As 50 Cent prepared to make his comeback, the hip-hop mogul wanted to show a new side of himself.
"I wanted to make the record, particularly 'My Life,' vulnerable," the chart-topping MC born Curtis Jackson III says of his new single, which features Maroon 5's Adam Levine and an unhinged guest verse from longtime associate and label head Eminem. Premiered with a performance on NBC's "The Voice" (Nov. 26), "My Life" debuts at No. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 4 on Hot Digital Songs (140,000 sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan) and No. 6 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. The track will appear on 50's long-delayed fifth studio album, "Street King Immortal," due Feb. 26 on Shady/Aftermath/Interscope.
According to 50, the collaboration was years in the making. "Early in my career, I said something positive about Maroon 5 and Adam happened to hear it and never forgot it," he says. Other album guests include Ne-Yo, Trey Songz and Chris Brown, Dr. Dre, Hit-Boy and Frank Dukes are among the producers on the set.
"Street King Immortal" will cap a prolific run for 50 that began last December with The Big 10, a free mixtape released through the rapper's ThisIs50.com. In July came another digital-only set, "5 (Murder by Numbers)," a project necessitated by the repeated delays of an official Interscope release. "Street King Immortal" will be 50's first album since 2009's "Before I Self Destruct", which bowed at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and has sold 497,000 (according to SoundScan), and his last under his current Interscope deal. Still, after airing frustrations with the label on Twitter for months, 50 now says he's optimistic about sharing a future.
"All the success I've had has been with Interscope, so of course I'd stay where I'm comfortable," he says. "It took a little longer than we needed with business affairs at Interscope to get everything done," he continues, adding, in an apparent reference to John Janick's recent appointment as president/COO of Interscope Geffen as well as other changes at the label, "[the offices now have] new people I have to get acquainted with."
So far so good.
"I'm happy with the first record," 50 says, noting the strong performance of "My Life" on iTunes on its day of release. The track's video, featuring Levine and Eminem and drawing more than 8.5 million YouTube views in less than a week, has a key Chrysler product placement (see story, page 10), and also serves as an advertisement for 50's projects outside of music-an SMS hat nods to his headphone line, while a hug with boxer Andre Dirrell alludes to his work as a boxing promoter. Even the album title serves as product placement, referencing his energy drink, SK Energy.
On Nov. 30, it was announced that 50 would serve as executive producer on the in-development Starz drama "Power," but when asked about his other non-music endeavors, the rapper is quick to highlight his charitable activities: Street King, which provides a meal through the United Nations World Food Program for every energy drink purchased, and SMS Audio, which contributes a portion of headphone sales to Feeding America.
"[When] I was developing the market for [Street King], [there] was a lot of protesting going on -- Occupy Wall Street, L.A. and Chicago, all those different places -- so it was really visible how people felt major corporations didn't actually care about them," he says. "It felt like the right thing to do."
50 has also turned to making peace with his hip-hop history, marking the end of one beef by appearing onstage with past rival Fat Joe at the BET Hip-Hop Awards taping on Sept. 29. They shook hands during a tribute to Violator founder Chris Lighty, the influential hip-hop manager who died in August.
"Chris wanted that [beef] to go away for a long time because he had a relationship with Joe," says 50, who Lighty managed until his death. "Joe never did anything to me. I never actually physically did anything to Joe. It's really hip-hop -- this music and people being competitive -- and over time, you forget what the actual source of the situation is."