50 Cent: Calculated Steps

    Tupac Shakur once rhymed that “Every move is a calculated step, to bring me closer to embrace an early death.” 50 Cent is a man full of calculated steps, but self-destruction aside, he appears too smart for an early death. That doesn’t mean he can’t go out in a blaze of glory as he has released a new freestyle where “the George Bush” of rap says, “F**k Jimmy Iovine…I ain’t got no boss!”  The pride of Southside Jamaica Queens unflinchingly approaches a duel of record releases – against Kanye West, that 50 dismisses as media stupidity.        The calculations date back to 2002, when a recuperating 50 Cent invested in an obscure fitness beverage, not knowing Urban America would follow. Curtis features at least six singles, while artists clawing at 50’s heels rarely get past three. Meanwhile, as a father, Curtis Jackson may be grooming his son to be ultimate prodigy in an entrepreneurial or entertainment field.          Sitting in his G-Unit office, 50 Cent is soft-spoken, focused and filled with strategy. The ‘00s icon speaks about whether they love him like they love ‘Pac, what he’s doing with LL Cool J, and if the Kanye West collaboration was scrapped for any particular reason. Controversy bows to calculation, and 50 Cent may be just as smart as he is resilient. AllHipHop.com: The first two 50 Cent albums were hyped with a lot of talk about the music, as in “What is he going to say on here?” Curtis appears to be getting talk mostly about its numbers, as in “What’s he going to sell?” How do you react to that shifting conversation?50 Cent: You know what it is. I feel like in different classes of people, they’re going to actually be more conscious of the numbers…we’re in the business of selling music, so they’re gonna look and see who’s selling what. A lot of times, you’ve got these new guys that come out with a single that connects, and they still haven’t established themselves with an audience, so they ain’t gonna sell no records. The ringtone may pay for the actual album. There’s no physical cost to create a ringtone. Do you know the manufacturing cost of a disc that you’d sell for a single? It’s totally out of the picture, so a [ringtone] is straight profit. If you get the right single out of the gate, you’re gonna start in the black [not owing money]. Even if they only sell 150,000 or 200,000 units, the record company is gonna allow that group or artist to make an album again ‘cause they made some money off of the ringtone. An artist like MIMS or Rich Boy, they had big records; it didn’t translate into big sales when it came time for the album to come out. But they had big, big records, and those records sold lots of ringtones.AllHipHop.com: Just talking about singles, Curtis appears as if it is going to have upwards of five or six singles. That’s something we haven’t seen from a rap album in almost a decade. Even with T.I.’s King last year, he never worked it that far. Why are you plotting this, before the album even releases?50 Cent:  I think that multiple impressions are more effective than one at this point. You go with consistency. In the public, they’ll say “Straight to the Bank” and “Amusement Park” didn’t do as well as “I Get Money” or “AYO Technology,” but at the same time, both of those records played over 3,000 times. “Straight to the Bank” and “Amusement Park,” those would be great records for new artists, but the expectations are so high coming from 50 Cent ‘cause [the public] has listened to Get Rich or Die Trying and they heard The Massacre, and we’re going into Curtis, and the expectations are beyond even me at some points. Man, I guess I raised the bar so high that I’ve got to jump up and down to make sure I can touch it. [Laughs] At radio, the program directors will be like, “Yeah, I like this record, but give me the joint, man! Give me the one.” With “I Get Money,” they said, “Okay, this is it. We’re good.” You’ve seen this before. You’ve seen this with Usher – he didn’t put out the right single, he switched it, and he was good.AllHipHop.com: I’m asking, but these were all the right singles?50 Cent: Right. That’s exactly what I’m saying. It’s not like I put out the wrong record where people were like, “Nah, this is wack.” Nah. I can’t see that happening, period. Right now, I was receiving a little resistance and I worked my way through it.AllHipHop.com: “Fully Loaded Clip” definitely seemed to give the streets what they were asking for…50 Cent: I’ve got some hard records on this [album], don’t get me wrong. But Before I Self Destruct is…that record embodies everything that they appreciated me for initially. The last bit of that, that aggression I was givin’ ‘em early on, on the mixtape circuit.AllHipHop.com: One of the biggest bars you ever spit was “I want them to love me like they love ‘Pac” on “In Da Club.” Almost five years later, to what extent would you say you achieved that wish?50 Cent: When I said [that], I want you to love me like you love Biggie [too]. That’s actually impossible, but I’m sayin’ that to you because there’s people out there that do love them. It’s impossible for me to obtain that love because you’re greater in your absence than you are in your presence. [Tupac and Biggie] are a lot better to them dead than they were when they were when they were here. They appreciate them more now. Both ‘Pac and Big, their shoes are way too big for me to walk in; those are legends. Jay-Z might say that he felt like he was better than Big; he said that on [“Hola’ Hovito”]. I think he can only say that because he was actually active while they were there. AllHipHop.com: He was of that generation.50 Cent: Right. So he can say that if he feels like it. But me, I don’t think I should be saying that. I haven’t been physically out to compete within that era.AllHipHop.com: People speak about the lucrative business of your investment with Vitamin Water. In the hood that I live in, I see a lot of kids and adults drinking the stuff from the bodega in lieu of soda or whatever. I attribute that placement and that influence to you. Was that ever underneath your decision to invest?50 Cent: For me, my choice and the decisions that I’ve made in business are a reflection of me and my actual habits. If I endorse G-Unit sneakers, if you look at my feet, 90% of the time, you’ll see G-Unit sneakers. The only time you probably won’t is when I’m on the red carpet. If you look at my clothes, the majority of the time, you’ll see me wearing G-Unit, if I’m not wearing a suit. I’ll endorse Vitamin Water before I go towards alcoholic beverages because I don’t drink that. I was more conscious of my physical health after being in a bad physical state. After I got shot, I was more health-conscious of what I’m eating, everything. When I came out during Get Rich or Die Trying, I was like 190, coming back from 167. I was 230, got shot, and went all the way to 167 [pounds]. I spent 13 days in the hospital, but it was six weeks that I had braces in my mouth from my jaw being broken from the shot.I came across [Vitamin Water] in the gym in Los Angeles. When I came across it, I just did the research to see the possibility of getting down with them, early on. At the time, it wasn’t even distributed on a broad scale like that. It was still just in the gym at that point. It worked out. I was using it as a supplement from soda. I drink the Smart Water, but you need something else to drink outside of water.AllHipHop.com: People are focusing a lot on your G-Unit roster right now. I want to ask…what is it like working with LL Cool J? Arguably, you’re the two biggest stars from Queens in rap history.50 Cent: It feels great. LL is the greatest rapper from Queens; you can’t argue that with nobody. The fact that he’s working on an album that’s called Exit 13, his thirteenth album, his final requirement [to Def Jam] says that he’s endured more than anybody else – just being interesting enough as an artist to keep people willing to buy your record this long.AllHipHop.com: What kind of impression have you and your label made on that album?50 Cent: The impression comes from my musical selection ‘cause I kind of picked the beats. I was the A&R department on this album. As an executive producer, I can help with the creative direction – as far as choruses and that are concerned, but L didn’t need anything else. When I do books, when I’m writing with great writers, we’ll create the outline together, and then I’ll let them go. ‘Cause I might alter their direction to the point where I might not get a story that’s as good as what I could have got. When I go into the studio, I work with the greatest producers out – from Dre, from Timbaland, and they’ll play the beat, and let me go, because they know they’ll get a greater song, creatively, if they let me go than they would if they told me something.AllHipHop.com: Speaking about producers, when we interviewed you last, you mentioned that you had worked with Kanye West on Curtis. That didn’t make the final tracklisting. Did that have anything to do with the competition?50 Cent: Nah. I worked with Kanye. I went in the studio and worked with him…the controversy, that’s just promotion! This is mind-boggling how stupid the general public is at some points, that people are buying into it. You feel me? This is great promotion for Kanye West to make you think that we can be compared on any level. There’s no comparison. 50 Cent vs. Kanye West, none. To have people come out and say it’s a bout, it ain’t no bout or competition. I sold four times more than him on both albums. In the same sense, the guy will say to you right away, “I don’t mind being number two.” He’ll make the statement, ‘cause it’s clear that there ain’t no competition like that. I appreciate him, and I went to him, to see if he had something that I could create something exciting with. But right now, the biggest draw to a Kanye West album would be that Kanye West produced the record. He produces great records. Okay, Dr. Dre produces great records – he’s on my album. Eminem produces great records – he’s on my album. Timbaland, Havoc, all of ‘em. The ones you got with no names, you gotta be excited about them, ‘cause I just delivered “I Get Money” [produced by Apex Productions].AllHipHop.com: I recently read “wherever the rich go, the poor will try to follow.” I was struck by that quote. You’re a wealthy, non-conformist leader. How do you look at that statement? Because, at the same time, poverty has become such a qualifier to acceptance in this culture.50 Cent: Well, I think…I can’t speak for everybody, but I can say, for myself a rags-to-riches story is exciting. There’s hope for a person who’s not in a good space. When you grow up without finances, finances appear to be the answer to all of your problems. So if you find yourself in the space where you’ve reached a point where people feel you’ve been successful for three or four years – ‘cause I’m in that space now – you can only say that for three or four years, I’ve been successful. But for 28 other years, I can make reference to not havin’. AllHipHop.com: Let me rephrase. I don’t want to get personal, because I know your son is very near and dear to your heart. But you’ve got a workingman or a poor man’s ethic in you, based on your upbringing. Your son, for lack of a better, has had a silver-spoon upbringing. How do you, as a father, instill that same ethic in him?50 Cent: He do. He does have a silver spoon in his mouth. And hopefully, he’ll take my habits, just being around to see them. But he’s grown up under different circumstances. It’s impossible for you to place a kid under the same circumstances that I was under, without there being any money around. The mistakes that I made early on were out of the same ambition that’s in me now. I had the same intentions, just the wrong direction. I believe Kobe Bryant is who he is because of who his father was. When he idolized him at an early age, he wanted to play ball like daddy played ball. If you have someone that you idolize, I think they can help you learn at a faster pace. I was around this young girl when she was flat-out boy-crazy. She wasn’t doing good in school at all, ‘cause she’s thinking about the boys. If you have a basic conversation, before you know it, she’s talking about one of the boys in school, and what he did. That’s where her head was at. But if one of the boys gives her a book, her reading comprehension skyrockets. Because she’s thinking about the conversation that she’s gonna have with him, and she wants to know what the book is about so she can that conversation. She’s learning faster. AllHipHop.com: Speaking of books, when you’re on the plane, or when you get a chance to read, what do you like?50 Cent: All types of different books. I’m actually reading a lot of Robert Greene books on strategy. I actually hung out with him yesterday. He was here yesterday in my office. We’re doing a book together – The 50th Law. I can’t tell you specifically when it’ll be ready, but we’re working on it.AllHipHop.com: Any fiction?50 Cent: I like urban novels. I like them because they speak exactly the language that me and you would be speaking. They’re talking the way that people talk in the actual neighborhood in the book, as opposed to using terminologies to describe situations that aren’t as visual.AllHipHop.com: My last question. When you’re reading scripts, what is the ultimate or most challenging character you see yourself ever playing in film?50 Cent: I don’t even know. You know what it is? It’s because my challenges keep changing. I’ll read the screenplay, and if it seems like a challenge for me to work myself into that actual character…like my imagination says, “That’ll be exciting for people to see me that way,” then I’ll want to do that. I don’t have a particular character that I want to play. Sometimes I don’t actually get the character I want to play. I’ll read it, and it’ll already be [cast] for somebody intended for that character.

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