By Rebecca Bulnes
By Laurie Charles
By Chuck Strouse
By Lee Zimmerman
By Laurie Charles
By Falyn Freyman
By Hans Morgenstern
It's not easy to get a hold of 50 Cent — nor should it be. After all, he's not only reportedly worth about a half-billion dollars, but also one of only a handful of superstar MCs still running the game. In fact, even when he's not dropping new product, his profile is higher and brighter than almost anyone in the game. He's 50 Cent. And yeah, he's still on top.
But when he finally finds some precious time to talk, he's as gracious and forthcoming as anybody out there. No, he's "not interested" in talking about his onetime feud with Rick Ross ("I'm already focused on so many other things"). He's down to talk about almost anything else, though, including his recent attempt to keep a relatively low profile.
Well, as low a profile as one of the most recognizable faces in the world can keep, anyway. "I haven't put out much material as I did for promotional purposes in the past," he recently says by phone, "because I'm trying to give them a chance to not hear me a little bit."
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That relative scarcity of output changed this past November with the release of Before I Self-Destruct, which spawned the singles "Ok, You're Right" (also featured on the recent War Angel mixtape), "Baby by Me" (featuring Ne-Yo), and "Do You Think About Me" (featuring Governor).
However, its announced followup, Black Magic, is still somewhat in limbo; 50 says he has yet to set a release date. "I started creating the Black Magic concept right after I completed Before I Self-Destruct. Then I've been inspired to write in a different direction recently," he explains. "So I'm not even sure if I'll release Black Magic."
To be sure, concepts are something 50 Cent is big on maintaining. Take his writing process. He says he usually writes two verses and a chorus each for a set of songs, and from there turns it all into a full-length album. "If I don't have a concept, then I don't know what I'm doing, I don't know what I'm writing," he says. "There are a whole lot of talented rappers that haven't developed into good songwriters yet. They'll walk in, they'll say amazing punch lines over the actual track, but they don't know what the song is."
That's not to say 50 doesn't like or respect battle rappers. It's just not what he does. "It's amazing to me — they're more than just a rapper. It's the performance, where they have to deliver personality and charisma," he says. "And that right there is entertaining for me, because I've never actually explored that area. I've never been a battle rapper. I wrote songs to get issues off my chest at different points."
They're issues he's not afraid of revisiting, and on this tour, he'll perform plenty of those old tracks along with a good chunk of Before I Self-Destruct plus a couple of selections from Black Magic. And if we're lucky — and we can let down our cool for an hour or so — it will all go off like his recent shows in Russia, where the crowd went wild.
"It was ridiculous," 50 recalls. "It was almost like a rock concert. They were jumping up and down and stuff like that. They don't have that thing in the U.S. where they have to preserve their cool." Beyond the pandemonium, though, he insists that traveling to far-off lands and making foreign crowds go wild is just part of the game. Even if some of his competitors don't feel the same way.
"I thought traveling was always a part of hip-hop culture," he says. "I thought this is what you do to certify yourself as a talented MC — to stay in competition. But when it starts to translate differently, people start to feel like you're a broad street bully because you keep winning."
Not that it makes him sweat or changes his game plan. Instead, 50 Cent continues to grind every day as though his formidable reputation were still at stake. He might make it look easy, but you can bet all of those dollars that he came up hard. Maybe that's why the man is still where he meant to be all along — on the motherfucking top.