The Ambition Archive – contextualizing the present hip hop culture by exploring the past.

The Ambition Archive #3 – The legacy of the album “Get rich or die tryin”

Welcome to our format #AmbitionArchive where we will contextualize the present hip hop culture by exploring the past.

This time we look at the legacy of 50 Cents opus “Get Rich Or Die Tryin” and the impact it had.

The beginning

6th of February 2003 – Twenty years ago today, 50 Cent’s release of his opus Get Rich Or Die Tryin left a crater in Hip Hop that can be felt to this day and ushered in a new era in New York rap. But let’s start from the beginning:

Curtis Jackson, 50 Cent’s real name, grew up with his grandmother in Jamaica, Queens and started dealing crack at an early age. But alongside dealing came fights, jail time, stabbings and also a certain reputation in Queens. In 1996, Jackson was discovered by Run DMC’s Jam Master Jay, who became his mentor until his untimely death. Later, Fifty got a deal with Columbia Records, where he was about to release his debut album “Power of the Dollar” in 2000, which attracted some attention in the New York rap scene.  

However, Fifty’s past caught up with him and in May 2000 he was shot nine (!) times in front of his grandmother’s house and miraculously survived the shooting, but was shortly after dropped from Columbia because of the incident. As a result, 50 Cent formed G-Unit, released some impressive mixtapes and his independent album “Guess who’s back”, which in turn attracted the attention of none other than Eminem and DrDre . This brought him a deal with Interscope Records to record another album – Get Rich Or Die Tryin. 

The impact

Fifty’s reputation on the streets of Queens, the cinematic assassination attempt of him, his unstoppable hustle, his monotone-aggressive flow coupled with witty and brutal lyrics and gritty East Coats beats, plus the support from the absolute heavyweights of the scene (Em and Dre) made the hype around the release of the album enormous. It was the perfect storm. 

The album became a landmark in rap history. It sold 872,000 copies in its first week and over 13 million units have been sold to date. It paved the way for rappers like Young Jeezy, Rick Ross or The Game, as it redefined the genre of gangsta rap and shaped the general perception of how a gangsta rapper had to be.