Kanye West thinks his much-hyped rivalry with 50 Cent — surrounding the September 11 releases of his Graduation and 50's Curtis — is bringing out the best in the A-list stars.
"I think we push each other," Kanye said backstage at the V Festival in Stafford, England, on Saturday. "I feel I wouldn't have some of the tracks on my album if it wasn't for 50, and he wouldn't have some of the things he had if he wasn't up against me. In the last couple of years, people have been putting out albums aimlessly. Nas used to talk about Biggie and Jay and Wu-Tang going up against each other, but now it's like there hasn't been that competition in rap. In New York, [West's] 'Can't Tell Me Nothing' is the #2 song [on the radio], and [50's] 'I Get Money' is the #1 song. They're neck-and-neck, so it's exciting to people."
Don't get it twisted. Just because West told MTV News a few weeks ago that he wouldn't be upset if he came in second to 50 Cent on September 11 doesn't mean he's not confident he'll sell more records (see "Kanye West Says He's Ready To Pit His Album Against 50 Cent's: 'We Ain't Moving' ").
"Please, 50, don't retire once my album sells and beats your album," Kanye joked to the host of British talk show "The Friday Night Project" on Friday. Kanye was referring to 50's recent claims that he will not make any more solo records if Kanye sells more than him (for the record, 50 somewhat recanted his statement during an MTV News interview last week: see "50 Cent Explains Last Week's Blowup, Says 'I Will Be #1 On September 11' ").
50 said he has had little to smile about in advance of Curtis. He's pleased with how the public has accepted his latest two singles, "I Get Money" and "Ayo Technology," but that's been overshadowed by mishaps such as the leak of his video for "Follow My Lead" (see "50 Cent Erupts After Song, Video With Robin Thicke Leak: Source"), which he blames on Interscope.
Meanwhile, Kanye's promotion of Graduation seems to be going smoothly. He leaked a record called "Barry Bonds," featuring Lil Wayne, that has been well-received (see "Kanye West And Lil Wayne Counting On 'Barry Bonds' For A Hit Single"). And during his trip to the U.K., he's been debuting even more material from Graduation, including the songs "Champion" and "Big Brother." The latter talks about his love and admiration for the Big Homie himself, Jay-Z, while also revealing some minor friction between the two.
"I told Jay I did a song with Coldplay/ Next thing I know he got a song with Coldplay," Kanye raps on "Big Brother." "In the back of my mind, I'm like, 'Oh, wait'/ Translate Español, no way, José/ ... I should have talked to you like a man, I should have told you first/ But I went and told somebody else and that's what made sh-- worse/ ... My big brother was B.I.G.'s brother/ Used to be Dame and Biggs' brother."
On Monday night, the Chicago native performed a secret show with Rihanna at U.K.'s Westminster Central Hall. "Big Brother," "Stronger" and, of course, "Gold Digger" were all on the set list.
Kanye has just wrapped up production on Graduation. One of his last bits of business was working with Timbaland to redo the drums on "Stronger." He knows with stiff competition from 50 Cent and others on September 11, he has to be even more perfect that usual.
Hungry for more hip-hop coverage? Sink your teeth into our "Hottest MCs in the Game" feature.
Seen a great show? MTV News wants your photos, videos and reports from all the latest concerts for our new You R Here community. Check out the site to read, rate and comment on reviews from around the globe. We'll put the best stuff on our You R Here blog, and even in on-air news!