I was in college whenGet Rich or Die Tryin
' dropped. You couldn't go anywhere without hearing "In da Club"-- house parties, techno clubs, AA meetings, everywhere. My friends used to sit around and debate 50's feud with Ja Rule. Anyone brave enough to take Ja's side was ridiculed to death. 50 Cent was king.
Oh, how quickly things change. The 50 Cent of today isn't the 50 Cent of 2003. This 50 would give his left nut to regain top dog status. After a slew of disappointing outings, he's been trying to claw his way back to the top, resorting to petty feuds and Twitter stunts (airing dirty laundry, betting dick pics) to stay relevant. Is it time for Fif to put down the microphone? Is Ed "Too Tall" Jones too tall?
He's stuck in a box "Think outside the box, collapse the box, and take a fucking sharp knife to it." -- Banksy
It's kinda hard to transform your career when you start out in a box. That's the thing about so-called "gangsta" rap -- it gives you little wiggle room to experiment. OutKast evolved with every album. Kanye West switched up his production and choice topics from album to album. But 50 Cent and his ilk can't afford to do the same without alienating their core fan base. There's only so many ways to describe a murder, unless you're an exceptionally gifted storyteller like Nas who can personify a gun in one breath and kick a reverse narrative in the next. Those aggressive boasts that once set Fif apart now sound like noise.
Numbers don't lie "Men lie, women lie. Numbers don't." -- Jay-Z
50's sales have dwindled over the years. After a strong start with GRODT (8 million in the U.S.; 12 million worldwide), he saw his sales drop off sharply. His lowest point arrived on 2009's gold-certified Before I Self Destruct, the first 50 Cent album to fall short of the one million units required to earn a platinum plaque. 50 stans will argue that slumping record sales had something to do with the decline. But that's a flawed argument, considering that Kanye West and T.I. -- two famous artists who debuted in the 50 Cent era -- have maintained fairly consistent numbers, with each rapper's album shifting over a million units. 50, on the other hand, would be lucky to reach gold on his next outing, never mind platinum.
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Here's a breakdown of Fif's album sales between '03 and '09:
Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2003) - 8 million The Massacre (2005) - 4 million Curtis (2007) - 1.3 million Before I Self Destruct (2009) - 500,000
His audience has moved on Get Rich or Die Tryin' dropped nine years ago. The 15-year-olds who bought that album are now out of college and commuting to their first job. They pay rent. They buy makeup and cat food. They have girlfriends that require expensive dinner dates. In other words, they're grown-ass men and women. Unless 50 can find a way to connect with that market, he's going to have to rely on the small minority of fans whose favorite songs on GRODT were "What Up Gangsta" and "Heat."
He got rich and stopped tryin' 50 told us he was going to get rich or die tryin'. Naturally, he got rich and stopped tryin'. His last two albums betray the sound of a man who's bored with the process of music-making. Sure, he's still cranking out mixtapes. Sure, he still knows how to ride a beat. But his scope rarely extends beyond gangsta rap tropes, the spoils of fame, and the travails of fame. Time to put down that one-note instrument, Fif.