The rapper, born Curtis Jackson, is working on “Black Magic,” his fifth major label solo album. Originally planned for a summer release, the album has been pushed back, but 50 — who performs Saturday at Chene Park in Detroit — still hopes to release it before the end of the year.
He calls the album — the follow-up to 2009’s disappointing “Before I Self Destruct” — a whole new sound for him, and describes it as “more soulful” and “more mature” than his past work. For inspiration, he says he’s listening to a mix he made of some of his favorite artists’ best songs, including 2Pac and the Notorious B.I.G.
“I listen to those records to create expectations,” says 50, who turns 35 in July. “It creates a level to me, within myself, of how good the record has to be before I’m ready to launch it.”
The key words there are “before I’m ready to launch it.” 50 now says he feels “Before I Self Destruct” — which leaked on the Internet a month before its release and whose sales quickly sputtered — was hurried by his record company to hit fourth quarter deadlines and released before its time.
“When I rush, it’s not my best. And then I get a response that isn’t the best,” he says.
“Before I Self Destruct” marked a career low point for 50 Cent, who emerged as the hottest performer in hip-hop — and arguably one of the biggest stars in all of music — when his debut album, “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” was released in 2003. His charismatic, super-gangsta persona was indestructible; and his second album, 2005’s “The Massacre,” sold more than 1 million copies its first week in 2005.
But 50’s fortunes changed when he lost a very public sales battle to Kanye West in 2007, a head-to-head contest he was so confident he’d win he boasted he’d retire from music if he lost. (He’d didn’t, it turns out.)
More than coming up short in sales, 50’s defeat signified a sea change in hip-hop: Kanye West would go on to usher in an era of emo rap, and 50’s hard-headed gangsta-isms suddenly seemed as outdated as last year’s iPod.
On the phone last week from Los Angeles, 50 sounds slightly bitter about the fickleness of American audiences. Having just returned from a tour of South America, he launches into an unprompted diatribe against stateside concertgoers.
“In America, everyone’s conditioned to view things from a critic’s perspective,” says 50. “If you look at (American) TV, there’s more reality TV than actual shows, so everyone feels like a star. So the guy that actually went to the studio last night to record his first song, he feels like in his head, he’s in the same position as 50 Cent, when it’s a huge difference.”
The argument is difficult to follow and leads into several other rants, about double standards for male and female music videos, the perceived dangers of rock music versus rap music and getting passed up at awards shows.
But it’s not all bad, as 50 freely brags about purchasing Mike Tyson’s $4.1 million Connecticut mansion on the sales of his 2003 smash “In Da Club” alone. And when he goes into dizzying detail about marketing schemes, album set-ups, and the science of record companies, it’s clear he’s a businessman first and a rapper second.
50 — who recently shot three straight-to-DVD films in and around Grand Rapids — freely admits it’s easy to get punch drunk by fame.
“Entertainers, rappers, R&B singers, pop singers, they’re like fighters. Have you ever seen any of them bow out gracefully?” he says. “I don’t think, legitimately, anyone who’s really had a taste of the water is going to know when to bow out. I think they’re going to keep going.”
50 Cent will keep going, too, using the diminished expectations from his last album as his fuel.
“That puts me back in a comfortable space, because I was the underdog to begin with,” he says. “I work better with a little bit of pressure, than things just going smooth.”
Source: Adam Graham / Detroit News Pop Music Writer