The double release of 50 Cent‘s album “Curtis” and Kanye West‘s “Graduation” came to be known as a defining moment in music when they were released on the same day in 2007. There’s much to say about those two albums and more in the new book by 50 Cent, “Hustle Harder Hustle Smarter.”
50 Cent said that his musical reign in New York City at the time was a problem for Roc-A-Fella artist Jay-Z since Jay was considered by many to be the biggest rapper in the five boroughs.
When their albums came out, 50 Cent and West created a competition to see which would sell the most.
The showdown was marketed as a contest between gangsta rap and conscious hip-hop and older musical styles versus newer ones — since West was ushering in a sound considered avant-garde at the time. West came out on top, selling 957,000 copies of “Graduation” in its first six days, compared to “Curtis” that sold 691,000.
Jay-Z was the president of Def Jam back then, the label that housed West’s album. 50 claims that Jay used his competition with the Chicago rapper to diminish his stronghold on the music industry.
“I salute Jay for a sophisticated strategy,” wrote 50 in his book, according to HipHop-N-More. “There was nothing unethical or disloyal about it. A lot of people hesitate to make those moves. They’d rather stay connected with the same group of people, even if those people aren’t getting them any closer to success. Jay didn’t fall into that trap. Still hasn’t.”
At the time of the release of “Curtis,” 50 Cent was on Interscope Records, which was co-founded by Jimmy Iovine. The G-Unit rapper said Iovine was removed from his album face-off with West, much different from the approach taken by Jay-Z
“Jimmy Iovine might not have cared about beating Kanye, but Jay-Z, who was the head of Def Jam at the time, damn sure cared about beating me,” wrote 50. “Jay had been extremely uncomfortable with my run in NYC for years.
“So he did everything under the sun to make sure he could beat me through Kanye,” he added. “Jay took a lot of pride in Kanye’s victory. I think that’s one of the reasons he’s so disappointed in Kanye today.”
The sales battle between 50 and West moved to television when both men appeared on “106 & Park.” Jay-Z made a surprise appearance to back West, a move that seemed to bother 50 during the episode.
“He brought his big brother with him, and his big brother ain’t no competition for me,” said the “Power” star to the TV audience.
Jay-Z then made a statement about West being victorious over 50 after the numbers came out. One could say the statement shows that he was fully invested in the battle like 50 claimed in his book.
“This is a great day for Kanye West and Roc-A-Fella Records and a fantastic day for hip-hop and artistry,” said Jay-Z. “It’s a good sign that heartfelt, sincere and honest music can do these types of numbers.”