Where it will end is anyone's guess. But for now, Jackson -- better-known as 50 Cent -- is the undisputed heavyweight champ of hip-hop, dominating The Billboard 200 chart for 17 weeks with his Shady/Aftermath/Interscope major-label debut, "Get Rich or Die Tryin."'
Like any artist who makes it big, he has a solid first act. But when it comes to turning a breakout into a career, it's the second act that really counts. As hot as he is right now, concern already is running through 50 Cent's camp.
For one, at least one writer is questioning his image. He claims that the crack-cocaine epidemic that spawned gangsta rap has long passed and that 50 Cent's whole scene is more than a little contrived.
"At its core, the hubbub around Get Rich and the return of gangsta rap is crack-era nostalgia taken to the extreme," Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote in last week's edition of New York's Village Voice.
Of course, 50 Cent has nine bullet wounds to prove otherwise, but according to Coates, his "handlers have played the angle magnificently.
"The attempts on his life come up repeatedly in interviews, and 50 is happy to provide embellishment," Coates wrote.
Others note that those buying the music are mostly suburban white kids, who fantasize about gangsta life as they would about the X-Men and other cartoon characters.
And at this stage of the game, 50 Cent's management team has another worry: oversaturation.
"There is always that fear that we are doing too much," says Chris Lighty, chief executive of Violator Management, which handles 50 Cent's career. "But in reality, we haven't done anything but allow him to display his artistry."
Rock-solid talent is certainly part of the equation, but how 50 Cent became the breakout music story of 2003 is also a case study in hype and hip-hop's renewed obsession with thug violence.
Good timing and savvy marketing also played a role -- not to mention a lot of luck. After all, his ticket to success was punched when he survived an assailant's wrath and those nine slugs.
Indeed, the incident marked a turning point in more ways than one. 50 Cent was shot in front of his grandmother's house in Queens in April 2000. While he was recovering, Columbia Records dropped him from the label.
After that, he began marketing his music on his own and other DJs' mix tapes (Billboard, Feb. 15). 50 Cent gained attention in the industry and among consumers, especially on the East Coast.
With an emerging fan base, a bidding war erupted. 50 Cent signed with Eminem (news - web sites)'s Shady imprint, which is aligned with Universal Music Group's Interscope label.
Interscope began its campaign with the release last summer of the single "Wanksta" from the 8 Mile soundtrack.
"I don't think anyone expected it to go this far, this quick," Shady Records chief executive Paul Rosenberg says.
"'Wanksta' was a runaway hit. It happened really organically. Once it started to happen, we got behind it and put the official push on it," he says. "The market was so thirsty for a new guy like him that any one of his great mix-tape songs would have blown up for him as his first record."
By the beginning of 2003, Interscope followed "Wanksta" with "In Da Club," the first single from Get Rich or Die Tryin'.
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