50’s Feuds Pt3
50 Cent vs Jay-Z & Kanye West
By David Dennis
Let me indulge in a little bit of Jay-Z/Kanye fan
fiction in the least 50 Shades of Grey way
Then Def Jam President and retired rapper Jay-Z was
50 Cent had been sending subliminal barbs Jay’s
way for eight years, starting with a shot Mr.
Carter’s way on “How To Rob” when they were
both climbing their respective hip-hop ladders. In
2007, with both at the peak of their careers,
Fiddy was back at it, baiting Jay-Z with
braggadocio lyrics and interviews about his then-
fiancé, his money, and how he’d sold out.
Jay didn’t know what to do, although he was well
aware that a nasty feud with the Queens-born
MC in the middle of his own corporate ascension
would be PR suicide.
Enter Kanye West, who had been working on the
follow-up to his mega-successful Late
Registration and who was looking at a fourth-
quarter release date.
“What if I dropped my album on the same day at
50 Cent’s?” Kanye asked. “Yeah, I’ll put my
album out on the same day as 50’s, start a sales
A solution! And one that would take Jay out of
the fray. After oodles of hoopla, September 11,
2007, rolled around, and Graduation and Curtis
both hit shelves. A week later, the dust cleared,
and 50 Cent was defeated—without Jay having
to lift a finger.
While it’s unclear how Kanye (and Jay) came to
the decision to release Graduation exactly five
years ago today, it’s pretty easy to speculate that
50 and Jay’s cold war was a prime motivator
behind the biggest rap marketing circus this side
of pretending Detox will ever come out.
In the run-up to September 11, 2007, Kanye and
50 Cent went on a media blitz challenging each
other to see who would sell the most records. In
August, 50 swore he’d retire if he couldn’t sell
more records than Kanye West during their
albums’ first week of release, although he later
told the Voice he was sick of being asked about
Kanye. Perhaps he felt the storm clouds brewing,
because when the figures came in, Kanye’s
album had sold 957,000 copies while Curtis’s
Curtis sold a respectable-yet-runner-up 691,000.
While it’s clear that Graduation was a far superior
album, quality hasn’t traditionally had much of a
determining factor in hip-hop first-week sales.
The fact was, Justin Timberlake cameos aside,
people were already getting tired of 50’s act. The
G-Unit head hocho burst on the scene as a man
hungry for feuds and negativity: He single-
handedly took down Ja Rule for his sing-songy
pop act, sold more albums than humanly
possible, and was on top of the world. But 50’s
“beef” gimmick jumped the shark right around
2004, when he started feuds with Fat Joe and
Jadakiss because they made songs with Ja Rule,
and got into a a feud with Nas because… well,
it’s still unclear.
50’s knack for confrontation and negativity wore
thin on fans by the time 2007 rolled around. It
didn’t help that his albums were declining in
quality with each passing year, either. So when
the news broke that Kanye had crushed him in
their duel, his reaction was cringeworthy: He
took to radio stations to plead his case that he’d
actually won because of international record
sales. He stopped short of bringing pie charts
and moneyball statistics to justify his
embarrassment, but since then, the musical
juggernaut known as 50 Cent ceased to exist, his
career turning into one calamity after another.
50 Cent feat. Justin Timberlake, “Ayo
50’s next album, Before I Self-Destruct, was
originally scheduled for a late-2008 release, but
the project kept getting delayed for one reason:
nobody paid attention to the lead singles. 2008’s
“Get Up” and early 2009’s “I Get It In” landed on
Nos. 53 and 44 on the charts, respectively—a far
cry from the unstoppable hit “In Da Club” just six
Before I Self Destruct didn’t see the light of day
until November 2009—after 50 spent much time
complaining that he wasn’t a priority at
Interscope—and debuted at No. 5 on the charts,
a seemingly unfathomable occurrence for the
man that once ruled rap.
But his decline goes deeper than his chart
performance on the charts. After September 11,
2007, he just seemed to lose all of his mojo. The
man once responsible for ending careers
engaged in a battle with Rick Ross—who had just
been exposed as being a former parole officer—
and somehow lost. The idea of 50 Cent battling
Rick Ross, whose fake gangster persona is a
veritable alley-oop pass to anyone looking for a
good insult, and ending up in the worse position
just showed how far he had fallen. Instead of the
systematic destruction he laid on Ja Rule, 50
donned a jheri-curl wig and took Rick Ross’ baby
momma shopping before releasing a sex tape
starring her. The approach did little to endear
anyone to his side of the battle.
As the years went by, 50’s attempts to get
attention were more bizarre and ineffective. Just
take a look at how the Voice has covered him:
“50 Cent is done with the album-releasing
game,” “The Day 50 Cent Threatened
Gawker.com, Michelle Obama, and His Own
Grandmother on Twitter,” and “Here is a video of
50 Cent singing Kumbaya.” That’s not even
mentioning his weird relationship with Chelsea
Handler, a twitter feud with a poodle and his
throwing his own G-Unit buddies under the bus.
What’s even more alarming about 50 Cent’s
increasing irrelevance is the fact that he’s been
on his best musical run since the Get Rich Or Die
Tryin’ years. His mixtapes War Angel, Forever
King, and Big 10 contained gems like “Shooting
Guns” and “Stop Crying.” But 50 Cent hasn’t
been able to connect with his audience the way
he did a decade ago.
Empires fall. It’s just a fact of life. And while
many factors contribute to the downfall of a
dynasty, there’s always one major moment that
signals doom—a major loss, the death of an
emperor. For 50 Cent, it was losing his head-on
challenge for chart supremacy on September
11th, 2007. Five years later, he has yet to
recover, holding on for dear life while trying to
reclaim the magic that made him rap’s most
feared and powerful entity.
Rap fans may remember 2007′s ‘The Battle of the Album Sales’ that featured two of the biggest artists in hip-hop — 50 Cent and Kanye West. It was billed as a clash of rap of titans and even snagged the cover of Rolling Stone.
Critics and hip-hop heads alike awaited the release of Kanye’s Graduation album and 50’s Curtis album to see who would come out on top. The battle ultimately wasn’t even close, as Kanye almost went platinum in his first week by selling 957,000 units, compared to 50 Cent’s respectable 691,000 units.
Slideshow: Who won the greatest hip hop battles?
On the 5th year anniversary of their beef, 50 said in a recent interview with XXLMag.com, “At the time, I had a stronger feel for the streets [than Kanye], prior to that competition and trying to compete with each other.”
He continued on by saying that he and Ye never had actual beef with each other and it was beneficial to use it as a publicity tool.
“That was just to build energy because Kanye [and I]…we didn’t have no beef at all. You can’t stand that close to someone and take pictures for the cover of Rolling Stone with having beef,” said 50.
The G-Unit general went on to say that the beef was for the benefit of the fans to get them hyped for bigger sales. Without the competition, 50 said, the album sales wouldn’t have been that high and that “it was just great marketing.”
Red Everything Movement