Old 50, New Generation

“The rap game is all fucked up now, what are we gonna do now?
How we gonna eat man? 50 back around”

– 50 Cent (“Back Down“)

During the summer of 2010, I was given an opportunity of a lifetime; a chance to intern for 50 Cent and his record label, G-Unit Records. Although many who know me well know about my time at G-Unit, it’s an experience I rarely discuss in great detail, simply for two reasons. One, I would rather show you what I learned rather than tell you. Two, when 50 Cent talks, you listen and absorb. Confidentiality is also important. With that being said, 50 Cent’s headline making antics over the last two weeks do not surprise me. After all, all press is good press, right?

Me and 50 Cent (Summer 2010)

Me and 50 Cent (Summer 2010)

Despite being a commercially successful, worldwide superstar, from a music perspective 50 Cent is a new artist in 2014. The days of gorilla style marketing that fueled early 50 Cent and G-Unit records no longer exist, and rap feuds that 50 loves to engage in have taken to social media, leaving 50 Cent no choice but to reinvent himself as a dominate artist. This means constant promotion, a strong online presence, and one or two solid radio singles. Despite the rapid, uncertain change of the music industry and how listeners consume music, 50 Cent is always going to do things his way and continue to leave people talking. Recently, we have seen this with his shift to taking the independent route and leaving his recording home of over a decade, Interscope Records, a headline making first pitch at the New York Mets game, and reuniting with his G-Unit brothers Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo, and Young Buck at New York’s Hot97 Summer Jam concert on June 1st.

50 Cent, Young Buck, Tony Yayo & Lloyd Banks at Hot97's Summer Jam (6/1/14)

50 Cent, Young Buck, Tony Yayo & Lloyd Banks at Hot97’s Summer Jam (6/1/14)

Leading up to his fifth studio album in five years, Animal Ambition (released June 3rd), 50 Cent decided to release both songs and visuals weekly for a majority of the songs off the album. In the June 14th issue of Billboard Magazine he said, “When I hear a song on the radio for the very first time, if it’s an artist I like, I know I would go to YouTube to hear it again. I enhanced it and made it better by having the visual already connected to it. Gain the audience, then sustain the audience instead of spending every marketing dollar to keep the audience in place.” Although 50 offers a logical explanation, I personally believe that he crossed the fine line between accessibility and oversaturation, leaving me to purchase a physical copy (yes, I still buy physical copies of CDs) more as a collectors item rather than for the interest of putting in the CD and listening to it. Of course, music and media streaming has played a role in this as well.

“I been patiently waiting for a track to explode on
You can stunt if you want and your ass’ll get rolled on
If it feels like my flow’s been hot for so long
If you thinking I’mma fuckin’ fall off, you’re so wrong”

– 50 Cent (“Patiently Waiting“) 

Often times consumers say to their favorite artist, “we want to the old so-and-so back” or “we want this sound instead,” and that is what 50 Cent did – sort of. As a long time fan, and one with an obvious bias to all things 50 Cent, I question how long 50 Cent has been sitting on this music. In fact, most of the personnel on the album have stated that the music was made four-five years ago. Now this is not necessarily a bad thing considering 50’s grimy, hard-hitting street content is what fans have always gravitated to. I do however,  question if and how a new, younger, audience will relate to this content enough to buy in to 50 Cent the rapper like many of us did back in 2003.

50-cent-animal-ambition-cover

Overall, 50 Cent’s Animal Ambition had a poor rollout, which most likely will result in this being his lowest selling album to date. This is not to say 50 Cent and his staff did not put in enough time or energy, because I know they did, perhaps the release of the album could have been handled differently. The Trey Songz assisted, Dr. Dre produced single “Smoke” (a song originally made for Dre’s “Detox”) is a perfectly capable single for commercial radio, but has not gained enough traction to earn the “hit record” status. Other songs off the album including “Pilot” and “Twisted” would be great radio contenders as well, but with the reuniting of G-Unit and new music from the group on the horizon, this may be 50 Cent’s “throw away” project.

In the end, not everyone can withstand a career of longevity and success the way 50 Cent has been able to. With the reuniting of G-Unit, 50 and the gang not only have the task of recreating the energy that once filled the air of New York City and fans all over the world, but translating their hard-hitting grassroots approach to conform to 2014 standards. So far in the 10 days they have been together, they have already flooded the Internet with four freestyles and planning for a new album by November. How about G-Unity as the title?

G-G-G-G-Unit!

 

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21st Century Soul: An Interview with John Legend

John Legend Flyer

This past Friday (March 29), I had the opportunity to talk with 9-time Grammy Award winning singer John Legend. Along with Julia Klein of Slope Media Group, she and I traded off questions to Mr. Legend ranging from his college days at The University of Pennsylvania, philanthropic endeavors, his passion for music, and of course his new album Love In The Future, which is due out on June 25th. One of the things I hope you conclude from both reading this article and listening to the interview is that John Legend credits passion and luck to where he is today. As he mentioned to us, “You’ve gotta meet the right people, you’ve gotta have a roommate who’s Kanye’s cousin and that helps.”

John Legend Breezy

Going into this interview I wasn’t the biggest fan of John’s music, but I certainly have great respect for him and his talents. After about 15-minutes of speaking with him, followed by about an hour or so lecture and performance, I now know that John Legend truly enjoys sharing his voice to his audience through teaching. As a committed philanthropist, John Legend is on the board of Teach For America and the Harlem Village Academy. He also spends a lot of time trying to improve inner city schools and education reform. I guess we’re all just ‘ordinary people’…

The promotion for your new album Love In The Future is now underway. Last week you released two new tracks; the first being the Hit-Boy produced “The Beginning” and the official single “Who Do You Think We Are” featuring Rick Ross. What has the initial feedback been on these tracks?

It’s been great. Only time will tell with these things because a lot of it is determined as things get to radio and they kind of build an audience from week to week so we’ll see how it goes, but so far I’ve almost seen nothing but positive feedback and so I feel good about it. I feel very proud of the songs themselves, I feel very proud of the album and I think it’s going to be my best album yet so I’m excited.

Personally, I think “Who Do You Think We Are” is an incredible track. The passion and soul you incorporate with the Jean Knight sample is really something everyone could enjoy. On top of that, Rick Ross’ vocals glide right over the beat. Obviously the chemistry between you guys is undeniable from “Magnificent” to “Sweet Life”, “Rich Forever” and Meek Mill’s “Maybach Curtains.” With that being said, can you explain your relationship with Rick Ross and when are we getting a collaboration album! 

Well, Rick and I aren’t close friends who call each other up and hang out, it’s more of a professional relationship, but it’s one of mutual respect for each other as artists and the recognition that we really do sound good together. So we’ve done a lot of those tracks and we have similar musical sensibilities, I think. When it comes to bringing hip-hop and soul together, our voices just work really well together. And, it is often been kind of discussed the idea that we could do something together as a full album and I think that it is still possible.

Love in the Future, new album is coming out June 25th, and the title has a few meanings. Of course you’re getting married so congratulations on that, and on top of that you said it’s about the style of music that’s on the album which you called a 21st century soul album. So what is the meaning behind a 21st century soul album and what can we look for?

Well you know, when I went into this project the main thing I talked about with my collaborators was, everyone knows I do kind of a vintage soul sound, everyone compares me to singers that came like 40 years ago. How do we keep that but still move the music forward? That was really the mission musically and creatively, thinking about how to make a really beautiful modern soul album that was the goal.

In regards to your 2008 album Evolver, you’ve mentioned that during that time period Kanye wasn’t really around to be fully invested in your project…

Kanye’s been more involved in this album then any of my other albums.

Kanye/John

Does it feel like the Get Lifted era again?

I think there are some elements of that, but he’s actually more creatively involved in this album then Get Lifted. Once again, he was involved in those albums, but this time less as a beat maker and more of a creative advisor or executive producer.

I wanted to take a moment and reflect on your career, specifically as a member of G.O.O.D. Music. When you see everything from Consequence acting crazy on VH1’s Love and Hip Hop to G.O.O.D. Music affiliate Travi$ Scott on this years XXL Freshman cover to Big Sean & 2 Chainz becoming hip-hop superstars, what are you thoughts on the evolution of G.O.O.D. Music and where it is now? 

GOOD Music

Well, I think Kanye has great taste and he is a great executive producer and a great creative mind, and so he’s been good at signing some really talented people. Some of those people are more unofficial G.O.O.D. Music members, like 2 Chainz, but either way, Kanye knows talent and he knows people that have something special and he’s able to help them become even better than they were without him. I think those two things; the ability to help them get better and ability to find them in the first place, are two things that make a great label executive.

Signed "Cruel Summer" CD

Signed “Cruel Summer” CD

What’s next for you in preparation for the album?

We have a video for “Who Do You Think We Are” that we shot last week, and that will be coming out in April. The video is awesome. Then we’ll put out another single right before the album comes out and we’ll keep on moving. We’ll be touring in Europe over the summer doing festivals, then we’ll come back to the States and do a U.S. tour in the fall/winter and I’m excited to roll this out.    

Update: John Legends album “Love in the Future” will now be released on September 3rd, 2013

Trouble Man: An Interview With T.I.

Below, is the transcribed version of my interview with T.I., which I conducted on my radio show on 92 WICB.

20121024-ti-picture-x600-1351091224 I feel like I know you; Not only have I grown up listening to your music, but you’re show on VH1 ‘T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle’ is now on it’s 15th episode of the 2nd season. How has the show benefited your family?

Well, I think it has allowed us to do something together. You know, some families it’s football, other families may own a restaurant, but this is our thing and it allows us to have stuff to do. We all own and appreciate it, because everyone contributes.

Who has more fans, you or your son Major? MajorMajor might have me.

All your kids are characters; on the next episode King starts his own pajama line.

Right on, he thinks he’s Hugh Hefner.

On December 18th, you’re releasing your eighth album Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head; what’s the concept of the album and what can fans expect from it?

Interviewed T.I.

Well, Trouble Man is just me accepting the fact that trouble has been a huge part of my life, for a majority of the time I have been on this Earth and accepting that fact, and the music that I’m making now is inspired by that. This is a project I’m extremely proud of; I put a lot of myself into it. It’s upper echelon and something I think the fans will enjoy on December 18th.

The way you’ve described some of the records on the album such as “Can You Learn” featuring R. Kelly, “Guns & Roses” featuring Pink, and “Sorry” featuring Andre 3000, it seems like this album was both a learning and growing experience for you, given the trials and tribulations you’ve experienced. With that being said, what lessons have you learned through the recording process?

t.i.sorry_

I won’t say that the recording process was the learning experience; I would say the circumstances I endured were the learning experiences. I think the album is a platform for me to project and apply the things I’ve learned throughout the years. One of the things I’ve learned is that the things we worry about on a daily basis aren’t really that serious. When you are taken away from everything you love [friends, family], it just seems like the daily stuff is taken for granted.

In a recent interview, you mentioned that you’re expectation for Trouble Man is to make this album as significant to the culture and the time period right now. How you do view the current state of the hip-hop culture and how will your album relate to it? 

I think it’s going to be separate and apart from it [the culture]; it’s going to stand-alone. There isn’t much out there to compare it to; it’s a cohesive body of work. The Kendrick Lamar album, I think it can live up to that standard. It’s not just a collection of songs thrown together; it’s a cohesive body of work that I think can and should be judged on a different standard.

Maybe the closest thing to being current are the guest features your have – Meek Mill & A$AP Rocky, both who are fairly new to the game. Of course, Meek Mill being one of your mentees, and A$AP, who has really dominated over the last year and a half or so.   

I have a lot of respect for the cats out there who are putting in work. Don’t get me wrong, I salute the A$AP Rocky’s, Meek Mill’s, and Kendrick Lamar’s of the world, or even the Big K.R.I.T.’s., you know what I’m saying?

Following Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head, you plan on releasing its sequel, Trouble Man: He Who Wears The Crown; besides the fact that you recorded over 120 songs for this project and need to release them, is the purpose of the subtitle to reiterate to the fans that after all these years and a few ups and downs, you still remain the King of The South?

Well, I mean I think that I remain a king, period; a jurisdiction. I’m a ruler of whatever ground I’m standing on. It’s not necessarily me waving a flag or making a statement that hasn’t already been made before. I think that it’s really just saying that I accept the responsibility. All the things I have, and the opportunities I have been given, it’s up to me to hold myself to a higher standard of performance and speak for those who can’t speak for themselves.

Besides your work on Trouble Man, and its sequel, what’s going with the Hustle Gang? Can we expect a compilation album in the near future?

Hustle Gang - T.I., B.o.B., Trae Tha Truth, Iggy Azalea & Chip

Hustle Gang – T.I., B.o.B., Trae Tha Truth, Iggy Azalea & Chip

Yeah, absolutely. I think that once we get into the top of the year, it’s going to be time to start putting that project together.

Any final comments? 

@TIP on Twitter, @TroubleMan31 on Instagram, GrandHustleGang.com for all your t-shirts and sweatshirts, and make sure you get the album on the 18th; it will be in stores.

I hope you all enjoy the interview. T.I. – T.I.’s eight studio album, Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head will be available in stores and online on December 18th. To listen to the audio version of the interview, click here