Trying to measure the impact of 50 Cent‘s colossal debut is almost impossible. Sure, you can tally the worldwide sales, which hover around 12 million units, or you could track the album’s singles on Billboard. Or just calculate the tour money earned behind the LP before figuring in the publishing dollars it generated. But to truly understand the influence of Get Rich or Die Tryin’, you’d have to examine the DNA of just about every rapper who released music after February 6, 2003.
Curtis Jackson once said his rap moniker was a metaphor for change and, now, on the eve of the 10-year anniversary of his official introduction to rap, it’s clear that 50 Cent is no longer just a metaphor.
Over the course of 16 concussive tracks (and three banging bonus cuts), the G-Unit juggernaut ruled the dance floor with “In Da Club,” while detailing the May 2000 incident that left him shot nine times on “Many Men.” He displayed a softer side on the Nate Dogg-assisted “21 Questions” and dismantled Ja Rule and the Murder Inc. crew on “Back Down.”
Within months of the release of Get Rich or Die Tryin’, 50 Cent had made good on his promise. Not only did the Southside Jamaica, Queens, MC get rich — he lived to tell the story 10 years later when he sat down with us. Fif broke down the classic album, track by track, for MTV News’ cameras (click the video). And we break down a few key songs with 50’s help below.
Clocking in at only six seconds, the GRODT intro was as powerful and memorable as any introduction skit in rap. With the clang of a coin and the click-clack of a gun, Fif’s masterpiece begins. “That intro, as far as the sound of the coin, it was saying, ‘This is 50 Cent,’ without saying a word,” Fif recalled.
“Many Men (Death Wish)”
50 Cent had been rapping for years before he was shot in May 2000, and he was a pretty good rapper, too, but those nine shots changed everything. On the Digga-produced “Many Men,” the superstar MC laid it all on the line, talking about the price that was put on his head and name-dropping the alleged gunman who was killed three weeks later. ”
‘Many Men’ is the war chant,” 50 said.
“In Da Club”
” ‘In Da Club,’ smash hit,” 50 said simply.
Originally, Eminem’s group, D12, passed on this Dr. Dre production, but Fif wouldn’t make the same mistake. Thanks to the song’s infectious ad lib — “Go, shawty, it’s your birthday” — and street-laced lyrics, the track spent eight weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and remains 50’s most celebrated tune.
50 is always quick to remind fans that he has less compassion than the average human being, and on “Back Down” he gave us an early glimpse of his cold ways. Fif’s beef with Ja Rule and Irv Gotti’s Muder Inc. camp was well-documented and, on a few occasions, spilled over into the street. There are a number of allegations on each side, but one thing is for certain: After Fif dropped this dis track, Rule’s career suffered permanent setbacks. “That was the nail in the coffin,” 50 snickered.
His strength, at first, was making hard-core street music, so when it came time for 50 to speak to the ladies, the rapper sought inspiration from another Queens great. “I really made that record because I was in a car and LL Cool J came on,” he revealed. “The girl next to me as all into it; it was a soft record, but she was so into the record that I said, ‘I want to make something that makes [girls] respond like that to me.’ ”
And respond they did. With Nate Dogg singing on the hook and 50 rapping sweet nothings, the menacing MC instantly became a rap sex symbol.
“Gotta Make It To Heaven”
So many MCs rhyme about the dangers of street life, but for 50 the danger was very real. The infamous May 2000 shooting was followed by the 2001 death of Queens rap/street figure E-Money Bags. After 50’s mentor and Run-DMC icon, Jam Master Jay, was murdered in October 2002, police believed there was another hit out on Fif’s life.
On the desperate “Gotta Make It to Heaven,” 50 sounded so close to the Promised Land he could taste it, even if he wasn’t yet fully removed from the perils of the streets. And it was that push and pull that inspired the album title. “When I say ‘get rich or die tryin’, it could have very easily been the die tryin’ part,” he said.
Share your favorite tracks from 50 Cent’s Get Rich in the comments below!