Can 50 Cent Do It Again?

Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

Fans have been counting the days until the March 8 release of "The Massacre," 50 Cent's highly anticipated Shady/Aftermath/Interscope sophomore album. They'll have to count a little less with this week's announcement that set will be released five days earlier on March 3 in response to recent bootlegging.

No matter when the album arrives, industry observers will learn the answer to the latest question du jour: Can 50 Cent and Interscope repeat their chart-topping history?

Two years ago 50 Cent triggered a seismic surge in R&B/hip-hop popularity with "Get Rich or Die Tryin'." His first album not only entered at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 but also notched the largest opening week for a major-label debut (872,000 units).

The album spent six weeks at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 and eight weeks atop the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Among its singles were the mega-hits "In Da Club" and "21 Questions."

To date, "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" has sold 7.1 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Those are formidable numbers for anyone to wrap his head around, even 50 Cent. Despite his tough guy persona, the rapper admits he felt the attendant pressure to produce a worthy follow-up.

"I can usually create a direction without the music and just start making songs," he recalls of going back into the studio. "This time I had no idea."

Closing himself in the studio for three days of non-stop recording yielded 11 songs —- and a return to form.

"It only takes me 25-30 minutes to do a record when I'm in a zone," says the artist born Curtis Jackson. "After doing seven or eight songs I was confident in, I found myself back in a comfort zone. Once the pressure was off, I started having fun."

50 Cent says the difference between "Get Rich" and "The Massacre" boils down to one song in particular: "Baltimore Love Thing." Addressing heroin addiction, 50 Cent gives the drug human characteristics in the song to portray the love/hate relationship an addict has with the drug.

"I wanted songs that represented growth from the last album to this one," 50 Cent says. "On 'Get Rich or Die Tryin',' I would have written that song like I was selling heroin. But on 'The Massacre,' I'm dealing with deeper issues. The way I choose to express myself is new. I picked up the pieces I missed on the first album."

Among those pieces is the Dr. Dre-produced first single "Candy Shop." The midtempo erotic concoction picks up where 50 Cent's suggestive "Magic Stick" with Lil' Kim left off. But this time there's a new duet partner, freshman G-Unit clique member Olivia.

"'Candy Shop' is sexy without overdoing it, without being obscene or disrespectful," 50 Cent says. "BET did chop me to pieces though on the video," he adds.

Another song, "Piggy Bank," discourses on the rapper's ongoing beefs with several rivals, most notably Ja Rule. "Hip-hop is competitive," he says. "Everyone wants to go after you. I was subjected to a lot of things said about me after the success of my first album.

"Generally, people love trouble; they will sink their teeth into these kinds of tracks. If I don't address it, it may encourage [rivals] to be more disrespectful."

In addition to Dr. Dre, "The Massacre" features production by Scott Storch and Hi-Tek, among others. Guest artists include Jamie Foxx.

It also helped build anticipation for "The Massacre" as did his guest stints on labelmate the Game's "How We Do" and his latest single "Hate It or Love It."

A run of 250,000 limited edition packages will come in a Digipak with a CD key that unlocks special content, including one bonus track, a trailer for upcoming 50 Cent videogame "Bulletproof," game-themed wallpaper and uncensored photos.

The limited edition also offers a chance to win the Ultimate G-Unit Soldier contest. Ten of the sets will contain a winner's confirmation. The 10 lucky consumers will receive G-Unit clothing and footwear as well as a G-Unit dog tag designed by Jacob the Jeweler. They will also receive the rapper's grape-flavored vitamin drink, Formula 50, and an autographed picture.

The rapper, who will tour with Eminem this summer, is also branching out into acting with a role in the film "Hustler's Ambition." It begins shooting in New York in April before moving to Toronto for 21/2 months. There's also a just-launched women's clothing line and the forthcoming videogame.

Still, 50 Cent says, "the only thing better than [these projects] is music." He says G-Unit is back recording a new album, while member Tony Yayo's solo outing is due in the second quarter. Another project under his purview as head of the G-Unit label is singer Olivia. The former J Records artist is slated to make her debut as the first female member of the G-Unit family in May.

"I understand exactly what she went through; they didn't know what to do with her," 50 Cent says, alluding to his own pre-Interscope stint at Columbia. "For me, it's a big opportunity to be diverse, to do something so different from the aggressive music we do."




Excerpted from the Feb. 12, 2005, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to Billboard.com subscribers.

For information about ordering a copy of the issue, click here.