50 Cent Interview by Rick Bleiweiss
GROVER GARDNER: Welcome to Downpour.com’s interview series. I’m Grover Gardner, and today it’s my pleasure to present an interview with Grammy Award winner 50 Cent. 50 Cent has sold more than twenty-six million records worldwide and his debut album, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, was the largest debut in SoundScan history. He is also a record producer, entrepreneur, investor, actor, and New York Times bestselling author of From Pieces to Weight and the motivational guide The 50th Law. His latest book, coauthored with Jeff O’Connell, is Formula 50: A 6-Week Workout and Nutrition Plan That Will Transform Your Life. Conducting the interview is Grammy-nominated producer Rick Bleiweiss. He is a former senior executive in the music and entertainment industry and is a published writer. Rick is currently strategic advisor to Blackstone Audio as part of the senior management team. Blackstone Audio copublished the audio version of Formula 50, narrated by Cary Hite, with Buck 50 Productions.
RICK BLEIWEISS: Welcome, 50 Cent. Thanks for joining us today. I’d like to congratulate you on the release of your new book, Formula 50: A 6-Week Workout and Nutrition Plan That Will Transform Your Life. I believe you coauthored it with Jeff O’Connell, a health journalist and editor-in-chief at BodyBuilding.com. What motivated you to write this type of book now?
50 CENT: It took longer than I anticipated—this project started a year ago—and for me to present the information that I acquired since 2005, I hired a nutritionist and trainer to move around with me, because I got overweight from the traveling I did on my tour on Get Rich or Die Tryin’. I performed so often that I was traveling all over the world for the first time, and a lot of places didn’t have the same food standards as America, but what was consistent was the fast food.
RB: (laughs) Yeah, I bet it was.
50C: Yeah, the wrong food is pretty consistent, you know what I mean? So I came back and got the guys together. I had just the nutritionist and trainer travel so that I could get myself back in physical shape for the next project, and then it ended up bleeding past that. I ended up keeping them around me. It’s organic. Like me, I try to keep the things that I involve myself with in brand extension situations or just in business in general that directly connect to my lifestyle. I work so often that it’ll feel like I’m impulsive, like I have a problem, if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m doing what I enjoy so much. I make it all tie into one thing. I’m enjoying myself while working, and I’m discussing things that apply to my lifestyle that I can offer the general public.
RB: I know you’re most well-known as a superstar rapper, even though I know you do a lot of other things as well. In light of that, what has been the response to the book so far?
50C: It’s been great. You know what I do? I always see the people that probably wouldn’t read this information from someone else, who would absolutely look at the messenger before they explore the message—there’s an audience that I actually have. It’s a youth-driven audience at first because the culture of pop music is consumed by a younger demographic, and then it actually bleeds over when they start to see you on different platforms that are obviously mainstream, or you start to fit into that A-lister category, meaning when they see you on Oprah, it’s the older audience watching, but the interest that got you there came from youth culture. People now come up to me. They’re excited about it. They say, “Yo, I’m gonna try it. I’m gonna follow it. I’m gonna see what happens.” You know what I mean? They look at buying this kind of book like it’s an investment. Some people don’t want to hire a personal trainer, or make the investment that I made financially in order to create the habit. You can’t afford to do that. What you do is get the information and make the adjustments. Like New Year’s, the gym’s packed. They make their resolutions—like “I’m gonna lose ten pounds.” They’re picking a pound amount instead of saying I’m gonna adjust my lifestyle and apply the right eating habits and the training into the actual regimen.
RB: I get that and that’s fabulous. Whether we want to use the term “role model” or not, I know that you really have done a lot of things to help youth. I know that your book Playground is an antibullying book aimed at young adults. Why did you think it was important to write about antibullying?
50C: Well, Playground … I found myself having a conversation with my son and he was explaining the scenario that was going on at his school, and I tried to identify why it was happening. In the environment that I grew up in, if you weren’t strong enough to create an aura around you, that meant you didn’t have a problem with it, and you would consistently have a problem. It’s like the kid in the schoolyard who doesn’t want to fight leaves with a black eye because he didn’t want to fight. When the other kid identified that he didn’t actually want to fight, he threw the punch because the kids were behind him riling him up. Whose fault is it when a kid is not even responsible for their own actions? The guardians are. So in that situation, when I explained it to him, I said, “wow,” and I looked at a lot of animation. The television shows with animation, the bullies are successful—Bart Simpson’s a bully, Dennis the Menace was a bully—and the kids are bullying the parents. Seeing that, what I wanted to do was create a project that had the kid make the mistakes that kids make and come to the acknowledgment that an adult would come to and have him have that understanding in the early stages so they’d understand those actions were wrong. But first make them like the character by seeing his temperament. Because they like the rebel in that kid at that point. It’s like no one’s actually teaching it to him. It’s almost instinct that he’s riding on. The same way no one told him not to do it, who told him to do it? Even Diary of a Wimpy Kid, that movie I watched it after I read the book, it felt like I was laughing at the kid being bullied. I just wanted to make a book that was a little more responsible than the things that I’d seen out there and I want to take it and turn the actual book into an animated television show, taking it a step further. You’ll be hearing an announcement from me shortly. The book has actually been picked up and I’ve found a network already.
RB: Well, that’s great. Let me ask you about something else you’ve been involved with because it seems to me that you use your celebrity as a way to help others. What can you tell me about the G-Unity Foundation? I know it’s a nonprofit serving low-income youth and I know you’re very involved in it.
50C: I started the G-Unity Foundation in 2004 with intentions of trying to help people in the inner cities and low-income situations get an education. I’ve provided scholarships since 2004. Even the United States military is one of those options that people look to or go to in order to further their education because they don’t financially have what it takes to pay for college. One of the selling points that the government uses for people going into the military is that you can get a college education and do everything else that you want. I just wanted to be able to try to provide that on some levels. I’ve done things in the community that directly affect the community that I came out of also. I put a park in my neighborhood. I restored the entire park and I used NYPRs [the New York Restoration Project], Bette Midler’s organization, to restore the park because they do all of the green in New York City. A lot more of hip-hop culture’s going to shift as they have enough success. Like, a lot of the artists—they are successful, but they probably haven’t reached that point where they start developing an interest in what their legacy’s going to be. Because everyone I’ve made reference to that has a strong aura around them, even in their absence, were people that helped people. So I wanted to do something a little different because my peers follow me and looking for equity involvement in some of the scenarios that they’re in, as far as brand extension opportunities are concerned. I was hoping they’d adapt the concept of conscious capitalism the same and put components that continuously give to charitable organizations into the deal like I did. My street king project, we partnered with the United Nations World Food Program that provided a meal for every energy drink sold. Then, following that up, launched SMS Audio, and it’s been a year. This is my second CES [Consumer Electronic Show] with that company. I was so excited. We made the projections for the year, so I felt like we’re right on pace and we launched SMS Audio in forty-six countries. That exceeded my expectations initially, but the touring in my career has paid off in a different way, because I’ve opened markets. I’ve been like the first to go into certain territories. I’ve been in some of the unattractive places that most artists aren’t jumping up and down saying, “Yeah, yeah, I want to go to Croatia and Kosovo and Africa,” and you know what I mean? Like … different places. I was really excited about going there because when I say, “I’m a world-touring recording artist,” I want it to be real. I used to have a money mark, like saying, “I want to make this much money,” and it’s not really there anymore, because I guess when you wake up and realize no matter how many beds you have in the house, you’re going to sleep on one. You think about it and say, “No matter how many cars you accumulating, you gonna drive one.” It kind of makes you assess after a while, “I really don’t need this stuff.” I needed it at one point. It was confirmation of success for me in the very beginning. It was only necessary because I hadn’t had anything prior to the success of the music. So it’s like when you grow up with a restraint that’s visible in front of you and it’s financial, you think money’s the answer to all of the problems. Then you acquire it and find that all new obstacles, a whole new land of things that you didn’t even believe could be a problem. Like people just having a sense of entitlement and unbelievable entitlement that you can’t even meet it. You can’t even remember them doing anything for me. I’m like, “So when did you do something that makes you feel like I’m supposed to do this for you, like I’m owe you this?”
RB: There are people who do believe in that entitlement, you’re absolutely right.
50C: Just saying, “Because I knew you from when you had nothing.” Yeah, me too. I owe it to myself to not give you everything I have.
RB: Well, I have to tell you, from my perspective I congratulate you on your perspective. I came out of the music industry. I worked a lot of rap projects. Every rapper I’ve ever run into, I thought was pretty darn bright, but you beat all of them. You’re unique about the way you think about things and I wish a lot more stars thought the way you think. I applaud you for that.
50C: Thank you. That’s definitely a compliment. I’d like to see more of the actual artists that you see—I see the same photographers (laughs)—just don’t see the artists. I guess it’ll take some time for them to get to that point that they really want to make a difference in other people’s lives at the same time. I just want to be remembered for more than a guy who made a few good songs. At this point, I’m happy with the things that I have. If I could stay exactly at the pace I’m at now, I could care less about all those other things. But, of course, just being ambitious and having the attitude and things within my character that got me to this point are going to have me continuously creating ideas. And I don’t want to live life on the highest level possible, so I say, “OK. Connect the philanthropy to the actual business,” so you don’t get what we got when you saw so many people standing out protesting in Occupy Wall Street, Chicago, Los Angeles, and all these other territories. They feel like the major corporations don’t care about the general public when, without the general public, those companies are nothing.
RB: You’re right about that. Given your philanthropy and things like that, what or who were the biggest influences on you that put you into that kind of a mindset?
50C: Well it’s just entering circles that are far more accomplished than even the people you would call peers in the music business. His name is Ray Chambers, my partner in the Street King project, he was his mentor. I met with him. We hung out a couple times. He owns the Yankees, made a billion dollars already. You can make a billion dollars and not be happy. Easy. You know what I’m saying? They just accomplished so much. They’ve already had interest and actually have relationships with the United Nations World Food Program, and they worked with the United Nations to fight malaria. The most successful businesspeople—the more successful you are—the more you’ll find value in being a good judge of character because the majority of the successful people out there are not actually people executing those deals. They’ve hired people to do it.
RB: Do you have any ideas what your next project might be?
50C: Right now I’m working on my album. I’m finishing the material for that and it should be out this spring. It’s called Street King Immortal. It’s titled after the United Nations collaborations with my energy project. I wrote the first song that came out of it, “New Day.” It’s myself, Alicia Keys, and Dr. Dre. It had a kind of inspirational feel to it. The next song was “My Life”—me, Eminem and Adam Levine. I’m happy with the response to the record to this point. I think it will be, if not bigger, then as good as my first effort. It’s tough too because people compare you to the first impression. Like my first album is the largest debuting hip-hop album, so it’s pretty tough to top. People meeting you for the first time, there’s a lot of excitement there. They didn’t realize how long—I thought I was ready in the trenches, and then when I finally had an opportunity, I was so ready to run with it, they met a new artist for the first time that had been around for a long time. And because I’ve been there, it seemed like I had it perfected, at least the message and points that I offered, because in my first album, I wrote all the dysfunctional behaviors in the environment that I grew up in, and I really wasn’t conscious of the way that the general public typecasts you. The songs that I did that were away from that content didn’t have the same success. After the first album sold, the first song I wrote was “God Gave Me Style, God Gave Me Grace” on The Massacre. I hadn’t had the title for the album yet. It was just the way I felt about having everything become a success. That’s all I was wishing and dreaming for—for the music to work—and after that it never played. The content on the record was completely radio-ready, but the radio didn’t play it because they’d rather hear something like that from Kurt Franklin during the inspirational hour. The person they see is, “Nah, man! He’s a gangster rapper. Nope. I don’t want to hear that.” So that’s another case of people looking at the messenger instead of the message.
RB: 50 Cent, thank you for joining us today and speaking with me and I wish you tremendous success with Formula 50 and everything else you’re doing. Thank you.
50C: Thanks, I appreciate you.
GROVER GARDNER: Thank you for joining us for this Downpour.com interview of 50 Cent by Rick Bleiweiss. You can find Formula 50 and more at Downpour.com.
This interview was recorded in January 2013.
Disclaimer: This audio and transcript have been edited slightly from the original recording for quality and readability.
Includes a bonus disc with recipes, photos, and instructions!
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