I recently listened to my new favorite author Ryan Holiday’s audiobook The Obstacle is the Way, which includes a bonus interview with Tim Ferriss. In the interview Ryan talks about what it means to be a writer. He says many writers confuse being good technically with actually having something to say. That’s what most writers are missing. Ryan said he often determines what he has to say that’s original before he even starts writing. Great advice.
Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about 50 Cent recently. He’s been a role model of mine for over a decade, and with the release of his new album Animal Ambition came a slew of articles calling 50 a has-been. And that hurts, because I know he has so much to say.
And that’s when I made the connection: Ryan’s advice is really the key to making 50 Cent’s music better.
50 brings a unique and wise perspective to just about every topic he speaks on. But it rarely comes through in his music. When 50 started out he was original. He paired unabashed confidence with ambition and understated humor in a way no rapper had before. Even to a white suburbanite like me, who was listening to 50 in my 2001 Toyota Corolla, his violent lyricism was a metaphor for tackling my problems head-on. (This also happens to be the theme of Ryan’s new book).
We can probably all agree that 50’s music stopped being original. The Massacre was decent, and you can point to a few commercially successful songs in his post GRODT catalogue. But let’s face it: his music became a copy of a copy of a copy of his first album.
And here’s the conundrum: 50 Cent has continually gotten wiser over the years. Many of his interviews are pure gems. Take this week’s interview with Jenny Boom Boom. Jenny asks about his relationship with model Tatted Up Holly, and 50 responds that friendship is the strongest form of relationship. Think about that for a second: Here’s a rapper talking about his status with a woman named Tatted Up Holly, and he expounds on the value of friendship? What do you think Lil Wayne would have said in the same situation?
So thanks to Ryan’s sage advice, I’ve concluded that 50 Cent’s musical woes are pretty simple: He just stopped being himself. He has so much to say that’s of value. He started to be a little more original with his most recent album. He just needs to keep on that path, and he’ll make his core fans that grew up along with him very happy.