NEW YORK — "Patti LaBelle?" 50 Cent asked incredulously as he cruised Manhattan Tuesday night in his Chevy Surburban en route to radio station Hot 97. The beefy Queens mic rocker couldn't quite believe that the soul singer had named "In Da Club" as her favorite song during a recent interview with MTV News.
But the legendary diva hasn't been his only unexpected fan (see "Patti Labelle: The Most Sought-After Collaborator In Hip-Hop?"). During his grind to the top this past year, 50 accumulated fans from Tinsletown to Motown, and he isn't taking any parts of his success for granted. While his stock continues to rise, the MC wants to stay in the public eye so he's gearing up to release the first official project from his group, the G-Unit, Beg for Mercy, on November 4.
"I haven’t heard anything negative about my music the entire time [my record's been out]," 50 said, smiling. "The G-Unit album is tough. People are not fair so they're going to make it [seem like] it's my second album. I had to work extra hard on this album [and] now I'm content with them calling this my second album. I think its good enough. ' "
Beg for Mercy, however, is technically a group album, with 50 now bringing his fellow rap compatriots Lloyd Banks and Young Buck to the forefront. Previously recorded material from the incarcerated Tony Yayo is also featured on the album. Besides collaborative efforts, each member also has solo songs.
"The album is crazy," Young Buck said on Monday while preparing for a group photo shoot with the new car magazine Rides. "[We have] production by Eminem [and] Dr. Dre. We worked with a lot of different upcoming producers like Emil, Alchemist and DJ Twinz. We didn't really get too many features — we kept it G-Unit. Basically what you got from Get Rich or Die Tryin' is the same thing you can look forward to on the G-Unit album or maybe more. We got a lot of stuff in store."
"It's like a sequel to Get Rich or Die Tryin' as far as the quality of music," Lloyd Banks clarified later.
Two cuts that will definitely make the LP have already hit the streets. One is "Gunz for Sale," which is a sequel of sorts to 50's "Gun Runner," which is a track from his now-shelved, would-be Columbia Records debut, Power of the Dollar. Another version of the song by a new group called the A-Team has also hit the mixtapes. G-Unit members say the A-Team's version is bogus and that the group stole 50's vocals and put it on their track.
There is no controversy, however, surrounding G-Unit's other cut, "Teach You How to Stunt."
"I'll teach ya how to stunt," 50 rhymes on the hook. "My rings stay blinging, my rims stay gleaming, I'm shining maaan/ I'll teach ya how to stunt/ I see you scheming/ N---a keep on dreaming/ I'll hurt ya maaan."
"Stunting to me is just looking good," explained Buck, who raps on the record with 50 and Banks. "My way of stunting is coming through making sure my rims are on shine, my ice is on shine. My collar is fresh and ready to be popped. You don’t really have to have the biggest diamonds or biggest car. Whatever you have to do, be ready."
Before they board a plane for Europe later this week, the G-Unit members are going to shoot the song's video at a secret location, where they'll be flossing for the cameras.
"It's exactly what I'm telling you it is ... it's going to be crazy," Buck added in reference to the clip. "You'll probably see whips you've never seen in your life before. We're putting it down."
"[I chose] 'Teach You How to Stunt' for the first single [because] I said, 'I think it's cool for them to see you come from the bottom and get to see a visual of you doing well,' " 50 explained.
Since the G-Unit have spent most of their time on the road since late last year, they had no choice but to record the majority of Beg for Mercy on a tour bus before and after concerts.
"We'd find time every day to hit the studio, whether it [was] two hours, an hour or 30 minutes," Buck recalled. "We record so much [that] making an album was kind of simple."
"We're all workaholics," Banks chimed in. "I went from making two records a week to making three records at a time, every time I [went] into the studio. You could be asleep, wake up with an idea and have a record before you know it. Most of the record we have came from playing around. Like, 50 might be getting his haircut and say, 'I'll teach you how to stunt.' If you hear something in your head more than 10 times, nines times out of 10 it's gonna be a record. It comes out good because we was together."
50, who plans to get a movie production company off the ground next year so that he can independently finance films, agrees that the elongated time on the road has been one of the keys to his success. He says that's because he's been able to block out the distractions of home.
"I feel I'm getting better and better," he said. "I'm more focused. This is really what I like doing. I feel like I should've been doing this [all along]. I was bullsh----- in the 'hood. [Now] I wake up every day excited."