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Since 50 Cent first urged the world to “party like it's yo birthday” back in 2003, it seems like life has been a party every day for Curtis Jackson. Rising during the industry peak of the early 2000s with over 30 million sales to his name, Eminem’s protégé quickly became one of the most successful rappers of all time, nabbing a Grammy and some impressive acting credits along the way. However, you wouldn’t necessarily know any of this from looking at the headlines these days.
50 Cent used to be celebrated as an artist first and foremost, but that changed somewhere down the line, and in the years since, not a week has gone by without Fiddy calling someone out, whether it’s through music, interviews, or on social media. Everyone from Diddy and Kanye West to Floyd Mayweather and even his own son have stood in the firing line at one point or another, prompting a number of outlets to try and chart Jackson’s various grievances with the world.
Such efforts are ultimately futile though, because no mere mortal could hope to keep such a document up to date and match the speed at which 50 Cent kickstarts new beef. Even Vulture’s ‘Ultimate 50 Cent Super-Villain Timeline’ admitted that “it’s nearly impossible to keep track of [his] targets,” and while such pettiness can be amusing in small doses, it seems that Jackson is now becoming more famous for his flow off the mic than on.
To be fair, 50 Cent’s career has been concerned with beef since the very beginning, defining it perhaps even more than his highly-touted near death experience in the early 2000s. Jackson’s first single, “How To Rob,” mercilessly ripped into a literal who’s who of hip-hop at the time of its release in 1999. Recorded for his eventually discarded debut album, the song took aim at everyone from Lil’ Kim and Missy Elliott to JAY-Z and Will Smith in a calculated and highly effective attempt to build buzz.
Speaking to Vibe, 50 Cent later revealed that there was a lot riding on “How To Rob” and he had to find a way to stand out: “I had no buzz. It didn’t matter if it turned into beef with everybody. I took that shot because it was my only shot. If it didn’t work I was going back to the ‘hood.”
Making enemies out of the entire industry could have backfired horribly, but Jackson’s risk paid off. Nas subsequently invited 50 Cent to join him on the "Nastradamus" tour and it wasn’t long before Eminem introduced him to Dr. Dre. Together, they would all go on to make history with Fiddy’s major label debut, Get Rich or Die Tryin', which was certified 8x platinum thanks largely to the success of “In Da Club”.
If I Can’t
When handled right, feuds can generate huge swathes of publicity at little or no expense, and that’s one of the main reasons why they’ve remained an intrinsic part of hip-hop since the genre’s inception. 50 Cent proved this again a few years later when he and Kanye West duked it out in 2007 to see who could sell the most copies of their respective third albums in the same week.
Mr. West won in terms of sales, outselling Curtis almost 2:1 with his album Graduation, but both artists won in a wider context. Not only did the heavyweight battle draw mainstream attention to them both on a scale never seen before in hip-hop, but the news coverage also helped soften Jackson’s gangsta image for a wider audience, leading to his first Grammy win just two years later.
Unfortunately, when it comes to rap feuds, 50 Cent just doesn’t know when to stop, and in this modern era of social media, the intensity and sheer number of his public spats have continued to increase while his record sales have plummeted. Beef alone shouldn’t be blamed for these diminishing returns, but it’s safe to say that Jackson’s music doesn’t resonate with fans in the way it once did, and this in turn could have bred the kind of insecurity that might fuel said conflicts.
Can’t Leave ‘Em Alone
While some of his earlier feuds were smartly handled for the most part, 50 Cent has since engaged in countless others that come across as petty or downright spiteful. Rap beef should be about showmanship and showcasing one’s talent, but it’s hard to see what 50 Cent was trying to prove when he mocked Terry Crews following the star’s sexual assault or laughed about naming his dog after Oprah Winfrey.
Jackson has made an entire career out of being the villain, and while that might have worked in the early years when he clashed with the likes of The Game and Lil Wayne, these kind of public fallouts now threaten to eclipse the music completely. Nowadays, 50 Cent is far more likely to appear in the news because he bought out tickets for a Ja Rule concert than he is for anything related to his art.
This would be more understandable if these bouts translated into impressive album streams like they did for Drake and Pusha-T last year, but that’s far from the case here. Fiddy’s almost weekly attacks on targets like Teairra Mari and Lala Kent have failed to reverse the downward trajectory of his album sales and in fact, it wasn’t so long ago that Jackson filed for bankruptcy.
Straight to the Bank
That doesn’t mean 50 Cent is down and out though. The hip-hop mogul still earns plenty of money from his various business enterprises, and with an upcoming prequel to the show Power on its way, Jackson is keeping himself plenty busy. It’s just a shame that the music has taken a backseat to Fiddy’s other endeavors, both petty and otherwise. Mighty feuds with the likes of Kanye and The Game remain the stuff of hip-hop legend, but Fiddy’s feeble jabs at almost anyone with internet access have greatly diminished the impact of his music.
That could all change with the release of his sixth studio album, but don’t hold your breath just yet. First announced in 2011, Street King Immortal has taken on an almost mythic quality thanks to its many, many delays. At one point, 50 Cent’s latest record was even supposed to commemorate the tenth anniversary of his debut album, Get Rich or Die Tryin', but another six years have passed since then and there’s still no official release date in sight.
Instead of wasting time by throwing shade at other stars of yesteryear like Ja Rule, Jackson could knuckle down and deliver one final masterpiece with his next album, reminding the music industry why he was once such a force to be reckoned with. To this day, 50 Cent’s party single “In Da Club” still remains his most recognizable hit, but if he isn’t careful, there might not be much left to celebrate at all when it comes to his music legacy.