50 Cent turns 40 today, and the self-made man is as large a part of the culture as he ever was. Twists and turns, and an air of finality that dominate his happenings have marked his career. Getting shot nine times will do that, but his survival saw him come back with a vengeance, creating not only 50 Cent Is The Future but also Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, which Fif boasts has gone diamond worldwide but has been registered by the RIAA as six-times-platinum. Add in follow-up The Massacre, however, and you get eleven-times-platinum in only two albums.
50’s not just the king of sales, though, he’s also a small economy. From Vitamin Water to Power to the films he’s starred in, to headphones and alcohol, Fiddy is always hedging his bets. He’s a cajoler, also, and a master manipulator who’s playing the world toward his own ends. With G-Unit back in the fold and another album coming down the pike, Fif’ is far from done. So, in celebration, here are 15 of the best records he’s created thus far.
“In Da Club”
This smash hit dominated the airwaves and the small screen when it dropped in 2003. Produced by Dr. Dre and spun into a classic through 50’s lisp, the term “Go shawty, it’s your birthday” would never be the same again.
This wasn’t the beginning of 50’s beef with Ja, nor would it be the most interesting song to come from that exchange, but many saw it as a shot at the Murda Inc. star. It rose to number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100, which, at the time, was 50’s first charting single with his newly minted Shady/Aftermath crew. After becoming a hit, 50 was asked in an interview if the song was a shot at Ja Rule, and in typical fashion he gave a calculated and terse response. While the song was not about Ja Rule, 50 said, Ja Rule was still a “wanksta.”
After being shot nine times and living, 50 had some very gritty stories to tell regarding the shooting. Here, he let the world in on not only being shot, but the paranoia that surviving that sort of encounter brings with it. These themes are central to Fif’s music, and, arguably, no one fleshes out incidents with enemies better than 50.
Consider “Trap Queen” twelve years ago stripped of its wired musicality and more attune to straight up R&B and you’d get “21 Questions.” It’s the quintessential story of a locked up hustler hoping his lady holds it down for him until his return. This one also featured 50’s gravely tenor attempting at some kind of singing, and while he wasn’t at all good, it was catchy and fun, and proved there was another demographic that 50 could appeal to. Namely, women, of course.
This Eminem produced banger also featured a superb guest verse from the Shady boss, but it was 50s inspired verse and hook that made the song the classic that it is. Back then, 50 was the king of the hook, lending his alto to songs all over the place. But, here, with Eminem, 50 give one of the most inspired turns of his career.
“How To Rob”
The song that started it all had everything. It featured a live-wire young 50 Cent metaphorically robbing the entire industry, the Madd Rapper, and it pissed almost everyone off. Consider it the “Control” of its time. And, it got one of the best Jay Z rebuttals of all time in, “I’m about a dollar, what the fuck is 50 Cent?”
“What Up Gangsta”
50 Cent rapped with such urgency on this song that it literally scared you as you were listening to it. From growing up around dudes that weren’t his homies to stomping you out with brand new Chukkas (so you knew it was real), this one was 50 at his finest.
“Your Life’s On The Line”
A stand out from his pre-shooting album Power Of A Dolla, “Your Life’s On The Line” found 50 rapping deep in his signature style about the coke price going up and the folks that push his packs for him. Beyond that though, the song was distinctive because of his energy, his now fully formed delivery, and the cool rage and precision with which he executed his rhymes.
“I Smell Pussy”
“Them niggas get so emotional, they remind me of my bitch,” says Fiddy after a call-out that calls everyone from Ja Rule to Irv Gotti pussy. Of course, “I Smell Pussy” would be another round in a volley between the G-Unit monster and Murder Inc. Though “I Smell Pussy” is known for the hilarious opening bars, it’s actually an ode to women who have that magic box. Interestingly enough, it’s another show off of 50’s sing-song delivery that’s become extremely normal now.
“Get In My Car”
Sure, The Massacre isn’t the most liked album in 50 Cent’s catalog despite selling 1.4 million its first week. Regardless, there were more than a few bangers on the album that could stand up to his biggest hits. Case in point, “Get In My Car.” The dope Hi-Tek guitar sample allows 50 to talk some of his best shit including that cold as ice line about that previous relationship with Vivica Fox. Even the video, made specifically for the special edition, (featuring a video for nearly every track) has that hilarious bit where someone in his entourage hilariously announces “we got nigga’s houses on four wheels.”
“I Get Money”
Curtis could be considered the first moment in 50 Cent’s downward spiral from Hip Hop’s king to commercial irrelevancy. Getting outsold by Kanye West at the time felt similar to King Leonidas making Xerxes bleed. That’s not a knock against the album as his third full-length studio effort at times felt sonically better than The Massacre. Curtis’s single “I Get Money” cleverly sampled Audio Two’s “Top Billin” for a track that was just as hard as anything he’d done to that point yet remained catchy enough for the club.
The steel drums Mr. Porter used for “P.I.M.P.” allowed Mr. Jackson to deliver the best hook on Get Rich Or Die Trying. Musically, the track could serve as an interesting homage to 50’s Jamaican heritage, but he was definitely on some West Coast pimp shit. If G-Unit’s general was hustling, pimping was just another opportunity. Helps that the accompanying remix and video featured Snoop Dogg who only enhanced things further.
50 Cent’s first movie Get Rich Or Die Trying featured one of Hip Hop’s last great major motion picture soundtracks. The best example was “Window Shopper” which at times felt like a more melodic version of “Wanksta.” Matter of fact, 50 sings throughout the entire song and it still comes off harder than most rappers. The video also came as rumors of Ma$e joining G-Unit were at an all time high. Having the Harlem World rapper featured throughout the video only added to the mill.
“Hate It Or Love It”
Before Game and 50 Cent’s relationship turned into a sour battle that still somewhat extends to this day, the magic these two individuals made together musically was nothing short of amazing. Fiddy told the world numerous times about his contributions on The Documentary originally being for his solo projects. “Hate It Or Love It,” was just another dope examples of this union. The opening verse from 50 could be considered one of his most personal and introspective.
“How We Do”
Another 50 and Game collaboration on The Documentary, “How We Do” was the second single from the album following their first joint track “Westside Story.” The album’s most radio friendly single, there’s an interesting trade of bars between the two that many wish would have extended past one album. Makes many wonder if both 50 and Game could come to terms with their disagreements and work together again.
Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant that has contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Features Editor for HipHopDX. He’s also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.
Ural Garrett is a Los Angeles-based journalist and HipHopDX’s Senior Features Writer. When not covering music, video games, films and the community at large, he’s in the kitchen baking like Anita. Follow him on Twitter @Uralg.