaz, and Ghostface Killah all replied to the song. "It wasn't personal. It was comedy based on truth, which made it so funny," says 50 Cent.
In April of '00, 50 was shot 9 times, including a .9mm bullet to the face, in front of his grandmothers house in Queens. He spent the next few months in recovery while Columbia Records dropped him from the label. 50 didn't fold, he flew. Right into the zone. He banged out track after track, despite no income or backing, with his new business partner and friend Sha Money XL. The two recorded over 30 songs, strictly for mix-tapes, with the soul purpose of building a buzz. 50's street value rose and by the end of the spring of '01 he'd released the new material independently on the makeshift LP, "Guess Who's Back?". Beginning to attract interest, and now backed by his crew, G-Unit, 50 stayed on his grind and made more songs. But it was different this time. Rather than create new songs as they had before, 50 decided to showcase his hit-making ability by retouching first-class beats which had already been used. They released the red, white and blue bootleg, "50 Cent Is the Future," revisiting material by Jay-Z and even Rapheal Saadiq.
That's when the unbelievable happened, and hip-hop history was written. The energetic CD caught the ear of supa MC Eminem, and within a week Em was on the radio saying, '50 Cent is my favorite rapper right now.' Em looked to mentor Dr. Dre to confirm his belief in the young hitmaker, and the good doctor co-signed. Floored by the appreciation of the greats, 50 didn't hesitate in signing with the dream team. In the wake of his acquisition, 50 Cent has become the most sought after newcomer in almost a decade. Not since the summer of '94, when radio would play absolutely anything Notorious B.I.G. related, has hip-hop seen buzz like this.
Ever the clever businessman, 50 didn't let the opportunity escape him and quickly released another bootleg of borrowed beats, "No Mercy, No Fear." The CD featured only one new track, "Wanksta," which was certainly not intended for radio, but the streets couldn't wait for the official single and within weeks "Wanksta" became New York's most requested record. Thankfully, the stellar cut has found a home on the multi-platinum soundtrack to Eminem's smash movie, "8 Mile." With several huge hits already under his belt, 50 Cent is poised to be the artist to beat next year. He's coming with over ten incredible tracks stashed from last spring and newly recorded winners courtesy of Eminem, who's really cut his production teeth of late, and hip-hop's greatest, highest-selling producer Dr. Dre. "Creatively, what more could I ask for?" he asks jokingly. "You know if me and Em is in the same room then it's gonna be a friendly competition, neither of us wanna let the other one down. And Dre??? C'mon." Promising an LP of the caliber of rap classics like "Illmatic," "Ready to Die," and "Reasonable Doubt," 50 Cent's debut promises to set the pace for hip-hop in coming years. The product of his unrelenting drive, talent and, frankly, his real-ness, 50's official first album promises to do for him just what it says. With his infectious flow and viciously funny I-don't-give-a-fuck personality, there is no doubt that 50 Cent will Get Rich or Die Trying.