Fifteen years ago, with the clear sound of a half-dollar coin dropping on a table, 50 Cent introduced himself to the world on the intro to his groundbreaking debut album Get Rich or Die Tryin’. After flooding the mixtape market and signing with Shady/Aftermath/Interscope, anticipation was at a fever pitch. The G-Unit General more than delivered with a genre-bending 16-song classic album.
It was a triumphant arrival for Curtis Jackson. Following nine gunshots, he arrived like a sculpted superhero with a poetic flare. He was down to have fun “In Da Club,” while at the same time aware that “Many Men” wished death ‘pon him. It was a mixture of tragedy and splendor, street wisdom, and gritty life lessons. It was also a goldmine, selling 12 million copies worldwide in its first year alone.
To celebrate the milestone, Rap-Up looks back at some of the lesser known facts about the album from the people who helped make it, and the folks who were around for one of the craziest releases in hip-hop history.
Here are 10 things you might not know about Get Rich or Die Tryin’.
1. LL Cool J Inspired ’21 Questions’
50 Cent might not have made one of his biggest hits were it not for James Todd Smith. “I really made that record because I was in a car and LL Cool J came on,” 50 said during a 2013 interview with MTV News. “The girl next to me as all into it; it was a soft record, but she was so into the record that I said, ‘I want to make something that makes [girls] respond like that to me.’”
2. Dr. Dre Didn’t Like ’21 Questions’
LL Cool J inspired the record, but Dr. Dre nearly nixed it. “Dre and them didn’t even want the record,” 50 said during the same interview. “They didn’t care for ’21 Questions.’ They didn’t understand why I wanted it. They were like, I know what this is. This is N.W.A. It’s just one member. Why do you want to do ’21 Questions?’ I said, ‘Damn, I done did all these push-ups.’”
3. Rakim Originally Had the Beats
Before 50 Cent even heard some of the beats on Get Rich or Die Tryin’, they belonged to Rakim. The God MC had been working with Dr. Dre on an album that was never released and reportedly recorded over several of those instrumentals, according to former Shady/Aftermath signee Stat Quo. “A lot of them 50 records was Rakim songs,” he told HipHopDX in 2014. “That first album? Rakim did songs on all those beats. All those shits was Rakim songs, them beats. 50 came in. Rakim’s problem was, he couldn’t do the hooks. The choruses was never strong…Dre is about songs. You can be a dope-ass rapper but them hooks.”
4. Gun Sound Effects Were From Real Guns
Sure, Get Rich or Die Tryin’ will be remembered for all of its cinematic effects, but the gun sounds weren’t fake, according to the G-Unit General himself. “We got the chance to do theatrics with the skits, but the actual gun clicks and stuff was real,” he told MTV News about “Heat,” a track that is still remembered today for its gun sounds. “We had them with us so, [we’d] just go in the booth and use it instead of going with a sound effect.”
5. He Recorded The Album In a Basement
It might seem like much of Get Rich was created in a fancy studio. After all, it was backed by Eminem, Dr. Dre, and Interscope. But instead, 50 opted for a more lowkey recording spot: Sha Money XL’s Long Island basement. “About a month after he got shot, I bought my own house. That was my very first house, and I was 24 years old,” Sha told HipHopDX. “We had both lived in Queens. I told him, ‘I’m out the hood, and I’m in Long Island now. I got a studio in my basement. Come fuck with me.’ He came there in 2001, and he stayed there until 2003 when Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ came out. He never spent the night, but he worked there everyday.”
6. ‘In Da Club’ Wouldn’t Be The Same Without DJ Quik
Dr. Dre is often credited as the lone producer on “In Da Club.” His trusted associate Mike Elizondo also gets credit, but people often forget about DJ Quik’s role in the smash hit. “They don’t even know why they like that song ‘In Da Club’ by 50 Cent,” the Compton legend once told Village Voice. “They just know that they’ve heard it more than any other song, and it never gets old somehow. Well, it’s because I helped Dr. Dre with the drums. I gave him those claps and that kick. He acknowledges that now. I used to say for years, ‘You guys don’t understand! I gave Dr. Dre those drum sounds!’ ‘Yeah, yeah, okay David.’ And now when I go into the studio with Dre, he’ll tell his people. And I’m like, Dre, that right there is worth more than any advance you could have ever paid me, any royalty or publishing. Acknowledgment like that from you? I’m good.”
7. 50’s Favorite Song Is ‘Many Men’
Sure, Get Rich has some insanely popular club bangers like “In the Club,” “P.I.M.P.,” and “If I Can’t.” It also features the radio friendly “21 Questions,” but it was “Many Men (Wish Death)” that became 50’s favorite. “I enjoy the record,” he told BET’s “Rap City” at the time. “I listen to the whole thing. I ain’t gonna front, but my favorite joint is ‘Many Men.’” In 2009, he told VIBE what made it special. “A lot of rappers don’t write about their fears or point out where they didn’t get the best of a situation,” he said. “So the first time I experimented with it was with songs like ‘Many Men.’ I’m telling folks that there is blood in my eyes and I can’t see. I’m hurt at that point. I’m vulnerable.”
8. His Favorite Song Almost Went to Nas
“Many Men” almost didn’t happen. Nas’ former A&R Lenny Nicholson said that the instrumental was originally meant for Esco. “50 [Cent’s] song ‘Many Men’ was a Nas track first—he actually vocalled it,” Nicholson told Mass Appeal. “He was developing another artist named Nashawn… He had to massively impress Nas. If Nas started something, he would add his vocal to it and see if Nas would be impressed enough to keep it. [Nas] didn’t finish that track… That was a track that he just fell out of love with…At that time 50 was looking for something just to stay busy and to keep writing. I gave it to 50, and it turned into ‘Many Men.’”
9. He Didn’t Want To Get Too Personal
50 might have been open to exploring vulnerability on the street-based “Many Men,” but there were topics he didn’t want to touch on the album, such as his son Marquise Jackson, who appeared in the “Wanksta” video. “I don’t think people are interested in hearing that from me at this point,” he told MTV News in 2004. “I’m more popular for trouble. I don’t think they want to hear my personal business right now.”
10. Suge Knight Interrupted the ‘In Da Club’ Video Shoot
Suge Knight’s beef with Dr. Dre has resulted in a myriad of controversies over the years. At one point, he even showed up to 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” video shoot in what could have deeply impacted the release of Get Rich, had it turned violent. “Suge Knight and his people came to the video shoot, trying to intimidate everybody,” D12’s Swifty McVay told “The Murder Master Music Show.” “We from Detroit, we ain’t in this mess, so we ain’t runnin’ to no trailer ’cause they ain’t trying to see or say nothing to us. But us being in the mix of things, it just felt crazy.” D12 might not have been running, but others were, according to 50 Cent. “He came and it was like, ‘Suge’s outside! Suge’s outside!’ Everybody was runnin’, droppin’ shit,” he told MTV News. “I’m in front of the camera like this [stands still]. Everybody was runnin’. They was just gone!”