Of course, artists believe in their music, but I wonder if 50 Cent knew that his debut album would end up being one of the top 10 highest selling rap albums of all time. 15 long years ago, 50 dropped Get Rich Or Die Tryin’; the untold yet highly popular tale of his adolescent life in South Jamaica, Queens, New York. As fans, we know 50’s story like he was one of our homeboys, so let’s start with what we know; in the year 2000, Curtis Jackson was shot 9 times in an attempt to clearly end his life. Miraculously, he survived but in addition to the pain, one of his hardest tribulations had to come from getting dropped by his record label Columbia. As his music continued to take over New York City, his grind compelled him to stay consistent despite the resources, because he already had the fan base. Just two short years later, he would get discovered by rap legend Eminem after Em heard his tape Guess Who’s Back?. After flying out to L.A., 50 would go on to sign a deal with yet another hip-hop legend, Dr. Dre. Harvested by two of the industry’s best, I still don’t think people assumed his debut album would be as hard as it was. Lead by singles “Wangsta”, which was also featured on 8 Mile, and “In Da Club”, Get Rich or Die Tryin’ would finally hit the spotlight on February 6th, 2003.
I’m the first person to say that an east coast rapper on a west coast beat is gold. Executively produced by Dr. Dre & Eminem, Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ was a new chapter of gangster rap in the early 2000s. 50 Cent didn’t come with the typical yelling and heavy profanity; his raps were more so calm which is what made the public more receptive. What made this album significant was the fact that it didn’t just appeal to those in the hood or who went through struggle. Yes, the content replicates those circumstances but the delivery could make anyone a fan who already wasn’t, in which it did. Back when going platinum was based on physical copies, Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ would sell over 800,000 copies in the first week. When it comes to albums & their singles, either the singles are better or worse than the actual album. Despite “In Da Club” peaking at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for 9 weeks, we got exactly what we bargained for in “21 Questions”, “P.I.M.P”, & “If I Can’t”. Shit, the singles basically sold themselves. The album would go on to sell 8.4 million copies worldwide and become RIAA certified platinum, not 1, not 2, but 6 times. This album made 50 a legend.
The key was redefining “gangsta rap”. Let’s take it back to the early 2000s now. With increases in all urban promotions and black musical dominance, now, more than ever, artists were heavily received around the entire world because fans could hear the untold stories of those actually coming from the hood, something not most people experienced. Although it tells the same tales of saying “fuck the police”, drugs, sex, and violence, it did so in such a way that parents actually wouldn’t mind playing it for their kids. It did so in such a way that people who have never even been to New York City could relate it to their life and hometown. It did so in such a way that one song will make you want to catch a body, and the next will have you reminiscing about your first love. This was the first time I could recall a gangsta rapper showing multiple sides. When I say sides, I don’t mean talking about politics and death, I mean sides that let us know rappers actually feel and have emotional responses to things too, which is allegedly why Dre didn’t want 50 to put “21 Questions” on the album. When the image is genuine, it will always stand. Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ was the embodiment of actuality and truth when it came to putting out personal music for the people.
50 Cent is one of the best rappers to ever do it. Is that a question? It only makes sense seeing how he came in with two rap legends. It’s almost like the Thunder in 2012 with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. The three together came out firing in every instance but eventually would go on to split and remain successful in their own regards, yet all still elite. Just two years later, 50 released The Massacre, selling over 5 million copies, claiming the 21st spot on the list of highest selling rap albums of all time. In that same year, his debut album would later turn into a movie with the same name, Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, providing a visual representation to all of the things 50 spoke about in the album. The early 2000s inevitably earned him the Rookie of the Year award and clearly, this man was no bust. Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ would receive a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album and only lose to the highest selling album of all time, Outkast’s The SpeakerBoxxx/The Love Below. If any, the well-deserved accolade would be redefining gangsta rap in the early 2000s and simply put, giving us one of the best albums hip-hop has ever seen. So on this day, in all appreciation, we toast up to the birthday of ‘Get Rich Or Die Tryin’.
By K. High