50 Cent may have made his name on the streets of New York, but the 2007 album Curtis firmly established him as a full-blown mega-celebrity, an artist at the peak of his craft, and a charismatic figure atop which the rap industry could place its present and future. That wasn’t how people understood it at the time, however. Curtis was initially remembered as coming in second, sales-wise, behind Kanye West’s Graduation during its release week. When viewed with a longer lens, Curtis was, quite simply, one of the biggest releases of the 2000s.
Indeed, Curtis signaled to the world that 50 Cent was more than a rapper; he was an entertainer, a pop star, an MC that could handle a hook with ease and dexterity. Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and The Massacre mostly featured members of 50’s crew, G-Unit, but on Curtis, he brought in some of the biggest names in music. As Kanye relayed to his audience on “The Good Life”: “50 told me go ‘head switch my style up/ And if they hate then let ‘em hate and watch the money pile up.” It turns out that, with Curtis, 50 was following his own advice.
Led by singles like the Justin Timberlake and Timbaland-assisted “Ayo Technology” and “Straight to the Bank,” which features solo 50 showing some of the signature wit and one-liners that fans had come to know and love, the album had some big hitters batting in the middle of the lineup. But Curtis is the rare top-heavy album that also features enriching deep cuts. It helps when you can call Dr. Dre a collaborator, of course, but 50 brings his best to his track with Dre, “Come & Go.”
Curtis could have been a stumbling block for 50 Cent, that awkward moment when you try to leave the past behind, but the future isn’t calling quite yet. That is precisely what made 50 one of the most important and respected rappers of the 2000s, however. He had a song for everybody, and he didn’t have to change anything about his vision to accommodate his diverse array of fans. Even when he went ahead and switched his style up, he was still 100% 50.