Exclusive Interview: 50 Cent Talks New Album, Rap Beef and the New Hip-Hop Business Model
50 Cent is planning to release his 5th album, Steet King Immortal, on February, the 10-year anniversary of his explosive debut, Get Rich Or Die Tryin’. A bold move for someone who’s been off the music map for a while. He’s forcing everyone to remember the old 50 and this time, he thinks he can top himself. The businessman is back in the music game– hear what he has to say about rap life today.
First, congrats on having the #1 single on Itunes right now, “My Life,”a collaboration with Eminem and Adam Levine. This single feels like a resurgence of the 50 we all know and love.
Thanks for saying that. I just launched the first joint. Well, the second joint but it was intended to be the first. It felt good. It felt like I’m back in pocket. I been writing since ‘97. It wasn’t a long process writing it. What I did was I just wrote what I felt . There was only one other time in my music career when I was vulnerable like that and that was on “Hate It Or Love It” because I didn’t know whether or not people wanted that from me, so I put it on Game’s album.
We seem to love records that make you look vulnerable because as the listener, we can relate.
It kind of makes you human. On this project I dealt with the pressure of people thinking I couldn’t actually write a hit song after I sold 40 million records.
What do you feel about the template of hip-hop succes stories right now? You’ve already had major hit records, but do you need to change your process?
Hip-hop music particularly is about out with the old and in with the new. It’s not about what have you done. It’s about what have you done lately. This album took three years for me to actually release and this caution hasn’t been taken on my last few albums. My last album was actually on the street four weeks priot to my release. I lost records on both and it still sold 160,000 records [in the first week.] So when people look at the sales they say ‘Oh, he fell off,’ but it was all because it was out for four weeks.
Well, this record “My Life” definitely hit the nail in the coffin.
This is what I’m saying to you. It happens when you put out music in the right time period. Like, right now “My Life” is the perfect song.
How do you guys go about choosing a single?
They don’t tell me what to release. I put out that “Amusement Record,” they actually asked me for that record because it reminded them of the metaphor I used when I released “Candy Shop.” The audience resisted it because it was like no, it reminds me of “Candy Shop.” So, I took it as ‘It’s not a hit, because it reminds you of a hit.’
That just proves that you should be making your own decisions.
I remember I had went to this award show and they had me coming out of the sky and I almost fell off like 30 feet up in the air. So when I got down I was like fuck that, I snapped out of it. I’m in 50 cent mode now. I know if I fall off I’m on my own.We here together on this actual platform, but as soon as I fall off I’m on my own, ain’t I? I thought man, if I fuck up I’m on my own.
Yea, so right after that. Jimmy [Iovine] came to the hotel and I played him the record, “I Get Money” and he says to me, “Are you sure this is what you want to say right now?” And I looked at him and I was like what the fuck is he. I didn’t know what to say except for just let me think. Let me try and get it together and get it out and as soon as I left, I shot the video for “I Get Money” and put it out. Interscope reimbursed me for that. They never wrote the budget or agreed to the actual treatment. If you look at “I Get Money” it’s directed by me and J Jiffy.
That’s something that you decided on your own.
I did it myself. The song is a 50 cent record. A lot of times, they need to understand why or when that record needs to be put out. I’m talking to my core. I had just finished my deal with VitaminWater and I’ll tell you how to get money and it feels good.
I feel like people want that confident record from you, similar to a lot of records on Get Rich Or Die Tryin’.
Rich people don’t really want to have a conversation about money. They got it, it’s boring. So, thats why [Jimmy Iovine] said, “ Is this really what you wanna say right now.” And I’m like yea this is what I want to say.
You speak about Game and Young Buck on “My Life.” Do you feel like you’re done nurturing new talent? Do you feel let down as a listener?
Nah, I’ll get back into that at the top of this year, but I won’t bring them as close to me as before. You’ve seen me with Kidd Kidd and Precious Paris. In the past, I’ll take a new guy and put him on the stage in front of 30,000 people and 60,000 people in different countries and they want that right away. And I can’t actually give it to them. What I can do, is give them the opportunity to impress those fans and you can get back around and make some of those people fans themselves, but I can’t give that to them.
Beef is something that’s always fueled your music career in addition to the music. Do you feel like it does the same thing in 2012?
It creates the excitement but the hit is what matters. You’ll have guys consistently saying things about a high profile rapper just to get their name out there. To establish themselves
What is it about rappers that push your buttons? I see you and French Montana are feuding now.
Well, French Montana doesn’t push my buttons. Creatively he’s not somebody we can even have a conversation about. He doesn’t yet have one hot record by himself. It’s interesting because he’s a snake. He was a camera guy at first. He ran around and shot DVD footage.
Yeah, I heard he gave you the Khaled footage for your beef with them? What do you think that statement will do for him?
Yeah, he gave me the footage of DJ Khaled’s mother and her house and he went and got the footage for me and I put it out. It doesn’t matter what it does, but it explains why I look at him like he’s a clown. He’s saying that he can hurt my career. He doesn’t even have a song. You know how many people have had one hit wonders? The boy ain’t talented enough. He reminds me of a Rich Boy or a Young Joc or all these people that are apart of the culture that had big records, and are talented people. If you haven’t paid attention, I’m on the Forbes list every year regardless if the record goes out or not. That should tell you that I’m not sleepwalking.
What do you think about diminishing album sales? Do you think It will ever get back to emcees selling like your first record did?
Well, it will be different. We’ll have it to where it will feel like it’s selling 13 million records, like when a song goes number one in 12 hours. Let me ask you this: does the iTunes chart feel like it’s the number one song on the radio? It being number one on the radio could be because they’re paying a lot of money to get the spins up. You got a lot of records becoming number one because they’re paying.
You have more than a decade now of recording under your belt. Does it affect the music, and why are you so keen on getting money outside of the music industry?
Okay, the actual market has shifted. If you noticed, CD’s going on sale now for $7.99 and the single that used to be $5.99 is now being sold for .99 cents. So they can’t allocate the same expenses in marketing as they did before. If you have the opportunity to be you have the ability to be cross-promoted with other major corporations. If you look in the “My Life” video there’s a Chrysler in the video that isn’t actually out on the street yet. They actually paid a quarter of a million dollars to put that in the video.
50, This is your last album requirement with Interscope. Is this the last album we’ll see from 50 Cent or does it mean a new contract?
Yea, I’ll probably go back in with business. It depends. While I’ve been away for the last three years preparing this actual record, there’s been a lot of changes with staff there. If I get in touch with the staff and we have a successful launch of Street King Immortal we’ll continue or explore another option.
So this isn’t the last time we’ll get a 50 Cent record?