50 Cents Talks 'Lost Tape,' Mixtape Evolution, Working With 2 Chainz and Cam'ron

50 Cent Talks 'Lost Tape,' Mixtape Evolution, Working With 2 Chainz and Cam'ron

Just a few hours after 50 Cent's first Gangsta Grillz mixtape with DJ Drama hit the Internet, VIBE caught up with G-Unit boss at his New York City office. With DJ Drama on speakerphone, we talked freely about the new release, 50's mixtape evolution, and his upcoming projects. Check out the no-holds-barred interview below.

VIBE: Drama now that the tape is out and everyone is digesting it and tweeting about it, is the pressure off you?
Drama: This my kick my feet up time. Just kind of marinating and seeing what the feedback and the response is.

I know that this has been a long time in the making.

[50 Cent walks into his own office where Drama is being interviewed on speakerphone]

50 Cent: What the fuck is up? Drama, what’s good?

50, I was just talking to Drama about the tape.
50 Cent: He killed it for me. The 2 Chainz remix, he’s responsible for that. Some artists ain’t really open to you helping them in different ways but they usually aren’t very successful artists. The successful artists, they take on the challenge. Because I feel like I can rap to anything. Regardless of—a lot of times I stay away from styles because when I fell in love with the culture it was important that you had your own identity and your own style and they would be like ‘oh this reminds me of the old Fif’ and I’m intentionally using my style.

I hear you. In the ‘90s, if you were from New York, you’d rap like you’re from New York.
50: A lot of things changed. Things cycle. Like in fashion, it’s the same. Instead of the hippies, they’re hipsters, instead of the pants being bell bottoms, they’re tighter because of skateboard culture emerging at the same time. For me when I look at—The things that I fell in love with within the culture, there’s no longer a lot of that representation out here. So, I feel like it’s important that I represent that. Even if it’s not exactly with what is the trend for the moment because we cycle [in hip-hop]. Before 50 Cent, there was DMX and “Get At Me Dog.” “What Up Gangsta” was for Get Rich Or Die Trying.

And that “Riot” record you mentioned is poppin’. Were there anymore records that Drama brought to you like ‘Yo, you need to spit over this?’
50: He inspired the OJ joint. But I actually met 2 Chainz and I like him—not necessarily everything that he says in rap or everything that he may do in life but I like him on a personable level like when we actually got a chance to talk man to man. So, I want to see him win. So, I take it and I make it—I’m actually writing both of us on to the record. Instead of—I wrote everybody else out of their own when I came up.

It’s got to be hard to see the things you’ve done 10 years ago working for new rappers. Like the joint you did with Bun B, “As The World Turns,” if some new rapper put that out today, fans would be like ‘oh sh*t, he’s killin’ it.’
50: Bun and Pimp C , when we—that actual song was done before “Big Pimpin’” —that just shows how people pay attention. That’s why Jay-Z is as successful as he is. He saw the move but I didn’t . Then I got shot, I was gone and he did the other one.

You really think so?
50: They don’t miss no beats. Look who we talkin’ bout. It’s all good. I look at—each one of those opportunities to do different things. Like I see artist’s momentum, true momentum versus what record companies think. They go out prematurely. Like in Future’s case.

You think “Tony Montana” came out a little too early?
50: Not the song. I think they actually launched his album too early.

Build it up more and get 50 Cent on a record [Laughs]?

50: He’s talented, that would’ve helped.

That “Same Damn Time (Remix)” with Diddy and Luda is retarded. The way Diddy rapped on that is almost how he rapped on your “I Get Money (Remix)” years back

50: [Laughs] Puffy’s wack. As an artist, tell the truth.

I mean when he has dope people writing his sh*t he’s not wack. When he’s got somebody writing his sh*t that’s ill, we still love it.
50: People who say they sing songs just because they enjoy the music, they’re usually more believable. He’s the best producer and business man. His contribution to hip-hop culture is the remix. I acknowledge that.

Now Drama, was there any records that you wish 50 would’ve rapped on. Like ‘Come on man, I need you to rap on Drake’s latest’ or anyone’s latest?
Drama: Yea, I’ve got a lot of records I wish he rapped on but we’re saving that for the next tape.

Oh, ok.
50: We’re setting it up.
Drama: We not done.

Gangsta Grillz Lost Tape part 2?
Drama: Nah, we can’t give you that yet but we’re definitely not done.

50: I’m back to work. It’s not just the tape itself, the Lost Tape. I’m just backing working so I can put my finger on the pulse and see what’s going on.

I’ve got to get some more details on you working with Cam.
50: Cam, if you listen to the original confrontation that we had.


The one on the phone where you guys are yelling at each other?

50: I said I’m cool with Dipset before that even started. All I said was ‘Come on, put him on the phone.’

And he kind of started wildin’ out.
50: The camera’s rolling on the other side. All of those situations, when I look back at things that had me frustrated at one point or angry because I don’t take well to disrespect at all even if it’s just something that you said. Because the environment that I come from, we meet aggression with aggression. So if you indicate you want a problem, we give you a bigger problem than you want and then we’re fine. There’s no need to shake hands or apologize.

Did he call you though or did you call him? How did yall like even--?
50: We actually got a chance to—Well, we had mutual parties around each other.

Honestly, what was your favorite Cam’ron song
50: “357”

Oh! One of his first ones.
50: “357,” that’s it. “Horse and Carriage” didn’t even mean that to me. That was like – Whenever an artist makes a joint that you listen to and go ‘ooh’ like that joint had me. The beat, the whole thing. It struck a chord in me, that’s how-- Even for Busta, his portfolio of music, for me is “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See.” Even fat boy. Fat Joe, his was “Lean Back.”

Word, you actually rock with that record?
50: I like that joint ‘cause of Remy. She just felt like she belonged there in the pack. It’s partially why I have such a liking to Paris.

You see the same energy in her?

50: It’s not the same, it’s very different but it’s the having a hard time. It does something to you. They offer that passion in their voice when they’re actually doing something. Like Tupac, there weren’t a lot of punchlines, matter fact there wasn’t no punch lines. He just said to you like he meant it and you felt it and you wanted to roll with it. BIG had the punch lines. For me, these kind of tapes to come out and impact in a good way, it’s not a difficult process for me because I’m conditioned for it.

Drama, I’ve just got one request. Next time you get in the studio with 50, can you just put in his head Cam’ron, 50 Cent, mixtape boss of all bosses of the f*cking universe.
Drama: That’d be hot. You know what’d be even funnier? A Cam and 50 comedy mixtape with just skits of them talking.

50: The name would probably be something film. He did good in Paid and Full [Laughs]. Aight, I got to head to Cannes.

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Music Sermon: The Soul Train Awards Been Lit, We're Just Late To The Party

Black Entertainment's oldest televised awards show has been patiently waiting for us to come back.

As I was watching the 2019 BET Awards, at some point around trying to decipher the difference between DaBaby and Lil Baby, I said – not for the first year – “I’m not the BET Awards demo anymore.” BET’s flagship awards’ aspiration to cover every segment of Black entertainment has always stretched it a little thin; current rap and R&B artists, plus legends, plus some gospel, plus a few TV, movie and sports moments, and some social good and politics crowds a run-of-show. But in the last several years – probably due to me moving solidly into the Urban Adult Contemporary demo – watching the BET Awards has been comprised mostly of me tweeting “Who is this child?” while waiting to see maybe two performances and a tribute. But then, in sweet November, BET gives me my entire two-step life with the Soul Train Awards, where I know (almost) every artist and live for every performance and I can’t even tell you who took an award home because that’s not even the point. The Soul Train Awards is family reunion time: an opportunity for your respected faves get their props, and a platform for soulful new school artists who don’t get mainstream airplay. It’s a night to dance and sing along in your living room. Ain’t no stuntin’, no pretense, no cappin’ (did I use that right?). It’s just a good ass time. So why did it take us so long to embrace it again?

BET has owned the legacy awards show since 2009, but for years the Soul Train Awards seemed a bit forgotten. The timeline wasn’t joining forces to watch the Tom Joyner Cruise Live (Side note: Tom Joyner should ABSOLUTELY do the Tom Joyner Cruise Live). Over the last four years, however, an aging millennial demographic combined with a drive of ‘90s nostalgia and renewed demand for straight up and down soul music has shined a light on the awards broadcast. Since 2015, the BET ecosystem has also thrown more support behind the show, including moving it from a Centric/BETHer-branded property to a BET proper event and giving it the same Viacom-wide simulcast as the BET Awards. Production values, talent bookings, and show elements keep rising, and the TL is paying attention. This Sunday, the Soul Train Awards will air live for the first time (the show is usually taped a week or two in advance), with Black America’s favorite on and off-screen besties Tisha Cambell and Tichina Arnold hosting for the second year.

It’s by grace, though, that the Soul Train Awards is even still here for us to enjoy. The show that launched as the only televised Black entertainment awards ceremony started fading during Black music’s growing mainstream dominance, and then was lost in the shadow of the bigger and splashier BET Awards. Superstar artists stopped attending, because teams no doubt felt like their presence wouldn’t move the needle on sales, and it became the Old Heads Awards. Quietly, though, the Soul Train Awards has been a ratings driver for BET since the network acquired the show; the rest of us (including talent) are just finally catching up. And we should be ashamed it took so long! This specific celebration of Black entertainment is as important now as it was when launched over 30 years ago — almost more so — for the very reason that it’s not just a show packed with hottest, newest, latest. But to appreciate the show’s legacy and staying power, we should look back at its history.

In 1987, Soul Train founder Don Cornelius decided it was time to elevate his 20-plus-year-old platform to another level. At the time, the major entertainment awards weren’t properly acknowledging Black artists. The handful that had reached massive pop success – Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Prince and Whitney Houston – were recognized and honored.

But in the 80s, the soul and R&B world was still vast and wide.

Cornelius decided it was time to create a night of celebration and excellence which, like Soul Train itself, was created for us, by us. He insisted at the time, “Black music is too big and too powerful not to have its own awards show. It’s overdue.” The Soul Train Awards was born.

Not only did Cornelius want to create a space for our artists who were overlooked by award shows like the Grammys and the AMAs, but also an awards system that didn’t hang on politics, or follow the same long-time criticisms of Grammy voting; selections by a group of people who just vote on the names they know. The voting block for the Soul Train Awards was made up of black retailers, radio programmers and artists themselves, to grant the prized Soul Train trophy design based on African sculpture. But the Soul Train Awards weren’t even meant to be about the awards; they were about highlighting our talent – current and established – featuring special legacy honors, originating the concept of tributes via performances instead of just film packages, and putting together super-performances of key artists across genres. This was our showcase.

For the first eight years of the show, the hosting panel was a mix of Dionne Warwick, Luther Vandross, and Patti Labelle, and our biggest and best showed up in their award finery ready to celebrate and be celebrated. When the Grammys weren’t yet making room for hip-hop, Don gave it a little light (not a whole lot, but a little), and the Soul Train Awards honored Black entertainment across the board, not just music.

In fact, until 1994, the Soul Train Awards were the only televised Black entertainment awards. The Source Awards debuted as the first hip-hop awards show in 1994, The NAACP Image Awards were first televised in 1995, and that same year the female-artist heavy landscape prompted the creation of Soul Train’s Lady of Soul Awards. For the first several years, the Black entertainment community turned out in numbers for their long-awaited party. The first year, Black luminaries from Magic Johnson to Miles Davis to Stevie Wonder to Don King to Run DMC to Isaac Hayes were in the building. In 1990, Michael Jackson snubbed the Grammys, but showed up at Soul Train. Whitney Houston was even famously booed at the Soul Train Awards because the crowd felt she was too pop, and this was not a pop space. This was a forum for soul.

But like many of our most important early platforms for Black culture, progress eventually rendered almost of these celebrations obsolete. As Black music crossed over, more Black artists were being recognized by the mainstream, and Black culture became the culture, the entire Soul Train brand felt outdated and unnecessary. By 2000, the awards were in a bit of an identity crisis. After twelve years at LA’s Shrine Auditorium, the show bounced to a new location every year for the next six years. Cornelius started having trouble getting stars to commit to the awards because they were held within a month of the Grammys.

Then, in 2001, BET debuted their award show: a younger, hipper, and larger budget version of the Soul Train Awards that adopted virtually the same format, with Viacom promotional power and a dedicated channel and time slot (unlike Soul Train’s syndication) to their advantage.

In 2006, Soul Train signed off after 35 years and over 1,100 episodes as the longest-running nationally syndicated TV program in America at the time. Around the same time, the syndication company for the show and the awards, Tribune Entertainment, changed hands and shut down. In 2007, the Soul Train Awards’ biggest winners of the night, like Beyoncè and John Legend, didn’t bother to show. Finally, in 2008, there were no Soul Train Awards. And had that been the end of the line for the show for good, there probably would have been very little complaints or rumblings – we’d stopped paying attention, anyway. BET seemed to have all Black excellence bases on lock with the BET Awards, the BET Honors (which debuted in February of 2008), and the BET Hip-Hop Awards (2006). But fortunately, someone at the company had the good sense not to let the Soul Train Awards die.

As part of BET on Jazz’s rebrand to Centric (now BETHer), BET acquired the Soul Train Awards and revamped the program to fully embrace its old head’ness, perfect for the channel geared towards an older demo with a soul music focus. They moved the awards from LA to Georgia (it has since moved to Vegas), changed the date to November, got Terrence Howard and Taraji Henson coming straight off of Hustle & Flow to host, and gave tributes to Charlie Wilson and the Gap Band, Chaka Khan and Motown. That’s a party.

Now, here’s the part we probably haven’t been paying attention to: since the very first year in 2009, the Soul Train Awards has been a fourth-quarter ratings hit for BET. In fact, 2009 was the award show’s highest rated broadcast ever in its history. Media and consumer trends often focus on the young, overlooking that while the 35-and-older set may not be as reactive, we’re loyal. Especially with music and entertainment (a look at any number of R&B theater tours featuring people who haven’t released an album in ages will tell you that). The cultural powers-that-be finally seem to be catching on: things that were long considered “Auntie & Uncle” territory, like Essence Festival, are hitting the hip radar. The Soul Train Awards is part of that wave. Also – and this is my personal, not data-supported, get-off-my-lawn opinion – there’s a lightness and fun with good ol’ R&B, soul and even older hip-hop that you just don’t get from the pull-your-panties to the side R&B and mumble rap of the last 10 years.

The BET Awards is now at a similar crossroads as the Soul Train Awards was in the early 00s: major talent is skipping the show, and the network is challenged to put together a cohesive program while trying to serve all demos. After two years of plunging ratings, the broadcast finally seems to have found balance again in 2019. But still, I’m not personally here for all the Lil’s, the YBNs and YGs and other letter configurations, and Babies and whatnot. I need music that works as a backdrop for brown liquor in red solo cups, please. But as viewers and fans, we also have to check ourselves on our awards show criticisms. Complaints amplify every year around the Grammys, AMAs and the like that we need to give less weight to mainstream awards and celebrate our own, ourselves, which is exactly what Don Cornelius and then Bob Johnson and team set out to do. During the BET Awards, though, there are gripes about the diversity and quality of talent, content and production. There was even a period of Black Twitter referring to them as the “EBT Awards.” Criticism is often valid, but straight disdain isn’t. Also every year, there are cries about how we need more and different awards shows. Meanwhile, Soul Train’s been right there, chillin’, with your old school faves and your burgeoning soul stars. I’m ok with knowing I’m not the right in the pocket of the BET Awards demo anymore, but that means I’m going to support the Soul Train Awards with all my Auntie might, because Black music and culture needs the intergenerational love and community that the Soul Train Awards represent.

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With an estimated $14 million in income (before taxes), Nas X debuted at No. 18 on the list ahead of Miranda Lambart, Lady Antebellum and Rascal Flats. Country star Luke Bryan topped the list with $42.5 million followed by Zac Brown Band, Keith Urban and Kenny Chesney rounding out the Top 5.

Aside from being the youngest on the roster, Nas X is the only black artist and the only openly gay artist to make the Forbes’ Country Music list.

With a record 19 weeks on the Billboard singles charts, “Old Town Road”  became the longest No. 1 single in history and the first single to earn a diamond certification from the Recording Academy while simultaneously topping the charts.

Earlier in the week, the Atlanta native made history with his win at the CMA Awards and was recently spotlighted in TIME magazine's Next 100 list of influencers.

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