The Fall Of Curtis: How September 11, 2007 Changed Everything For 50 Cent
Let me indulge in a little bit of Jay-Z/Kanye fan fiction in the least 50 Shades of Grey way possible:
Def Jam President and retired rapper Jay-Z was fed up.
50 Cent had been sending subliminal barbs Jay's way for eight years, starting with a shot Mr. Carter's way on "How To Rob" when they were both climbing their respective hip-hop ladders. In 2007, with both at the peak of their careers, Fiddy was back at it, baiting Jay-Z with braggadocio lyrics and interviews about his then-fiancé, his money, and how he'd sold out.
Jay didn't know what to do, although he was well aware that a nasty feud with the Queens-born MC in the middle of his own corporate ascension would be PR suicide.
Enter Kanye West, who had been working on the follow-up to his mega-successful Late Registration and who was looking at a fourth-quarter release date.
"What if I dropped my album on the same day at 50 Cent's?" Kanye asked. "Yeah, I'll put my album out on the same day as 50's, start a sales battle."
A solution! And one that would take Jay out of the fray. After oodles of hoopla, September 11, 2007, rolled around, and Graduation and Curtis both hit shelves. A week later, the dust cleared, and 50 Cent was defeatedwithout Jay having to lift a finger.
While it's unclear how Kanye (and Jay) came to the decision to release Graduation exactly five years ago today, it's pretty easy to speculate that 50 and Jay's cold war was a prime motivator behind the biggest rap marketing circus this side of pretending Detox will ever come out.
In the run-up to September 11, 2007, Kanye and 50 Cent went on a media blitz challenging each other to see who would sell the most records. In August, 50 swore he'd retire if he couldn't sell more records than Kanye West during their albums' first week of release, although he later told the Voice he was sick of being asked about Kanye. Perhaps he felt the storm clouds brewing, because when the figures came in, Kanye's album had sold 957,000 copies while Curtis's Curtis sold a respectable-yet-runner-up 691,000.
While it's clear that Graduation was a far superior album, quality hasn't traditionally had much of a determining factor in hip-hop first-week sales. The fact was, Justin Timberlake cameos aside, people were already getting tired of 50's act. The G-Unit head hocho burst on the scene as a man hungry for feuds and negativity: He single-handedly took down Ja Rule for his sing-songy pop act, sold more albums than humanly possible, and was on top of the world. But 50's "beef" gimmick jumped the shark right around 2004, when he started feuds with Fat Joe and Jadakiss because they made songs with Ja Rule, and got into a a feud with Nas because... well, it's still unclear.
50's knack for confrontation and negativity wore thin on fans by the time 2007 rolled around. It didn't help that his albums were declining in quality with each passing year, either. So when the news broke that Kanye had crushed him in their duel, his reaction was cringeworthy: He took to radio stations to plead his case that he'd actually won because of international record sales. He stopped short of bringing pie charts and moneyball statistics to justify his embarrassment, but since then, the musical juggernaut known as 50 Cent ceased to exist, his career turning into one calamity after another.