In one corner you had Kanye West. A growing rapper, great producer, flashy dresser and his own number one fan all rolled in one. Billed as the new baby face of Rap, Ye has been rising through the ranks with ease. His good guy persona exploded on his sophomore effort Late Registration. The smash single Gold Digger would propel West to the top of the charts only to reveal the inner child within, complete with tantrums and public outbursts galore at various awards ceremonies. With those fits of emotion however came a passion about the music that hasnt been seen in a long time
Now meet the bad guy. 50 Cent has been punched, kicked, stabbed and shot and still hits just as hard as any other rappers in their prime. The Queens MC dominated the game in 2003 with the classic Get Rich Or Die Trying. His monster debut catapulted him to a level that only a select few of his contemporaries could relate to. While he slew the sophomore jinx with The Massacre, many felt it lacked the original mean streak of its predecessor. Constantly in the headlines from his Vitamin Water deal, and blowups with his own label, 50 seemed to be the odds on favorite.
As the end of summer drew closer, both artists were slated to drop new albums. Even though they were highly anticipated, both albums began unseemly. 50s first single Straight To The Bank was a huge disappointment compared to his earlier work and things didnt get better with the lackluster follow up Amusement Park. While Kanyes Cant Tell Me Nothing and Stronger werent initial bricks, both left-of-center tracks took a minute to grow on the public.
Finally it was decided somewhere way upstairs at Universal, the parent company for both DefJam and Interscope, that they would release on the same day. Not just any day, however. September 11, the sixth anniversary of the fall of the Twin Towers was chosen, as both projects began to pick up steam. 50 dropped atomic bomb with I Get Money while Kanyes Daft Punk-fueled Stronger went from quirky and weird to phenomenal and Cant Tell Me Nothing became the anthem of the stubborn across the hood. Now the stage was properly set. Curtis versus Graduation.
It would be our modern version of Ali vs. Frazier. Both rappers would play up the soundscan battle in all aspects of media. Kanye would be more modest about the face off while in his traditional bully fashion, 50 went in hard on the Chi-town underdog. The Hip-Hop community went into frenzy on who would sell more; rightfully so the streets would side with Fif; while the mainstream stood behind West. Both the fans and the media were drawn in to make this larger than life
In a David versus Goliath defeat, Kanye outsold 50 Cent 957,000 copies to 691,000 first week. Indeed a distinct milestone for Hip-Hop, the head to head competition proved to be a successful marketing strategy as everyone was a spectator. To recap this event we checked in with some of their peers to get everyones play by play and to see who was booing and who was cheering.
I think it was healthy for Rap. What I didnt like about it is that the industry is trying to turn Rap into WWE Wrestling and they basically did it right there. It makes me think, what will we do for money? I think it was positive for Rap, anything thats for the most part non-violent Im with. It sold records and it pushed people to go back into the stores. What I dont like is it allowed us to push this beef thing to the point where kids asking when an artist that is coming out like who are they beefing with, when the truth is, it might be fun to people but we live this sh*t! I really think we should be careful what we should allow our music to turn into because its turning into a f***ing show. Thats why people dont respect Rap because we have allowed it to be a novelty. Now it feels like anyone can do the sh*t. On one side I thought it was positive and on the other side is this what we have to do to sell records? I thought it was about good music? And now its not even about good music, its about everything but good music.
Its about the show and when it turns into a show, you can put anybody in it and it aint got sh*t to do with good music. Then people who have power can take their son and their daughters and their homeboys; if music is so simple where you can set up a minstrel show, they no longer need ni**as from the hood because the scared of us anyways. I put it to you this way dude, the way I feel about peoples albums. Thats my personal sh*t that I do on my personal time and I wont go into on how I feel about on artists albums. But can I make one comment though? The last song on Kanye album, the Big Brother just put in there OH MY GOD, JAMMING. That song gave me a new respect for Kanye. Ill just put that out there. And what Ill say about 50, 50 is one of the smartest businessmen in this world. We as Black people should give that man his respect as an entrepreneur. He is going to compete with Donald Trump and they are not giving that man proper respect for what hes done for Rap. He teaching ni**as how to get money and ni**as hate instead trying to get what he get. Im trying to learn and get around 50 and learn what that ni**a know, f*** that bullsh*t.
I thought the Kanye album was incredible. I thought the Curtis album was dope too because I like beats and Rap. And I like music too. I liked them both; I didnt have a situation where it was one against the other. The Gun Go Off, the Follow My Lead. I love Follow My Lead. They had a couple on there dog. –
I think that was a good marketing strategy. I think they built that one nicely. Kanye was going to put those numbers up regardless. 50 just had dropped four joints and didnt get the momentum. [The] Kanye album to me was the better album man, it was real well rounded. I wasnt f***ing with 50s as much. Kanyes [album] you could drive to that sh*t; I dont know man. I guess I just got a biased opinion. [Kanye] had them beats.-
I actually thought instead of promoting it as a competitive thing, I thought they should [have] promoted it as a big day in Hip-Hop with two big artists. It was more like Kanye versus 50. I think it should have been a thing where you got the two biggest rappers albums coming out the same day. So go get both of them and make a statement for Hip-Hop. I only heard some of the songs of the Kanye album, I aint going to lie. The joints that I did hear I liked. The Flashing Lights, of course Barry Bonds and of course the singles were nice. When I first heard Stronger though I was like I dont know about this one, but after I kept hearing I thought it was different. Thats what I liked about it. I dont even think he did that for people over here. He made that for people in Japan and over there.
There were a couple of joints on the Curtis. I think what people didnt like most about 50s Cents album was a lot of the girl songs. They are used to him having more of the harder songs. But I liked a couple of the jams on the album. Personally I liked both of the singles he came with Straight To The Bank and Amusement Park. I dont know why those singles didnt do what they were supposed to but I liked both of them. –
That s**t was a gimmick man, that s**t was f***ing bogus. They going to have everybody trying that s**t now; that s**t is bogus. [Graduation] was pretty hot, Kanye is cool. 50 cool, no comment though. –
I think Kanye was trying to push new boundaries with that album. He was going for that electric, European sound. I thought it was good. I thought the Kanye West and 50 Cent rivalry was one of the most tastefully done things. It was good competition. It was something that Rap needed. It was no disrespect in it. I didnt hear the whole Curtis album, from what I heard I liked it. I just want to hear some raw 50 too though. I want to hear 50 make a raw album because he could do it now. He doesnt have to worry about sales, money or anybody. –
Dirty Swift of Midi Mafia:
The whole 50 versus Kanye s**t was cool how it went down. It wasnt no bulls**t beef, it was a real marketing campaign. It brought some excitement. It was a positive beef and it was played up in the media. It felt like an event, thats the type of things you got to do to generate that type of interest. I never been into Kanyes music like that but I love what he does. I thought the album was super creative, I like the joints he made singles. I thought those werent typical to what was going on; I thought that was a great creative statement. I just love that guys creativity. Hes just doing his own thing. He hasnt been on a whole heap of other peoples albums. Hes just been focusing on his stuff and it showed when his album came out.
I thought the Curtis album was decent, I liked it better than The Massacre. I was rolling around with the Akon record (Ill Still Kill) for about two days straight. I thought he had some good joints on it. I wasnt crazy about all the singles that came out but I think he did what he had to do. –
I think it was an ingenious marketing plan definitely. I think they did their thing. I thought that was real creative. That was real entertaining. You can say it was WWE, but that s**t was ill. I think 50s album was cool; you got a 50 Cent album. You didnt get too much more than that. It had a lot of bangers on there. Kanye West s**t, that ni**as album was crazy. He had some cool s**t. I think he grows lyrically every album. –
I love 50; 50 [is] the man. When you want to play that Hip-Hop gangster music you got to pop in 50. I like the one with him and Akon, I like how that beat drop. Its real thick. It gets me amped.
It was a big look; they might [have] done less numbers than that if they didnt do it that big. They made it an event. Like 50 and Kanye coming out on the same day. It really made the people come out and support and it made it a support thing instead of a battle thing. Kanyes sh*t [was] crack. I didnt get to listen to Curtis. Kanye sh*t was crack; you know he get all creative, he be on mars somewhere with all type of records on his shit. –
50 is best at starting this kind of sh*t. I love the way Kanye played it. He couldnt loose in that situation either way even if he sold more or he didnt sell more records. He played it perfect. I think 50 need a new cause. I think 50 is at his best when he has a cause. When he came out and his cause was to destroy Ja Rule, he was just that new dude and he had a purpose. Now that album reminded me of that last Ying Yang [Twins] album. There was no heart, no feeling into it. –
[Graduation] was dope, it was different, it was grown. Out of Joell Ortiz mouth, Kanye is one of the best lyricists doing it right now all around the board. The subject matter, how he brings it to a beat. Dude is having a bunch of fun and I like stuff like that. Hes real Hip-Hop duke. The Kanye album I liked out of the gate. I dug into the whole competition thing; that was dope. I like the way they did that with him and 50. And when I got the record, I liked it a lot. Curtis was alright. It was okay. It wasnt terrible but it wasnt great. –
The Kanye and 50 feud represented a great outlook on our culture and our way of life. It made me feel like I wanted to buy both albums. Actually in every state I was in I bought both albums, actually I bought more of their albums then I bought more of my albums because I was just excited about the hype and at the same time Kanye caught me from the beginning to the end, from Good Morning to Big Brother. I was very impressed.
I thought the Curtis joint was for the hood, Im not making judgments. I just thought it was for the hood. He knows how to make a fantastic record; the biggest difference was that Curtis was for the hood. When I first went about it, I thought Kanye was for the white people or the uppity people who not hood and after listening to it twice or three times and I kind figured that Kanye made universal music. Music that can be heard through any religion and I kind of appreciated it. –