DISCUSSED: Russell Simmons, The Sopranos, Kanye, Lil Wayne, Detroit, marriage, Hillary Clinton, and asparagus.
By Ben Westhoff
Recently, I met up with 50 at G-Unit Clothing headquarters on 23rd Street, which boasts a faux-library of gold-painted books and topless ebony mannequins. In the flesh, Curtis Jackson III repped his brand loyalties by wearing a white Yankees cap, white Reeboks, and having the office stocked with more Vitamin Water than one person could drink. He was shorter, but just as thick, as I’d imagined, and much, much nicer. Charming, in fact, and generous with his time. He answered thirty minutes of my questions–complete with compulsory Kanye, Fat Joe and Lil Wayne disses–and would probably have gone another thirty if I’d asked.
How would you describe the impact of “I Get Money”?
That record has impacted in a way that you can’t gauge. Hands down it’s the hottest record in the nightclub.
What’s your favorite song on Curtis?
“Man Down.” It’s censored, though. Even on the dirty version.
I think companies are sensitive to the nonsense that goes on in the media.
The Russell Simmons stuff?
Yeah, totally that. While that’s there, they want to avoid any possibilities of CDs being pulled off the shelves, with record sales the way they are.
Do you disagree with Simmons about self-censorship in rap?
I think he displayed to everyone that he aspires to pursue politics. I just think he was being politically correct. He said, “The rappers should censor themselves.” It’s the middle [ground].
Do you think he’s going to run for governor?
One of these days you’ll see him running. I’ma vote for him, too.
What’s the question you’re most sick of hearing right now?
It’s impossible for them not to ask me a competition question, with Kanye West. But I don’t see him as my competition. We’re so different as artists. He doesn’t have my sales history. I feel like his company’s done a great job of promoting him by putting him out on the same date. Because we’re from the same [genre] to some people we’re just the same, period.
And, you’re expected to do better, so. . .
If he even comes close to me, it’s going to look great [for him]. And they’ll probably do everything within their powers to make that happen for him.
Do you think he’s trying to appeal to white kids?
Absolutely. With the record that he’s releasing, it’s [clear] that he doesn’t care about the same audience. We’ll see who it actually matters to create for.
There’s not a lot of significance in my being successful–there’s a lot of successful people. The difference is my not having to compromise myself in any way. Not everything that comes out of my mouth is something you would hear from a role model. I’m inspiring to different classes of people out there, who have similar experiences. My CD reflects the harsh realities.
But it’s not your reality anymore.
Absolutely not. I’m in a whole ‘nother space, based on the finances from writing about it the first time. There are no real money references on Get Rich Or Die Trying, because I didn’t have any money at that point. Now, I’ll write “I Get Money” and “Straight to the Bank” because I’m in a new financial space.
What’s your favorite city, besides New York?
Detroit. The whole energy level–they embrace me immediately. I popped out in a few cities on the Screamfest tour. Virginia, Houston, St. Louis, Massachusetts, New York and Atlanta. Each one of those states was great, but for me, prior to that, during Get Rich Or Die Trying, Detroit was a big city for me. I don’t know if it’s my direct association and attachment to Eminem, but it showed me a lot of love.
Take me through a typical day in your life.
You know what’s crazy? I had a personal nutritionist and trainer come stay with me. I’d be up, about 7 o’clock, and I’d be working out. It allows you to have your thoughts fluent in your head. But I haven’t been using him [recently]. I was preparing myself for a film project, with myself and Nicholas Cage [The Dance, a film based on the life of prison boxing coach Billy Roth], but it’s actually further away than I anticipated. I got another project I’m working on now, for which it didn’t make sense for me to be [chiseled]. It’s called Righteous Kill, and it’s myself, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Donnie Wahlberg, John Leguizamo. I’ll be shooting in October. I don’t need to be as big for that film, so I kind of chilled out.
Do you have a cook at your house?
Yeah. They prepare the food specifically the way the nutritionist tells ’em. It’s a lot easier to be able to pay people to just help you with it. The money you pay them is a good motivation. You say, “I’m paying these people, I’m going to do everything they tell me, to get the best out of it.”
What do you eat for breakfast?
Egg whites. A lot of asparagus–it takes the water out of you. Later, I have three different supplements throughout the day. Protein shakes. So, I really eat six times.
What time do you come in from Connecticut?
By about 11 o’clock. I spend most of my time in the records office, unless it’s the buyer’s week, when everyone has to physically be here. But if I have to record something I’ll [sometimes] come here.
How many bottles of Vitamin Water do you drink every day?
It depends. I’ve been on water. That’s why you see so much SmartWater in here. And then I use Vitamin Water as a supplement to soda.
Do you think people want you to fall off?
I think they was giving me resistance with “Straight to the Bank” and “Amusement Park,” but with “I Get Money” and “Ayo Technology” they changed their mind, full circle. If you watch the computers, they were saying all kinds of stuff, but then, everyone [suddenly] changed their minds. I have so many more hit records to deliver.
What is “Ayo Technology” about?
It’s about not wanting the technology to bring it to you, but [rather] wanting her physically right in front of you. That applies to so many things. Like watching TV as opposed to seeing entertainers in the flesh. That’s why we tour internationally. They want to physically see this person there. But we made it a little sexier than that.
There’s a lot of guys so addicted to Internet porn they never meet a real girl.
That, and you got the guy out there who is, while not really addicted to pornography, just in a hotel on a business trip. Instead of being with someone outside his wife, he’s being with his hand. He’s got on-demand television playing, and he’s doing what he got to do!
If you got married, would you sign a prenup?
Absolutely. Even if she had more money than me I would. Because I see myself going so much further in the future. 53 percent of the people who get married, get divorced. Those are the facts. It makes sense.
You’ve been complaining about Interscope recently. Have you ever thought about doing what Fat Joe is doing and just going independent?
Nah, because they’re willing to pay me. See, Fat Joe’s in a space where no one wants him. [Laughs.] The majors don’t care for Fat Joe. He’s not generating any interest in the music he’s releasing, so that’s why he’s forced to go on his own to sell his records. I call Koch the graveyard. Because that’s when the majors no longer feel like you’re a safe investment.
But you probably didn’t tell KRS-One that.
But he’s a different case. Look how long he’s been around. Hip-hop music is so driven towards the youth, and that’s why we’re taking such a hit, based on technology. Because they’re not conditioned to go purchase the CD. They’re young, so they’re like, “How can I get it?” They’re anxious–they get it the best way they know how.
If I complained about my boss in public–
–It’s hard to replace me. [Laughs]
Is it part of your marketing strategy to complain about Interscope publicly, or a way to acquire a bargaining chip?
I’m not going to say that. [Winks and laughs.] They get nervous when I say that, though, because they know it’s not easy to replace me.
If you could meet one person, alive or dead, who would it be?
I would probably meet…Did you say alive or dead? That’s a great question. Hmmmm….alive or dead. Man, that’s a good question, because, dead, there’s so many people who have had significant lives. Alive? I guess, I still haven’t met Michael Jackson.
Do you ever worry that you’ll become as crazy as uber-superstars like Michael Jackson or Prince?
I don’t think I’ll go crazy. But, then again, crazy people don’t think they’re crazy. Prince, Michael Jackson, they think that’s the norm. Having spent that many years in that position. It’s difficult searching for normalcy in an abnormal situation.
I noticed that you have Sopranos DVDs in your office. What’s your favorite plot line on the show?
My favorite part was the last episode. I liked it because it was entertaining, and then they just shut it off, to keep you buying the next thing. So, you’ll go see the movie. I was like, “What’s going on? Something’s wrong with my TV.” And that’s great marketing, because I’ll definitely go see the next thing they got going because of that. People who were upset about the ending, will still remember what they liked about the actual show. It’s going to be tough for them to forget how angry they were at that point, and we can remember anger a lot better than we can remember joy. Painful moments in life, we remember a lot easier than playful.
Were there any particular characters you liked?
Vinny. [Vito Spatafore.] I was just, “Wow.”
You call people gay sometimes, like Lil Wayne and Baby…
It’s the competitive nature of hip hop. Hip hop doesn’t have anything against gay people. It’s just that some people associate being gay with being soft. See what I’m saying? [Pauses.] But, yeah, I think it’s odd for a man to kiss another man on his mouth, even though it isn’t his biological father. For the father/son relationship, I think that’s a bit much. If it was my son, I would kiss him on the cheek. He’s a grown man! [Laughs.] Does your father still kiss you on the mouth?
I don’t think he ever did. So, do you have any close friends who are gay?
No. Not that I know of. [Laughs.]
What if, like, a top-of-the-charts caliber rapper came out as gay. What do you think would happen to him?
It depends on what kind of music he was making. Kanye West could come out and people would be like “You didn’t notice how he dressed?” Not to disrespect Kanye – because Kanye says he’s not like that.
Do you have your own jet?
Nah. On this promo tour, I’ve been flying commercial. When I go somewhere I don’t want people in my face, I go private. [Getting your own] plane is a bit much. You’ve got to pay maintenance, pilot fees. If I bought a plane, I wouldn’t do nothing but fly on it. That would make better sense than buying a boat, though. A boat is like just putting your money in a hole in the water.
Anybody you’re romantically involved with right now?
No, I’m just chillin’. I’m single, man. I like my lifestyle. Nobody’s disappointed, nobody has no false hopes.
You once said something about how George Bush was gangsta. Do you still think that?
I don’t support him, but I think George Bush is concerned with maintaining order. That’s the way gangsters move. So, there are similarities. That’s why I said that initially. [Pauses.] Kanye says, “Bush don’t like black people.” [Laughs uproariously.] Whether that’s factual or not, I don’t think it matters much to make that statement. It doesn’t change what’s actually going on. I don’t bother to say things I know don’t affect anything.
Who do you like in ’08?
I support Hillary.
Why, ’cause he’s black? [Laughs.] Nah, I like Hillary. I like the fact that she didn’t leave Bill, under those circumstances. I like a lot about her. She’s been around, too. I think she was the [real] president when Bill was.