G – unit

Go ahead. 50 Cent wants you to bet against him.

It’s that same street-born confidence that led hip-hop dream team Eminem and Dr. Dre to sign the emcee to their Shady/Aftermath imprint. The same sneering swagger that propelled 50 from underground mix-tape king to the top of Billboard album charts with his 2003 major-label debut Get Rich or Die Tryin’, a landmark record that to date has sold well-over 10 million copies worldwide. And the same two-fisted ambition that saw the savvy ‘hood entrepreneur lead his infamous G-Unit clique to multi-platinum glory, making 50 Cent’s G-Unit record label a major player in the music biz.

Now with the release of The Massacre, easily the most anticipated album of 2005, 50 Cent looks to continue his domination of the hip-hop game and beyond. And for the man born Curtis Jackson that means destroying the competition. “They have to survive me going around the country with this record,” laughs the self-assured MC whose beef-igniting reputation has become as infamous as his street worn past. “My thought process going into The Massacre took me back to the days when I was hustling. I’m looking to move the competition off the block. I feel like anything less than what I’ve accomplished with Get Rich is a disappointment. I had time to grow during the last two years, so I just feel like I’m a better artist.”

What may come off as ‘hood bravado is really a straight-no-chaser story of survival and redemption from a man who simply refuses to lose. More than living up to the proverbial hype, The Massacre finds 50 Cent expanding the parameters of hardcore rap, once again backed up by West Coast production icon Dr. Dre, hip-hop giant Eminem and G-Unit MC’s Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo and Young Buck.

For 50 Cent, the latter work underlines the dramatic range of The Massacre. “With this album I’m covering what was missed on Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” he explains. “I’m more of a hustler than all of the other things. So I talk about that aspect of my lifeÉthe struggles that me and everybody in my ‘hood went through. Rappers I think take the easy way out. They write about how they sold drugs and did dirt as if there were no repercussions. They don’t write about the affects of street life. They don’t write about how that lifestyle alters them. And that right there is more interesting. When you do that you are touching a lot of people.”

By now the hardboiled story of 50 Cent has become ghetto folklore. Born and raised in the notorious Queens, New York in the late ’70s, a young Curtis was forced into manhood at an early age as his mother passed away at an early age. He hustled in the streets, and spending long hours perfecting his rhyming craft under the watchful eye of Run DMC’s late great Jam Master Jay and sustained the nine gun shots that nearly took his life. By 2000, 50 was dropped from his recording deal with Columbia Records, spending the next few months in recovery. With the help of business partner Sha Money XL, 50 landed back on his feet and released a series of G-Unit mix-tapes that set the ‘hood on fire. The unrelenting tracks got the attention of bitter rival MC’s and more importantly Eminem, who signed the rapper to a $1 million record deal in 2002.

Hip-hop history was made.

However, 50 will be the first to tell you that he was not supposed to make it out his ‘hood alive. Even after assailing to the ranks of true music superstardom on the eve of The Massacre release, he still marvels at the irony of it all. “I was granted a pass to the streets as a baby at age 12,” 50 humbly says. “Somebody who was really in position told me, ‘Yo, I’m going to stop feeding you fish and give you a pole.’ He wasn’t being evil. That hustling lifestyle was all he knew. The music for me is a way for me-away from the BS.”

Indeed, Curtis Jackson epitomizes the hustler’s spirit. While most artists would have been content with the massive spoils of multi-platinum album sales, high profile magazine covers, sold-out tours and omnipresent coverage on MTV and BET, 50 Cent wanted more. He set up his own label with longtime partner Sha Money XL and presented his juggernaut G-Unit clique with the 2004 quadruple platinum Beg For Mercy. 50 oversaw the immense solo shine of Lloyd Banks (The Hunger For More) and Young Buck (Straight Outta Cashville), further expanding G-Unit’s takeover agenda.

In 2003 50 Cent joined with Marc Ecko, the founder and head designer of ecko unltd. to create the G-Unit Clothing Company. It seemed only natural that *ecko unltd. and 50 would come together given both of their creative and unique visions. “It’s not new for a rapper or pop artist to launch a clothing line, but what is new is that a design-driven company like [*ecko unltd.] is partnering with an artist to offer the marketing and merchandising”, says Marc Ecko about the revolutionary collaboration.

50 Cent’s rags to riches ascension did not go unnoticed by Oscar-nominated director Jim Sheridan (In America, My Left Foot), who signed on to direct the rapper in the upcoming motion picture drama Get Rich Or Die Tryin’.

Yet, as release of The Massacre proves, 50 Cent is first and foremost an artist blessed with that rare ability to combine balls-out-realness with a heartfelt candidness that speaks directly to the underdogs of the world. “I really wanted to make this album to let people know where I was at,” he says. “In the beginning my priority was to set my crew up. There’s a reason why the first thing you hear on Get Rich is ‘G-UnitÉWe in here!’ I’m already trying to make sure that the public understands that this is my camp, this is a movement. And it worked out for me. But I know this time is a test. Before, people were not expecting me to sell 10 million albums. Now, I’m proving myself all over again.”