Looking back at 50 Cent's landmark debut as it celebrates 20 years In Da Club
nast your mind back to 2003. Flip phones. Pimp My Ride. AJ and Free were hosting 106 & Park. You turn on the radio and instead of hearing the usual Black luxury rap of Bad Boy Records and Murder Inc, you hear a young Curtis Jackson ushering in a new era. Calling back to the early work of NWA, and fellow New Yorkers Wu Tang Clan and Jay-Z, Jackson – better known as 50 Cent – laced his hard-hitting autobiographical lyrics with the tongue-in-cheek cockiness of Muhammad Ali. People around the world start using ‘In Da Club’ to celebrate their birthdays. Every barbershop in the global Black diaspora adds 50 Cent’s face to their signs. Stories about his nine gunshot wounds and served prison time create an unparalleled lore around him. From the get-go, 50 Cent was a star in his own right, having worked with Eminem, Dr. Dre and Jam Master Jay all before releasing his seminal debut album.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and ahead of 50 Cent’s UK arena tour, we look back at the album that launched his illustrious, albeit tumultuous, career.
The Power Of The Dollar
50 Cent’s original debut album went unreleased, with only one single from the project – ‘How To Rob’ – available for purchase after being featured on the In Too Deep soundtrack. Executively produced by Run-DMC’s DJ Jam Master Jay, the Columbia Records project was shelved in May 2000 due to 50 Cent’s legal issues and gang affiliated activity. Being shot nine times in front of his grandmother’s house, by Darryl Baum (Mike Tyson’s personal bodyguard), he was dropped by Columbia Records just before the album was scheduled for release.
But it was during the recording for Power Of The Dollar that 50 Cent would meet producer Sha Money XL, whose home 50 would use as a safe house to recover, and to record two mixtapes – 50 Cent Is The Future and Guess Who’s Back. Both mixtapes contributed to 50 Cent’s popularity in his local underground rap scene, and eventually caught the attention of Eminem and Interscope records. 50 Cent then signed a deal with Interscope and began work on the debut we all know today.
It’s hard to come out the gate swinging with an all-hits no-skips album in your debut, but 50 Cent did just that. A 19-track project detailing his real-life experiences from selling drugs at eight years old and surviving gun attacks to running the streets and falling in love, Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ was not just an expression of the hood but a salute to it. It honours the peaks and troughs of inner-city New York life, told by a unique storyteller who isn’t donning a costume of Black working class struggles for public consumption, but simply speaking his truth.
The album shifted audience views on music, opting for a grittier sound than whatever was expected from rappers at the time, reigniting suburban parental outrage at the “influence of gangster rap on the youth”. Not that any of the naysayers stopped 50 Cent, nor Interscope, who saw such a high demand for the rapper’s debut that they rushed its completion to release the album five days before its initial 11 Feb 2003 date.
The album sold over 800K copies in its first week, and over 12 million copies worldwide by the end of the year – the highest selling album of 2003 and one of the highest selling albums of all time. Its lead single, ‘In Da Club’, was No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for nine weeks and was the best-selling single of 2003.
Additionally, the album was developed into a movie two years later – starring 50 Cent in his first acting role, alongside the UK’s very own Ashley Walters, Terrence Howard, and the great Viola Davis. How many rappers can say they’ve shifted culture, reinstated a new era of hip hop for the new millennium, snagged a movie deal based on their life where they starred alongside Hollywood’s greats and manage to get an entire episode of The Boondocks written about them, all because of their debut?