As @Okayplayer celebrates the anniversary of 50 Cent’s Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ album, we got all the nitty gritty behind the G-Unit general’s classic opus.
In some ways New York hip-hop is still trying to climb out of the crater that was made when 50 Cent’s debut album dropped in 2003. Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ wasn’t just a mantra tattooed on his producer and partner Sha Money XL’s arm. It was a declaration of war on both a macro and micro level. When it came to peers like Ja Rule, the onslaught was personal and focused, but it was also Curtis Jackson’s wider assault on a music industry that had quite literally left him for dead.
You literally couldn’t make an album like it again. 50 Cent’s Lazarian tale of surviving nine shots and being dropped from his label, only fueled his legend in the streets who then devoured his every word and adlib. Then to have the most decorated producer in the game, Dr. Dre, and one of the most pure lyricists the world had seen, Eminem, both anoint him as their next star, you couldn’t script it any better if you tried. The anticipation for Get Rich’s release was so high that Interscope Records rushed it out five days before its scheduled Feb. 11 date.
It sold over 800K copies in its first week and has since been certified Diamond by the RIAA. But that’s all history. History that people know. What we want to get into is… the rich underbelly involving the secret history of Get Rich Or Die Tryin’.
In The Beginning…
Sha Money XL: I first met 50 when I was going to NYU. I was interning for Def Jam Records and Jam Master Jay took me in. I was mentored by him and he always had me around. [This was] at the office of Def Jam back in 160 Varick days. I want to say this was ‘97 or ‘98. Whenever he was signed to Jam Master Jay that’s when I met him. Because Jay was the one who introduced me to him. The connection was Jay was playing me new Lost Boyz, Onyx, Joe Sinister, Suga (Sweet T) and then playing me this one kid and I was like who is that? And he was like that’s this new kid Boo Boo, 50 Cent. JMJ’s studio was in Rosedale, Queens. He had a studio in a basement over there. He said 50 this is a young hungry producer and y’all should connect.
He was signed to Jay first. He had a 12-inch vinyl called “The Hit” with Jam Master Jay. He was the one that groomed 50 and showed him how to make hooks, when to stop rapping. Then he met The Trackmasters and Corey Rooney in the process and Corey Rooney took him to Trackmasters. Then they put him on this trial. They gave him like 18 days to prove his worth. His exact quote to me was that in these 18 days I’m here I’m gonna do two songs a day so by the time I leave I’m gonna have 36 records. He was gonna leave with 36 Trackmasters tracks. He took full advantage of the opportunity. And at that moment I produced the title track “Power Of The Dollar”. The week before he was supposed to shoot the video with Beyoncé [for “Thug Love”] he got shot. From that May to September he was in full rehabilitation. His mouth was wired shut and he was fucked up.
Darryl “Digga Branch,” producer of “Many Men”: He was in Pennsylvania healing up and he called me. He called my crib and we talked for like two hours and said I got a song I wrote to that track and whenever I get my deal I’mma use that joint. At the time I’m like “Yeah, whatever.” You thinking a rapper getting shot and you got no deal, you thinking it’s over. But then he got his [new] deal and within months out of nowhere he was on the mixtape circuit and doing records and then Sha Money was following up [with me]. He had his studio in Long Island and he’d tell me 50 gotta song to one of your beats, we keeping that. So I just watched it gradually grow. Then he started using some of my other beats like Cam’s “Losin Weight” on their mixtapes. Then I heard Eminem was interested and signed him. Then finally they was like “Who is your lawyer?” We about to get this popping, it’s on the album.
Sha Money XL: The first call I got was in September. He let me know they put Humpty Dumpty back together again. I told him I just bought a crib in Long Island. My first crib and I’m 24. I had my studio in the basement, I’m out the hood. I’m here for you bro, whatever you need. He came with the whole squad and then he stayed in my basement for like two years.
We didn’t start recording tracks until probably June, July of 2002. That’s when the deal was done. We immediately went to work with [Dr.] Dre and Em. There were a few tracks he had prior like “Many Men” and “Poor Lil Rich” already in his stash that he played them that got them excited. “Wattup Gangsta” was already done. “High All The Time” and “21 Questions”. “Wanksta” and “Your Life On” the line were already out.