50 Cent, 'Get Rich Or Die Tryin'' at 10: Classic Track-By-Track Review

Sacha Waldman/Universal

50 Cent


Ten years ago today, the hip-hop landscape shifted. 50 Cent, a young upstart from Queens, New York, put the rap game in a chokehold with the release of his debut studio album "Get Rich or Die Tryin'." The album was an audio snapshot of a hustler balancing machismo with romance and vengeance with ego. On "Get Rich or Die Tryin'," 50 pocked gritty street tales with stitched hooks that thawed the iciest of haters, mainstreaming a style popularized by his foe Ja Rule and appropriated to boost his own ascent.

The album, released on February 6, 2003, debuted atop the Billboard 200 with a staggering 872,000 copies sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and held court at No. 1 for six weeks. It also presided over the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart for eight weeks, and has since moved 8,172,000 copies to become the fourth best-selling hip-hop album in the United States.

Upon release, "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" laid a new blueprint for hip-hop releases. Whereas few artists ventured outside of the major label system to build buzz, the rapper overcame getting dropped by Columbia Records and recovering from nine gunshot wounds to architect a career in the streets. The rapper took a mixtape model -- DJs curating compilations that were bootlegged on corners -- and bent it to his advantage, using instrumentals from popular songs to create classic releases like "50 Cent is the Future" and "No Mercy, No Fear" with his G-Unit crew. The mixtape-as-marketing-tool earned him a record deal with two artists with heavy co-signs: Eminem and Dr. Dre.

A decade later, 50 parlayed word-of-mouth buzz and his hit single "In Da Club" into a titanium career marked with platinum albums, multi-million dollar deals, best-selling books and numerous chart hits. He not only rewrote the hip-hop rulebook, but also showed that risking it all for glory can have a ripple effect.