Continuous delays of his upcoming album Street King Immortal since the summer of 2011, rumours of going bankrupt and petty involvement in this new “meme wars” on social media has really made me question his relevance in hip-hop music.
In the summer of 2002 I remember reading on a teletext page that Eminem had signed a rapper named 50 Cent to his record label Shady Records. I never knew anything about this rapper as my dial up internet back then was too damn slow to download the latest songs on file sharing services such as Napster, Kazaa and Limewire, so therefore reading magazines, music teletext pages and recording radio shows was the only way I stayed up-to-date with the latest music news. Not knowing who this rapper was , I immediately told my close friends that Em had signed a rapper named 50 Cent – “a rapper named 50 Cent you know, you’re joking right?”, most of them laughed it off and thought it was a joke until the man himself released the infectious club banger “In Da Club”. For me it was (back then) the best debut single I heard by a mainstream rapper since Nelly’s “Country Grammar”. If you’re around my age, I know you loved that song too.
As most of us know 50 Cent became a global superstar, selling millions of records worldwide, started his own clothing line, starred in movies and became a respectable businessman following in the footsteps of Jay Z and Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs. But what made 50 great, highly respected and feared within the hip-hop community was his ability to end another rappers career – one of those rappers was Ja Rule, whose career rapidly deteriorated in the mid 2000’s. Then there’s Fat Joe and Shyne, both rappers have failed to create any sort of buzz ever since 50 directly dissed them.
It all started to go downhill when he began feuding with former G-Unit rapper The Game. 50 Cent was dissatisfied at Game’s inability to support him during his war of words with the likes of Jadakiss, Styles P, Fat Joe and Nas. It’s understandable but these guys were rappers the Compton rapper respected and grew up listening to. Ultimately Game was kicked out of G-Unit, and this was the beginning of a beef that’s been on and off for a decade. The Game was not backing down, he dropped numerous diss tracks that were not only aimed at 50, but the rest of the G-Unit crew. The most memorable track was “300 Bars & Runnin” and at this point many people stopped listening to G-Unit and took sides with The Game.
As G-Unit’s popularity declined, 50 Cent started working on an album titled Before I Self Destruct, which was then changed to Curtis S.S.K and then finally Curtis – but just before changing the albums title 50 was involved in a feud with another New York rapper, this time it was Cam’Ron who happened to have inspired 50 to name his third studio album Curtis due to their heated argument on a radio show where Cam’Ron amusingly says “Curtis”.
To promote Curtis, 50 released “Amusement Park” which followed the same formula used in “Candy Shop” as he used different amusement park rides as metaphors for sex – the single failed to chart on the Billboard Hot 100. The following single “Straight To The Bank” was the official first single, unlike it’s predecessor it charted within the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 but was not as successful as other official singles 50 had released before. But luckily the Apex-produced single “I Get Money” started to create a buzz for Curtis. The album was set for a September release date, but for the first time in his career someone wanted to challenge him; record sells wise, as Kanye West changed the release date for his third studio album Graduation to the same date as Curtis. 50 said if Kanye’s album sold more records than Curtis he’d stop releasing albums. Graduation eventually outsold Curtis, and although it was a great week for hip-hop in terms of record sales, 50 Cent was defeated again. Times were changing, people were getting tired of his stubbornness and ego.
Months before he released his fourth studio album Before I Self Destruct it became apparent that 50 Cent was not untouchable anymore, he became a target as most rappers sided together. As the whole world found out Rick Ross was a correctional officer at one stage in his life, it seemed as though as his career would be over – Ross took a huge risk by dissing 50 Cent on “Mafia Music” over an alleged feud at the January 2009 BET Awards, 50 denied seeing Ross there but that didn’t stop him to release the once popular diss track “Officer Ricky”. 50 was clearly blinded as it’s safe to say Ross used him to promote his album Deeper Than Rap – that clearly worked out well as it debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 that spring.
After the intended first and second singles “Get Up” and “I Get It In” charted outside the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 and failed to generate a buzz for Before I Self Destruct, 50 Cent then released one of his best tracks to date “OK, You’re Right” as a promotional single produced by Dr. Dre but that failed to chart. The official first single featuring Ne-Yo “Baby By Me” was moderately successful – Before I Self Destruct went on to debut at number 4 on the Billboard 200 and sell a lowly 160,000 copies for an artist of 50 Cent’s calibre. The following project Animal Ambition sold 47, 000 copies in it’s first week of release, a low for 50 Cent – he has attempted to release singles such as “We Up”, “My Life”, “New Day”, “Major Distribution” and “First Date” for the upcoming Street King Immortal album to no real success.
50 Cent has even worked with the hottest young producers in hip-hop such as Sonny Digital, London On Da Track and Scoop DeVille to release his eleventh mixtape The Kanan Tape. Add his effort of trying to be relevant with this new generation of hip-hop fans by being active on social media releasing projects that aren’t really helping him regain that success he had in the mid 2000’s, along with the recent news of him filing for bankruptcy, it’s sad to admit this, but 50 Cent is an irrelevant rapper now.
I know he’s still a great businessman, but it brings me great sadness seeing a rapper I grew up listening to, supporting and spending my money on behave like a kid on social media. I’m talking about his replies to Meek Mill’s recent diss track “Pray For ‘Em”, I was expecting 50 Cent to record something that would get the internet buzzing, instead one of my favourite rappers has joined the long list of rappers who beef on social media instead of going at it lyrically. Over the past 10 years 50’s old foe Game has remained relevant by releasing gold and platinum certified albums, Jadakiss recently released his critically acclaimed fourth studio album Top 5 Dead or Alive and Rick Ross continues to release albums and has recently inked a new deal with Epic Records.
The Queens rapper has been stubborn over the years, his rivals have somehow surpassed him musically. I believe if 50 Cent put his ego aside and squashed his beef with The Game, he’d become relevant again. 50 and Game had a special chemistry, every song they released together was either a certified classic or borderline classic. Just look at how Jay Z and Nas squashing their beef really helped the latter, it could help 50 too. But if 50 Cent stays stubborn then I think it’s best for him to call it a day as a rapper – songwriting, A&R work, acting and continuing to produce his TV series Power would be the perfect roles for him to take.