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50 Cent Talks Headphones, Speakers at CES

He brings up the celebrity endorsement thing before I do. “That aura of celebrity benefits you, gets you over the wall, but then you have to deliver.”

I’m here at CES to talk to 50 Cent, aka Curtis Jackson, about SMS Audio, his headphone and speaker company. I’m led into a small cubicle outfitted with comfortable couches. He’s intense, thoughtful and quiet through our interview, conducted in the midst of CES. About eight people on a Discovery Channel crew set up lights and serve as an audience for our chat while preparing to shoot a segment after I leave.

Studio Mastered Sound is a company that 50 founded in 2011 to make headphones and other audio products, something that others in the industry — such as producer Dr. Dre and rapper Ludacris — have done recently with some success.

“This is the second time I’ve been here actually showing product,” he says. “The first time was just with a 3D rendering.”

The line has expanded to several types of headphones, including Street by 50, which comes in wired and wireless flavors.

50 says his company acquired KonoAudio in order to get the right people to run the business. Brian Nohe, the founder of KonoAudio and now president of SMS, founded his company because he had a love of music. Such love, 50 says, is also behind the newly announced partnership with producer Timbaland.

It’s clear that 50 has a deep respect for the producer, who he worked with for a track on 2007′s Curtis. I ask him what he thinks Timbaland brings to the company.

“Look, there’s a team of audio technicians that work on the science, and then I choose between ‘these two,’ ” he says. “Then I can send those to him and ask his opinion.”

Which brings up an interesting question. If you’re a celebrity who is very aware of the power of your personal brand, and your ability to influence decisions and trends, how do you tell if someone is honestly agreeing with you? 50 says the most important thing that Timbaland brings to the company is trust. The producer is someone who has had at least an equal amount of success in the business, and who 50 has had a relationship with for years.

He speaks earnestly about giving the products an identity that separates them from the rest of the pack. There is audio science, and then there is personal taste. And that taste may not be for everyone, but it’s a distinct one, and he’s bringing people in who share it. 50 feels he can trust them to be honest about their opinion. Which seems like a good move.

It’s clear that he’s got a handle on his tech, as well. Especially photography and videography-related stuff…

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