It's hard to imagine where 50 Cent's rap career would be if he'd never signed with Eminem, but according to the G-Unit juggernaut, music executive Steve Stoute once advised him to steer clear of Slim Shady.
"Don't do the deal with the white boy," Fif recalled Stoute telling him in a Los Angeles hotel lobby, back in 2002, right before he decided to ink with Shady, Dr. Dre's Aftermath Records and Interscope.
50 made the revelation to MTV News on Monday night during a sit-down at Eminem's Shade 45 radio station, where he taped a SIRIUS XM Town Hall with fans set to air on March 31. But although Fif was in full promotion mode for his June 3 album, Animal Ambition — his first since announcing the end of his major-label deals — Stoute has been questioning whether 50 has the same musical effectiveness these days.
"He hasn't had a hit in a really long time. He has not made anything musically that's changed anything in a very long time," Stoute told New York's Hot 97 last month. "I feel like he's always gearing up for something that never happens," the exec behind the VH1 documentary "The Tanning of America" added. "Hopefully, now that he's independent and there is no record company to blame, his aggressive content will get on the air."
We'll roll out more of the MTV interview Wednesday on "RapFix Live" at 4 p.m. ET/ 1 p.m. PT on MTV.com and MTV Jams, but days after the Hot 97 Q&A hit the airwaves, 50 ran into Stoute at Madison Square Garden, where both were attending a New York Knicks game. Pictures that hit the Internet afterward strongly suggested that they had a very heated discussion at the arena: A scowling Fif could be seen waving his finger in Stoute's face. So we asked the rapper to explain what fans saw in those photos.
"I said, 'That wasn't very nice of you, Steve. To say what you said wasn't really nice, and I think you should apologize,' " Fif recalled, though he was clearly telling only part of the story.
So did the "Hold On" MC politely ask Stoute to apologize? "Nah, I said it a little different," Fif said with a smirk.
The two men have history and it dates back to the late 1990s, when Stoute signed the then-rising rapper to his first deal at Columbia Records. On May 24, 2000, however, 50 was famously shot nine times and the record company subsequently dropped him from its roster without ever releasing his proposed debut, Power of the Dollar. By the time 50 was let go by Columbia, Stoute had moved on to Interscope Records but Stoute opted not to sign the troubled MC a second time.
"Me and Steve had the opportunity to meet with each other; he was running Interscope at the time," Fif explained. "When I tried to play him the music, he was like, 'Oh no, I already know what you can do, I already know what you can do. Remember, I signed you the first time?' "
Although Stoute ultimately passed, Eminem took notice of 50's deafening mixtape buzz and signed him to Interscope, along with Dr. Dre, through their respective labels, Shady and Aftermath. Fif's first release under that deal, Get Rich or Die Tryin', became a diamond-selling LP in 2003.
So what did Stoute have against "the white boy"? According to 50, Stoute thought Eminem's act was too lighthearted and a bad match for the G-Unit CEO's dark, street material. Stoute urged him not to do the deal with Eminem and opt to sign only with Dr. Dre.
"At the time, Em was doing ['Purple Pills' with D12], so he's thinking [Eminem's] a joke," 50 explained. "Of course, I did the deal with the white boy because Em is the only one that showed interest in me. He's my favorite white boy."
Be sure to catch 50 Cent on March 31 when his special SIRIUS XM Town Hall interview with fans, moderated by MTV News' Rob Markman, airs on the satellite radio station.