July 01, 2003

50 Cent: Hip Hop's Million Dollar Man


50 Cent

Photo by Sacha Waldman

Just as die-hard hip hop heads began questioning the life of the everlasting hardcore, street-motivated, sub-genre of urban music, a new breed was forming on the outskirts of New York City. Having already "bootlegged" his way into the underground rap scene in the late 90's, 50 Cent has emerged as one of the most celebrated new acts of the hip hop era.

It's no mystery why 50 Cent, born Curtis Jackson, has surpassed his counterparts in the rap game. The formula is simple: street credibility plus intelligence equals quadruple platinum status, Vibe, XXL, Rolling Stone covers, sold-out concerts and multiple singles running concurrently on Billboard's Hot 100, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles and Tracks and Hot Rap Tracks charts.

50 Cent's debut album, Get Rich or Die Tryin' debuted at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 and the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. With infectious singles like "In Da Club," which, at press time, holds the No. 1 spot on the Hot 100, R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks and Hot Rap Tracks charts, the previously released bonus track "Wanksta," and the recently released "21 Questions" featuring Nate Dogg, it's not surprising that 50 Cent moved roughly 872, 000 units the first week. Internationally, 50 Cent remains on the Top Ten album charts in Canada and Australia, while "In Da Club" proves to be a smash in the UK, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany and Ireland.

50 Cent's merciless drive to live and succeed in the game is definitely reflected in his craft. With his what-you-see-is-what-you-get personality, 50 wittingly shares his tales of growing pains -- drugs and violence -- in his music and in the media; his non-fabricated image, along with the backings of Dr. Dre and Eminem, is sure to keep 50 in the rankings as one of the most respected artists in the industry.

The Jamaica, Queens native's career started years before the Dre and Eminem connection. In the mid to late 90's, 50 began pushing bootlegs on the streets of New York, which ultimately led to a label deal with the late Jam Master Jay. Eventually 50 pressed his way and landed a deal with Trackmasters/Columbia Records and recorded the unreleased Power of A Dollar, which contained "How To Rob" -- the single that would give 50 the fuel he needed to spit fire in the feud-driven rap game.

By mid-2002, 50 Cent's buzz got louder, having been dropped from Columbia and releasing Guess Who's Back and 50 Cent is the Future -- two underground bootlegs that would spark a million dollar bidding war for the up-and-comer. Then the bootlegged single, "Wanksta," was leaked to New York City radio and became the city's most requested record. When it subsequently appeared on the multi-platinum soundtrack to the smash film 8 Mile, it gave 50 Cent more than enough leverage to call his own shots.

Judging by his initial success as an underground artist, it's obvious that 50 Cent is an advocate of making music for the streets. The fact that he has built a dynasty while other hip hop artists compete for attention just makes his story all the more remarkable. Whether or not the controversial rapper accepts the mission to save the music, one thing is already certain: he's now worth a whole lot more than his name implies.