By Nav Singh
This interview was conducted by the author in 1999 while interning at Columbia Records. AllHipHop.com presents a six-year time machine glance into the hungry, but prophetic eyes of Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson in 1999.
Hopefully on the verge of releasing Power of a Dollar, 50 Cent had already stirred up the industry with his "How to Rob" anthem on the Deep Blue soundtrack. Reactions from Terror Squad and Sticky Fingaz had surfaced, and 50 welcomed the taste of opposition. Get a vintage view of 50's competitive spirit, his Columbia signing, and some more philosophical looks at life, death, and getting rich in between...
AllHipHop.com: How did you get started in the music industry?
50 Cent: When you look like money, its easier to get next to people in high positions cause they feel like you dont need anything from them. So, its just cool for you to hang with them. They actually like you hanging out with them. Many of these industry people go with the persona of street n***as that are out to get you. [If] you dont carry yourself like that, [then] they hang with you.
AllHipHop.com: So, thats what led you to getting signed?
50 Cent: Yeah, like how I was when I met Jam Master Jay - I looked like money. It made it easier. Its not like I knew the guy. Jam Master Jay signed me to his label, JMJ. I made 18 records under JMJ. I realized that I was goin nowhere. I had a meeting with Mark Morales [formerly , Prince Markie Dee of Fat Boys]. I played my tape for him, and while Im playin the tape, hes listening to someone on his cell phone, and talkin to his girl at the car lot. So basically, no ones really payin attention to my music, but me. Then Marks boy goes to him, "Yo, Mark what you think of this?" Hes like, "Its aight." Im like, "Gimme my motherf**kin tape, man. Yall n***as is mad old school." I just took my tape and left. Like a week later, Mark calls me at three oclock in the morning. We linked up, and he wanted me to go upstate with him that night. But I dont go upstate with n***as. Where Im from, n***as go upstate, and dont come back. The next day, my man came with me, and then we went upstate. I met Tone & Poke [Trackmasters] and them Femme Fatale girls. When I went up there, I still wouldnt have been able to work, because the studio was all occupied. Them Femme Fatale girls started arguing and fighting with each other, and they left back to the city. That left the opportunity open for me. In the next 18 days, I made 36 songs. After doing that, I knew regardless to what was going on, I was gonna get signed.
AllHipHop.com: Thats hot. The 36 songs were your demo
50 Cent: Once I get in the zone, like throughout those 18 days, I get in the mood and s**t just keeps comin to me. Therell be no problem, everything I write works.
AllHipHop.com: What kind of things do you get your ideas from to write a song?
50 Cent: A lot of different things - conversations. You might say something in a conversation thats real. I was in the projects yesterday, and I was talking to one of the gods out there. He was telling me, "You can determine how great a man is, by how many people hate him, cause envys a mothaf**ka." He just said it like nothing, so naturally that he didnt even understand what kind of jewel he was droppin. After, I had a conversation with my boy and he was telling me, "You know youre good when people constantly try to challenge you. They feel like youre a threat to everything else thats going on. You should feel good." There was this kid from the Terror Squad on the radio who had a song called "Two Quarters." Sticky Fingaz did "Jackin for Beats." Neither one of them are hit records, so I dont really mind. Im gonna address them though, when Its the right time. I dont want to make myself out to be that kid who talks about everybody. So, right now Im gonna let them slide. Im gonna continue to do what I gotta do and after I build my fan base, Ill start finishing off their careers. [Laughs]
AllHipHop.com: What made you want to do the song "How To Rob? Was it influenced by the label?
50 Cent: Not really. It originated in a conversation with myself and my A&R. He said, "You should do a record where youre robbing everybody, but as a joke." I came in the following week with the song and his jaw dropped.
AllHipHop.com: So, you basically did it as a joke and people are taking it seriously
50 Cent: I dont care if they take it seriously. It doesnt matter to me. That record did for me what a poster board cant do. Without making a record that separates you from everybody else, who are you? There a million people out there that are rappin, you need a reason why people will wanna work with you. The reason why its comedy, is because comedy has some truth to it, all the time. You can put your good clothes on and go to the comedy club and the comedian is gonna pick you to pieces. The comedian will have the whole place laughing at you, then how do you feel? Comedy is always at somebody elses expense. The Terror Squad can be upset cause they got these hardcore killer images, but like I said, thats an image. If they were killers, Id be dead already.
AllHipHop.com: What do you think of Hip-Hop at its standing point right now, do you think were losing Hip-Hop?
50 Cent: Were not losing Hip-Hop. Im taking straight it back to when Hip-Hop was more competitive. This new kid came in and said some s**t, were gonna get em. The goes with Sticky Fingaz, now hes talkin about everybody. Monkey see monkey do. Did you hear what he said about me on his record? "Your mamas more of a man than you are." Come on man thats an old school mama joke. Who helped him write that line, his little cousin, his little sister? My record is my way in.
AllHipHop.com: Your stepping stone
50 Cent: Right. Im not gonna just do that. I got more in me. I got better things to do than to just talk about other people.
AllHipHop.com: What do you think about the media hating on rappers?
50 Cent: Nobody likes rappers, they like the music. Puffy for instance, when hes doing great, hes Puffy, the producer, and the record label owner. When he does bad automatically hes Puff Daddy the rapper. The incident with Steve Stoute, he was turned into Puff Daddy the rapper. Public Enemy 2000 was the perfect record for Puffy to come out with, because they dont want to see him do good. Id love to see him do good. I dont care who it is. I want to see everybody do good. The best. I wish everybody the best.
AllHipHop.com: Lets talk about the album. How long did it take you put that together?
50 Cent: It took a while to put together because of the choosing. I had done like 60 songs. I got Destinys Child, U.G.K, Dave Hollister, Noreaga, and I have a record thats pending, which I dont want to talk about. Its a balanced out album. It fits a bunch of different markets.
AllHipHop.com: Do you have any advice for people trying to get into the industry, especially young people?
50 Cent: I advise them to prepare for the worst when coming into the music industry. Because before you come into the industry, you see it as what it appears to be, and its not like that. Its television, the jewelry you see these people wearing on TV, cars you see them driving, things like that and it seems real glamorous. When you get in, youre gonna see sides to it that you never thought there were.
AllHipHop.com: Where do you see yourself in ten years?
50 Cent: Ten years? [pause] Lets narrow it down to five years. Five years. [pause] I may not be alive in five years. I hope so though. If I live to those five years, Ill be doing movies and things like that. My friends, I have a few left. This summer I lost three friends. I only made one real relationship in 23 years and he passed away. I think the only thing thats promised to us is death. If im not able to get out of the environment that Im in now, Ill be in jail or Ill be dead. Im never gonna be givin people none of my s**t, as far as trying to rob me. Its not possible. The more popular you get, the more important it is that they get you.
AllHipHop.com: Why do you think that everyone is always trying to get everyone thats on top instead of trying to get on top themselves?
50 Cent: I dont think those people have figured out a way. I know if wasnt rappin, Id be in the street doing the same thing. You dont see past whats going on right in front of us. We go to the block and hustle on the block, go home, go to sleep, and wake up go shop, come back to the block, by a car, drive around in Manhattan and come back to the block. They dont see the other things, the other opportunities. Now theyre starting to see the music opportunity, a lot of them. The streets are coming to the music industry.