Ten years ago, 50 Cent was laid up, recovering from nine bullets fired by an attempted murderer sent, rumor has it, by a drug kingpin who'd been offended by a song where he discussed the drug game in his native Queens in too much detail.
The shooting, which happened on April 24, 2000, set the rest of Curtis Jackson's life and career in motion. After all, there are few things better for a rapper's career than the boost of street cred which comes from surviving an attempted assassination.
Pair that with the undeniably infectious bounce of "In da Club" and you've minted a star. Toss in a few more songs with banging beats from Dre's clique and you've got a superstar who's still touring, more or less, on the success of his first major record, Get Rich Or Die Tryin'.
For 50, it's always been about expanding beyond being the king of club rap. Not as much musically as with other ventures -- movies, books, condoms, water with vitamins in it.
50 Cent, who will perform at Celebrity Theatre tonight, seemed hungry when he chatted with Up On The Sun last week. Both literally and figuratively.
Jackson recently shed 50 pounds to play a cancer-stricken football player in Things Fall Apart, shredding his physique to emulate the character. Also, he's panning to expand his sound a little with Black Magic, a new record which will have some non-rap moments, along the lines of Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak and Lil Wayne's Rebirth, inspired by the Eurodance tracks he heard while on tour in Europe.
Here are 50's thoughts on a wide range of topics:
On losing weight to play a character with cancer in Things Fall Apart:
"I'm back up to 198 now, I was down to 160, I started at 214... I'm trying to put the weight back on the right way, I don't want to turn into a fat boy... It's probably the most prepared I was for a film project because it was impossible for me not to concentrate on the screenplay and what my role would be the entire time... At one point three weeks into the liquid diet, it was so hard I started looking at Christian Bale and Tom Hanks, their performances in Philadelphia and The Machinest and things like that, and reading things they were talking about when they did press for those projects, reading what they were actually saying. And they had a lot more time to do it in than I did, Tom Hanks had four months and Christian Bale had time because he started that physical state the entire project. It was an experience for me and I just hope everyone actually enjoys it. There's so much publicity around it now, and the film project hasn't even completed editing yet."
On the similarity between rehabbing from gunshot wounds and losing and gaining weight for the film:
"This was a choice. I didn't have any choice about being shot, so once you're under those circumstances, the physical pain doesn't even start until you know you're going to be OK. You've already completed going through surgery, they tell you you're going to make it, you wake up and then you feel the pain of the body putting itself back together... For me, with this, you have to be passionate enough to even attempt a project like this."
On why Black Magic, his upcoming Eurodance-influenced record, which will not be like Kanye or Lil' Wayne's genre-bending projects:
"I write a song when I was out there. I used with my band, the band I use to tour with, I used live instruments to make it feel real good. The actual song, I'm excited, I'm still playing it to myself right now. But I wrote the entire, what I feel like, is the Black Magic body of work. Then when I got back to the U.S. I was bombarded by producers really waiting to get their ideas to me, and I've been inspired to write in a new direction since then, but I feel like that project is going to have some really strong moments on it. And because we've had artists previously decide to go in a complete different direction, I don't know if people can look at it like that. What Wayne did with the rock record, that was going a little further than he actually knew he should be going, mostly because the formats that actually play our music, urban radio, those stations -- like the Hot 97's and Power 105's -- they don't play rock music... So his was a harder reach than what Kanye did... Now I'm writing in different direction."
On how major label A&R departments don't really exist anymore, and how that would have affected a kid like him:
"[The major record labels] interest is in records created by established artists. Their concentration is on positioning artists who have previously had hit records in a cool enough space in the public to sell CDs. Who's concentrating on developing the new artists? There's no artist development from the majors' perspective. They'd rather wait until they see a kid have 6 million hits on YouTube on a song that he's doing then sign him, because they feel like they can take that song and launch it on the commercial front, like move it from YouTube to iTunes, see how many single sales you can get... I bumped around since '97 in order enough to be good enough in 2002. I had major record companies put up budgets. They didn't actually apply any attention, or any huge major marketing dollars to make the public know who I was, but they created budgets for me to actually go write music. In 1997 I was with JMJ Record, with Jam Master Jay, and was being groomed at that point on how to write songs and develop my song structure, then in '99 I ended up in Columbia with the Track Masters recording under their production. From there, after I got shot in 2000, I ended up really having to utilize the information that I had been exposed to. Doing it on my own... If you can develop a following on the web, I can't see why you wouldn't sell your record independently... I still had the opportunity to focus on just song-writing. The average person that's out there now, they've gotta do songwriting, then go to work."
On what today's up-and-coming rappers should do:
"Instead of just making a mixtape -- because it's a traffic jam, there's so many mixtapes out there, there's no reason they should want to listen to yours instead one of the 5 billion others that exist -- you take the material that you created for the mixtape and shoot the clip for it. Create a cool-enough imagine... Look at Soulja Boy, he didn't sell a song, he sold a dance. If we didn't see the clip how would we know what it is."
On street cred:
"Everything that people make reference to when they say 'street cred' is something I feel unfortunate to have had to experience. I understand why they acknowledge it, and when I do write about darker portions of my experience, they enjoy it on a deeper level since they know I've actually been subjected to those circumstances. If a person just comes out of nowhere and tells you a story you can't embrace it the same way if you don't believe them. There's confirmation for all of those things that came from sources other than myself, and that's what made people enjoy it on a different level."
On while he's always shooting instead of getting shot in his songs:
"I'm a big Tupac fan, I listen to Biggie. Sometimes I think death is in the tongue, so when I write it, I write it on other people instead of myself. They wrote that they're ready to die, and life after death, and made reference to themselves dying in their actual music. And I always make refrence to me doing it to someone else, because I think you can actually bring those things on you... Sometimes you can talk about death and it just shows up."