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Since making his mainstream debut in 2003 with Get Rich or Die Tryin’, 50 Cent (also known as Curtis Jackson) has consistently maintained the aggressive, rebellious persona that made him a hip-hop antihero – even if he’s diversified into acting, corporate sponsorship and even philanthropy. But when asked how he feels about the prospect of someone like Snoop Dogg changing his name to Snoop Lion, he tells The Hollywood Reporter that it makes sense, especially since the culture is primed for the rapper’s transformation into a marijuana-championing Rastafarian.
“It’s interesting,” 50 told THR in an interview for his upcoming film Freelancers. “Of course, there will be some people who connect to it and there will be some people that run from it – I don’t know how his little league team’s parents will feel about his new persona. But again, it’s a persona – these are the choices he’s created for himself creatively. And, you know, I think it will work.”
50 observes that not just Snoop but hip-hop itself has a long history of celebrating weed culture. “Snoop’s always been that,” he says. “In the very beginning, that was his consistent theme – he had the weed, and everything else was there. [But] for hip-hop culture, it will work, because there’s enough of that going on; Wiz Khalifa, his entire theme is that. I’ve consistently seen artists sell 500,000 copies with that as a theme: Redman, Method Man, Styles P.
“And then I saw someone sell a million records when Afroman spoke to the younger college demographic – ‘I was going to do my homework, but then I got high,'” he recalls, referring to the rapper’s 2001 hit single “Because I Got High.” “It just changed it up – it just felt like there was a humor to the way he chose to write it and it had a stronger impression and effect, because the kids liked to laugh at it.”
In 2010, 50 announced that his forthcoming album Black Magic would mark a musical change in direction as he explored the “Eurodance” sound that has since become enormously popular thanks to artists like Usher and Rihanna. He has since shelved that music and gone back to the grittier sound that was a hallmark of his earlier work. He admits that venturing into unexplored territory — and testing an audience’s loyalty in doing so – is something that’s easier said than done once you’ve successfully built a career branding yourself in a certain way.
“It doesn’t make sense – and that’s why you’re never going to hear that album,” he says of Black Magic. “I have things that I really appreciate that belong in my iPod — my iPod only — and leave it there.”
That said, he admits he’s less afraid to announce those sorts of changes than actually implement them. “I have ideas and I’ll be vocal, because I’m in a position where I’m consistently put in platforms and positions where the public will have access to my idea. So I say it, and I don’t care. But to actually do it is a different thing, when you gauge at how people respond to you doing things that they didn’t actually want.”
Nevertheless, 50 says that he feels like he tapped into something universal with his first album that he continues to explore, even if the end result is not always satisfying.
“On my first album, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, the aggression translated the strongest,” he observes. “Or what we’re all attracted to a lot of times in the bad guy is the rebel. We like that – someone who has it always. It’s the reason why you love Johnny Depp in a story where he’s playing a bank robber, all of those guys have a thing that makes you feel like ‘I do it my way, and nobody tells me what to do.’
“That’s interesting to watch,” he says. “The outcome is never good, but it’s interesting to watch.”
Freelancers arrives on Blu-ray August 21.
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