A Long Convo With… 50 Cent

With a new back-to-basics album in stores, 50 gives his two cents on rap’s next generation, killing enemies with humor and experimenting with electro music.

VIBE: You’ve used the Internet extensively in your disagreements with DJ Khaled and Rick Ross. There seems to be a rule that comedy wins. Whoever gets serious loses.
50 Cent: It’s not necessarily that, but it’s about diversifying what you’re attacking. I’m not Curly. I’m not the guy on the actual tape they see on the Internet. I do that to them. My friends go “He’s crazy,” because they see a whole new thing from me. I’ll find a new slot. I feel like I’m a stronger artist than they actually are, and my interests in acting and storytelling have fallen over into my attacks in different ways. I’m seeing a police officer. Nothing is real that comes out of [Rick Ross’] mouth. I have to make fun of him. He’s a fucking joke, and the only way to respond to a joke is with humor. You want to call me “Curly?” I’ll offer the net and these people something that they haven’t seen to the point where I’m far more entertaining than you thought.

You even found that nerdy kid from Canada who had made the YouTube clip dissing you and brought him to New York.
The net allows people confidence to voice their opinion. He’s a baby. He’s saying what he’s says, and that’s his opinion. But when I say “Come here” he goes, “Are you serious? I’m fucking going to New York! I can’t believe this shit! I’m going to meet 50!” In all honesty, prior to me reaching out to him, I believe he felt like that. But he’s a good guy. After he came here and we put that clip up, he was on the news. This is the highlight of his life at this point. Then he goes back to school and the girls are talking to him.

So no complimentary 50 Cent dildos?
Yeah, fuck that. We cool.

So let’s talk about new album, Before I Self Destruct. It’s a lot of street shit.
They claimed Curtis was soft. I was attempting to make the record human. I used human emotions. “Straight to the Bank” had laughter in it. “I’ll Still Kill” had anger and aggression. “Fire” with Nicole and Pussycat Dolls, Mary [J. Blige] and [Justin] Timberlake for the sexual part. This record is a lot darker and harder. I knew it would come out that way. People are gonna be surprised that I don’t care, I’ll say what’s actually going on.

I heard a track called “Hard Rock” that was really up-tempo. You didn’t sound very comfortable on it.
It was just something that leaked out. That wasn’t a real record that I was going to keep for my album. That was an idea that we were working on. If you don’t get in there and experiment, how you gonna make the next thing?

Listen to “Hard Rock,” featuring Ester Dean, here:

“Ayo Technology” went in that direction too. Are you comfortable going towards an electronic genre that you probably didn’t listen to very much?
Yeah, because I’m not going there without it being organic. If I hear the track and it feels like it’s not me, I’m not going to do it. Even when you hear me do something different, it’s still 50 Cent content. I can’t just jump on the record and be a new person. I’m a star. I don’t think I require any grooming or preparation to do what I want to do.

The South still has guys like Soulja Boy, Young Jeezy and Gucci Mane coming out of smaller camps the same way G-Unit did. Why isn’t the same thing happening in New York?
You need a whole movement to happen, and that doesn’t happen every day. We have issues. We’d be overpopulated with successful people if people believed in themselves. My confidence is mistaken for arrogance. Often. And it’s because I had to be confident enough to believe in me when there was nothing around. I would’ve been the lead [amongst Tony Yayo and Lloyd Banks] if we were selling drugs. So there was no discomfort in the success that we had and the positions that we played in music. I’ll give you another example. I had Ma$e around, and I realized [Cam’ron] was the star basketball player and Ma$e was his sidekick. The transition was different when they started rapping, Ma$e was the star and Cam was his sidekick. There were some issues to deal with because psychologically Cam was the man all their lives. It just couldn’t be functional. But Ma$e loves Cam. Ma$e loves Jim [Jones]. As soon as Cam gets into issues with [Jay-Z], he goes, “I don’t know, I might have to ride with Cam on this one.”

So that G-Unit pyramid would have existed anywhere, but how did Game and Young Buck fit in? And how did that lead to the present situation?
They didn’t have morals. They haven’t been brought up under the same circumstances. We’ve been taught not to bite the hand that feeds us. It’s just not the right way to go. For Game’s part, I don’t really fault him as much as Buck. Game ain’t really from the streets. He’s a hip-hop baby. He’s doing what he thinks he’s supposed to do to generate the most interest. This is why you constantly see him flip-flop from one thing to another thing. He doesn’t care, as long as you’re interested.

So you’re staying he took your model for generating attention?
No. I generate attention, and the association gave him attention, initially. I wrote the records that you know him for from the very beginning. See, my respect for Dr. Dre is there because I feel like you might not have heard “P.I.M.P” the way you heard it if you didn’t hear “In da Club.” You might not have embraced “Many Men” or felt other things on my record if I didn’t start with “In da Club.” So when a man has his first three singles, from an artist perspective, with material that I wrote for him–whether it’s “Westside Story,” “How We Do,” or “Hate it or Love It”–then it’s clear he’d be like “I ain’t gonna go against that,” but he doesn’t have that thing that stops him. And he doesn’t mean it later, because you’ll see him apologize. It seems like he’s sick.

Like bipolar?
You call it “bipolar,” I call it a “hip-hop baby,” a guy doing what he thinks he’s supposed to do to generate interest.

A lot of labels were built around one figure or a core group of artists. G-Unit was around you, Cash Money around Hot Boys, No Limit around Master P. Do you feel there’s an expiration date on labels built around one act?
I don’t believe that. You call it an “expiration date,” I’ll call it a change. Things absolutely have to change. Nothing stays the same. If you don’t get wiser, you just get older and more foolish. Look at Lil Wayne. His success is the reflection of a dad’s love for his son. When you make it to album six and there’s still marketing dollars around for you, it’s because your dad loves his son. Before that point, they would have done been rid of him. Album six and you still ain’t turned over no big profits? You’re done. The business would have disposed of him before he made it to album six. Don’t think this shit is organic. This is business. Sure, your body of work is there and you can get busy, but you mean to tell me that nobody gives a fuck for six albums? It’s marketing dollars, and the company decided he was the best possible thing to go after. But you gotta stick around longer, you gotta survive that.

But you can’t discount mixtape buzz–
M.O.P. has mixtape buzz, but that doesn’t mean they’re ever going to sell records.

VIBE-50_Cent_coin.jpgBut I mean buzz like you had, Wayne had.
That’s not the same thing when you’re on album six. Until you get the first available opportunity to be marketed, and you record goes “kaboom,” and you sell 12 million fucking records because your shit was right–there’s a very big difference from being on album six and having mixtapes. Wayne, he has more efforts than I have. He ain’t no new artist. You can’t look at him like a new guy. Even the Drake kid. That is marketing. The company is getting your record played. You’re saying “I did all of this without a record deal,” but the record company was marketing your fucking record.

What do you think of the new generation of rappers, like Drake or Kid Cudi?
I think they’ve always been here. They were Q-Tip, they were Common Sense, Mos Def, Talib [Kweli]. They were smarter–these new guys are just hipsters. They got a coolness to them and a look. But back then, Common and them were saying something that was socially responsible. It was just smarter. I listened to them. I’m a fan. The perspective that I was actually seeing things from and was subjected to because of my living conditions made me a bigger fan of KRS-One Criminal Minded, [The Notorious B.I.G.‘s] Ready to Die, those other things that had the aggression necessary to get by in my environment. It led me in that direction as an artist.

But there wasn’t that much separation back then. You could hear Kool G Rap next to De La Soul.
Those people were all from here. That’s when the art form was smaller, different movements happening at the same time. Radio stations have recognized that they don’t need the new New York City rapper to keeping being number one in their area. Motherfucking Baton Rouge need Boosie and Webbie. They don’t need all of the other shit that’s out there. That’s why it’s a harder period for artists like Uncle Murder, Papoose, Cory Gunz. Cory is ill. His rapping, his breath control, the kid been trained for this shit. His daddy done made him like that. He’s what Wayne is. Wayne and Cory have been trained.

Gucci Mane has the kind of mixtape niche that you had when you came out.
I think Gucci is good. I like to hear what he’s saying–sometimes it sounds crazy, the way he chooses to say it, but I think [fans] enjoy him and embrace him in a different way. It’s necessary… There has to be a balance. It can’t just be one way. -Ben Detrick