50 Cent

Got rich, did not die. 

Photography: Katherine Hawthorne

Dope anthems, message soul and the classic of classics: rap giant 50 Cent blasts off into his musical cosmos

Animal Ambition 50 Cent

 In May 2000, Curtis Jackson, a 24-year-old drug dealer, almost dies in a New York City street battle. The incident changes everything: Jackson concentrates on his rap career under the name 50 Cent, and records his first album in 2003, with Dr Dre. Get Rich or Die Tryin’ becomes the fourth-most successful hip-hop album of all time and launches a career. 

Since then, Fiddy has been making films, writing books and designing trainers and headphones. Does that leave any time for music? “Of course. But good things take time,” says the 38-year-old, referring to his first album in five years, Animal Ambition, out now. Here he reveals five songs that served as inspiration. 

Marvin Gaye - Inner City Blues

“Around 1970 most soul singers made big hit love songs. But Gaye wrote about different things. It was absolutely groundbreaking because he wrote songs about social injustice like not being able to pay taxes in Inner City Blues. Despite all that, the song sounds so smooth you can sing it in the shower. Gaye is a great observer, that’s why I worship him.”

Rick James - Mary Jane

“The best dope anthem from the coolest guy in the world. Rick James was the granddaddy of every bad boy, although he’d wear tights and braids with bangs and all kinds of crazy stuff. Shortly before his death in 2004, he talked about his egomaniac rock star excesses in a brilliant sketch with comedian Dave Chappelle. You really have to see it.”

Michael Jackson - Remember the Time

“Looking back, I think this 1992 song is Jackson’s best, partly because of the video. It’s a nine-minute journey to ancient Egypt with Magic Johnson, Iman and Eddie Murphy. Everyone you see actually meant something, he didn’t just pick pretty people. The only living artist who has a shot at possibly being like Jackson is Justin Bieber. I’m serious!”

Curtis Mayfield - Pusherman

“From the strongest soundtrack yet made. When you hear Pusherman you get a feel for the film Superfly: cool gangsters in the 1970s. Mayfield’s music feels like a complete thought, almost like he watched the film then wrote it. It inspired me to give Animal Ambition a consistent theme throughout the record. It’s about prosperity, same as the film.”

Prince - Purple Rain

“Prince really outdid himself with the Purple Rain album. The title track is timeless. For me that’s the best compliment for a song. How do you write a timeless song? I really don’t know. An artist tries to write a classic with every song, but there’s no formula for it. But if there was, then Purple Rain would be the model.”

Audio-active gadget of the month: Grace Digital Eco Extreme

Handy outdoor loudspeaker pumps music from your MP3 player or iPhone. A full charge gives 30 hours of play, plus it protects your device, too. It’s dust-resistant, waterproof to 5m and can survive a drop of up to 10m. A must for music-loving adventurers. 

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