50 Cent is in transition. He’s perched on the cement roof of Camp Curtis in Manhattan with sidekick and G-Unit kinsman Tony Yayo at his back while a reality television show cartel anxiously anticipate his next move. The entrepreneur dons a navy pinstripe three-piece, royal blue tie and air of austere discontent. It is the pilot episode of his MTV reality television show “The Money and the Power” and Mr. Jackson is deliberating eliminations in an effort to teach his novice cast an important lesson in business. He approaches the feisty contestant Precious, jaw clenched, perhaps too close for comfort, and stares intently into her eyes. To everyone’s surprise, Fifty decides to send home her faulty team leader, saving Precious from an early elimination—Instinct. Since the 2003 release of his freshman LP, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, 50 has been fervently dishing out business advice to anyone who’d listen, and after topping Forbes’ 2008 “Hip Hop Rich List” (he tied with Akon at No. 4 in 2009), the world is all ears.
Fifty’s first lesson in business—invest smart and early. In 2004, he purchased equity in Glacéau and launched his own brand of VitaminWater, Formula 50. In 2007, Coca Cola acquired Glacéau in a $4.1 billion deal, leaving Curtis Jackson with an estimated profit of up to $400 million and continued partnership as the “Air Jordan of VitaminWater.”
His second lesson—no concessions. Despite extensive promotions, 50 Cent rescheduled the release of his third album Curtis in order to maximize on both U.S. and international sales in 2007 and reaped 5 million copies sold worldwide in the face of the dwindling music industry. The shaky economy set up 2008 winter releases for financial failure and prompted Fifty to push his fourth solo project Before I Self Destruct to February 2009 and later September 29, 2009, promoting the LP with extensive radio play, single releases and download specials.
As for Fifty’s third lesson, you’ll have to buy the book—The 50th Law; A Robert Greene collaborative project and 48 Laws of Power spin-off in stores today and lofty addition to Fif’s bevy of endorsements and products. In the past two years, Jackson earned over $170 million (Jay-Z earned 30% less at $117 million) and has proved himself a savvy businessman despite what corporate considers a misleading thug-posturing music persona. He’s garnered money and power with his triumph of the entertainment industry and now that he’s risen to the top—is after our respect.
50: Like my net worth? I don’t even know. After taxes and everything we’ll figure it out. I mean as far as the companies I haven’t sold already you know what I mean? When you build, the object is to build the companies up to the point that you can actually sell em. [I] don’t want to underestimate or overestimate you know. If I overestimate then people gon say I was frontin’ and if I underestimate they say I’m just giving you a bullshit answer.
50: Oh absolutely. I mean I think that’s the big portion of what we do that artists miss. We’re in the music business. I think they just get stuck with music. And they never know the business when they trying [to] make the type of interest to have the type of popularity and celebrity that’s involved. The marketing that was done and being spent on an actual artist…I just think that applies to my personal interests. I’ll make a commitment to VitaminWater as opposed to an alcoholic beverage because it’s more, a more visible representation of my lifestyle. I’m really health conscious.
50: Well yea. On every level I feel pressure to succeed you know but not just from the label, from myself. You know when you got the entire art form down 30% of course I like to be the turning point for a positive. You know what I mean, where you actually start selling records again based on a new album. But if not there ain’t much to look forward to so I mean while you got people out there that’d like to see me do bad, they can [revel in] the bad, they can also forget about their chances of making a successful career for themselves and this art form.
50: I think the artists do but corporations, I mean ultimately the corporations do but artists they gotta turn their music in you know what I’m saying? The problem with Hip Hop right now is that no real artist control; there’s no creative control. They used to have, the A&R department used to be a lot stronger where they would help create a creative direction with the artist and now it’s like an artist will come in and if they got one good record they might get signed for that record…And do the single, I mean if the single works, ringtone will pay for your album. Now you give an artist in there a really good record…and it was a really good record you say okay well we got a single, all you gotta do is go in the studio mix and master the single, put the single out. If the single connects, the ringtone can earn enough to support them giving you a budget to create your album.
50: You know what it is. You got a lot of people that don’t actually from an artist perspective…because you see an artist, you create all type of envy and negative energy for other artists because I come from an artist standpoint but these artists don’t actually wanna learn the business.
What I dislike the most about the music business is rappers see everyone else who actually raps as their peer. Even if you work yourself into a different space in business and financially they still see you as their peer so they begin to envy your space instead of just build on their own energy because Hip Hop is so competitive that the artists utilize whoever is in a good scene as a target or their competition. You understand what I’m saying? You know and I deal with that constantly and I feel like this like about this particular art form and I don’t think R&B artists don’t well…they don’t respond the same way like they don’t say. Like I don’t see um Pink saying “fuck Ne-Yo” you know what I’m saying because his record is good you know and that’s what happens in Hip Hop space, so it’s different like that’s the only portion about the hip hop genre of music that you know ours is a little different.
50: Yes I do. Well it depends on where that artist is at financially or what kind of deal they actually do it in. If you wanna do it in an Administrative deal it’s somewhat you know like a lot they held on to all the publishing and didn’t have anybody involved with collecting all their publishing then they probably wouldn’t pay the money they were supposed to pay anyway.
50: I always had big ambitions. Big dreams you know what I’m saying. Well I always envision things. What I mean by that is before I used to think of something and just sit there and just be thinking of it. That’s dreaming. When you come up with something and you start figuring out how to execute it. That’s envisioning you know you’re actually attempting to execute it you know I take my idea and I roll with them.
50: Well I think everybody should, that’s in a position where they could actually do it. You know I come from the bottom so to be able to provide something that wasn’t provided to me to help someone else life experience or a small piece of it. I ain’t doing so much where I’m altering their life totally you know what I mean. To me the biggest donation is making a small dent in what needs to be done. You know so I guess… as far as all of the charitable things I’ve been involved in I didn’t want to create a non for profit organization I feel like that would be me running a whole ‘nother business. Because that is a business you know what I’m saying like there’s a lot involved in having a non for profit so what I did is I set up the G-Unity Foundation where I could actually take proceeds and my donation and donate to other existing charities.
50: I think the ones that can are. You know I think a lot of them…I think the perception of Hip Hop artists is a lot greater than they actually are and it’s because of what they see on television like rappers be superheroes within themselves you know they rap about the coolest stuff. It’s the lifestyle that they aspire to have. You know sometimes you gotta fake it until you make it. You know and that’s what they doing so there will be a lot more money around than there actually is and because they aspire to live life on the highest level they splurge early. So you see them with the nice cars when you see them in passing and big jewelry and everything else on and you think wow this guy is rich when he really doesn’t have a lot. He did what would be visible to make people get that impression but they don’t actually have it.
50: In ten for sure more in business. I’d be 44 years old. You know, not rapping. By 44, I will behind-the-scenes more.
50: Well I can’t predict the future but I’d say right now to answer that question I’d say I see myself in business at 42. I know people who have families and they conduct, at a different pace but they still have businesses so and right now I’m off and running. I’m going to do what I got to do to sell a record and do different things but… after then everything starts to mellow down a little bit.