The street king waxes nostalgic on his classic debut, his upcoming project and the possibility of a Watch the Throne-style album with Eminem
VIBE: “My Life” is the first single off Street King Immortal. We have a vague idea why Eminem’s on it, but what made you want to work with Adam Levine? Did you already have a working relationship with him?
50 Cent: The track was recorded almost two years ago. I got Adam to come into the studio and we rerecorded the vocals for the chorus, and then I flew out to Detroit to get him to do his portion. I was a big fan of [Maroon 5's] music when I was coming out with Get Rich or Die Tryin'. I had come across some of Maroon 5’s early stuff. Then on the radio, they asked me who was I listening to. I said Maroon 5, and Adam happened to be listening. He said he was there with his band and they heard me say that on the radio. People remember those things when it’s out of nowhere. They felt that it was genuine.
Street King Immortal will arrive 10 years after Get Rich or Die Tryin'. You’ve talked about how this album channels your debut. How is it for you to be a blueprint for other artists?
Yeah, Get Rich Or Die Tryin' was released February 8 and ended up being pushed up two days, so it came out on the 6th. It feels great, man. I’ve been in competition with myself for 10 years. Good artists come into hip-hop culture following me. But having the largest debut in hip-hop, you get... The general public goes, “Oh yeah, it’s good, but it’s not as good as Get Rich or Die Tryin'." They do that to you over and over. But I do see the significance in sticking around within a culture that’s “out with the old, in with the new.” Respect to the artists that have been around and relevant, like Jay. Jay has managed to stay in a good position. And LL.
You’re in a similar circle.
I’m younger than them, but I’ve been able to survive a 10-year time period. They’ve been there a lot longer. I think 15 or 20 years, right? That’s a lot of time. I’m only on because my projects are so successful. I’ve been in two-year cycles. I’d release a record, then I’d be touring for a year after. I only got a chance to officially release five albums. LL’s on 13. The marketing that I implemented on my first project changed the way people sell CDs. Within hip-hop culture, every artist that you consider a new artist or an established artist, they’re all making mixtapes. Whenever those mixtapes come out and they have song structures, it’s a reflection of what I did for the first time on my campaign for Get Rich or Die Tryin'.
I remember Kendrick said he followed your mixtape formula.
It’s funny that you bring up Kendrick Lamar, because he’s one of the guys that has carved out an audience for himself. His audience is different because he’s offered himself. It’s pretty hard to beat him at being him. A lot of other guys are writing music that don’t relate to the lifestyle they were brought up in. He decides to launch a CD with the title good kid, M.A.A.D city. There’s representation of everything else consistently and they follow in trends. It’s fads. They follow the things that they saw someone else launch. When 50 Cent is coming with Get Rich or Die Tryin', everybody’s in the gym. You see everybody working out. The culture starts to shift a little bit because the success of that project moves them in a different direction. I like what Kendrick did. Just keeping it him. Hip-hop culture is now pop culture. This is not mixed like it was when I fell in love with it. You’ve got representation of skateboard culture; you’ve got representation of everything in it.
Scoop Deville said you were interested in Kendrick’s album cut “Poetic Justice” initially. Were you upset when you didn’t get that?
No, no, no. It ended up in the right place. Scoop also gave me “Wait Until Tonight,” off Murder By Numbers. I went to see him because obviously when artists’ or producers’ ears are in the right space, you know there’s some heat over there. He had several hit records. But a real hit record is a marriage between the lyrical content from the writer and the production. Some of those records may not actually turn out to be hits because they gave them to artists who wrote the wrong things over them. But when I went to go see Scoop, he had some hit records planned. If you approach a song at the wrong time, you might write the wrong thing over the lyrics, the wrong lyrics over the production. I’ll come back and say, “That’s not right. Erase that, and then revisit the song.” We don’t have the same process as other artists.
I can definitely hear you on that song if you ever decide to freestyle over it. You also spoke about how you value Eminem’s musical critique, and he’s releasing an album next year. Is that a reciprocal relationship where he also takes your feedback?