Yup, another 50 post
About ten years ago, Ted Turner gave an interview where he talked candidly about the effect of the Forbes 400, the magazine’s annual list of the richest Americans. In that interview, Turner said that the existence of this list exerted a sort of constant pressure on all the people who were jockeying for position on it, admitting that he himself had been nervous to give away too much money to charity when it might fuck up his placement. Google hasn’t been able to help me find any evidence of that interview today, but I read it in high school, and it bugged me out. None of the people on that Forbes list will ever have to do a day of work again. None of the grandchildren of the people on that list will ever have to do a day of work. Every single person on that list has more money than he knows what to do with. But if Turner was right, all of them were still stressed about how much money they might have, if only because some magazine might say they have a few billion less than some other guy. Last month, Forbes published a list of rap music’s top twenty earners over the past year, and even though the list is oddly fascinating in a sick sort of way (Yung Joc at #20? Really?), it’s easy to imagine a list like that having a similar effect on all the people involved. The money that rappers make is really just couch-cushion change to the people on the real Forbes 400, and it’s pretty common to hear rappers talking shit on each other about who has more money. Around the same time Forbes released that list, though, 50 Cent went and got the list’s three top earners together on one track, a remix of “I Get Money.” That remix finally hit the internet yesterday, and it’s weirdly exhilarating to hear these three guys talking about their money. 50, Jay-Z, and Diddy are all competing with each other, certainly, and Jay even manages to throw a couple of light barbs 50’s way on the track. But every one of these guys has accomplished amazing things, and every one of them, at least here, seems completely amped to talk about it. They’re all too happy to talk too much shit.
Part of the reason the “I Get Money” remix works so well is, of course, “I Get Money” itself. Lately, I haven’t been able to go more than a few hours without hearing the track; it’s become like a mental itch. The beat itself sounds like the opposite of how money-rap should sound. It’s not slow or expensive or indolent. That Audio Two sample ties it directly to a time when having money in rap meant being able to afford truck jewelry, and the blaring, discordant synths only serve to further ugly up that urgent skeletal drum-crack. On Curtis, the song is the only moment where 50 actually sounds happy to be rapping, giggling like a little kid about all his Vitamin Water money. It’s also the only place where 50’s reptilian swagger feels larger than 50 himself; the song resonates even if your bank account is bone-dry. The remix has this weird flattening effect where all the rappers involved suddenly sound a whole lot like each other, where there’s no significant qualitative difference between Diddy and Jay for four minutes and twenty-eight seconds. On his opening verse, 50’s flow sounds a little more stilted and stuttery than it did on the original; he’s clipped his phrasing and shortened his cadence, but he still sounds fired-up and irrepressible, like the world still belongs to him. Diddy manages to sneak in one line that rivals 50’s Vitamin Water gloating on the original: “Shootouts, coastal beefs, yeah Diddy did it / But my lawyer’s so good that Diddy got acquitted.” It didn’t really come through too often on Press Play, but lately Diddy seems a lot more amped to be rapping than he did in his No Way Out days, possibly because he has better-attuned ghostwriters these days. I love hearing him cackle gleefully even when I don’t have any idea what he’s talking about. (Like: he makes fun of someone for riding around Miami on mopeds, which actually sounds like a really fun thing to do.) And when Jay’s voice comes on after 50’s little singsong lead-in, it’s a legitimately thrilling moment, if only because these guys have been tossing veiled insults back and forth for so many years. And they don’t stop here: both of them make sure to sneak in competing claims about running New York. When Jay ends his verse with his version, “New York is still mine,” it doesn’t even matter that he tried to rhyme it with “Forbes dot com.” And it’s bizarrely heartening that neither of these guys is bragging about having more money than the other. Instead, they’re still going back and forth over that old King of New York stuff. They still care about rap.
In this Entertainment Weekly interview, Jay talks about how he stopped 50 from releasing the remix until the sales of the first-week 50/Kanye battle were in because he didn’t want it pushing 50 past Kanye. That’s a smart, Machiavellian move, but it may have actually worked out in 50’s favor. After he lost to Kanye, 50’s career looks like it’s teetering, and all the interview-tantrums 50’s thrown since last Tuesday aren’t helping anything. But, as Sean Fennessey writes, the remix actually makes for a timely reminder of why 50 seemed like such a world-conquering force in the first place. The numbers are in now, and 50 and Kanye both actually manged to sell more than even the most grandiose projections claimed. 50’s 691,000 might look paltry next to 957,000, but it’s still amazing that a rap album could sell even that much in this climate, and this remix feels a lot more like a victory-lap than an admission of defeat. This guy isn’t going anywhere, especially not as long as there’s still one name above his on that Forbes list.