50 Cent on the End of ‘Power,’ the Rise of Lil Nas X, and His Sexual ‘Fetish Areas’
The rapper/entrepreneur opens up about the sixth and final season of his hit Starz series, premiering Aug. 25, racism at the Grammys and Emmys, and much more.
“People may think I’m crazy…” offers 50 Cent, producer and star of the TV crime saga Power. “I said jokingly that it would go seven seasons in the very beginning, and I said that because I saw the success of The Sopranos and The Wire. When I work on things I’m passionate about, I think I can put that energy into the universe. It makes me feel like I’m tuned in to some shit that they’re not tuned in to.”
I’m seated across from the rapper/entrepreneur in a palatial hotel suite in Midtown Manhattan. In front of him is a plate stacked with small chocolate cakes shaped like guns, each one emblazoned with the Power logo—fitting for a man whose origin story (shot nine times, discovered by Eminem, 30+ million records sold) is the stuff of gangster-rap legend.
We’re here to discuss the sixth (and final) season of the Starz series, created by Courtney Kemp, which features 50 as Kanan Stark, a drug dealer and mentor of sorts to Ghost (Omari Hardwick), the show’s drug-running, nightclub-owning antihero. Power has become a “ratings powerhouse” for the cable network, with its viewership growing every single year. It’s even inspired two planned spin-offs, including Power Book II: Ghost, featuring Mary J. Blige, and Raising Kanan. They’re all part of 50’s overall development deal with Starz that “could prove to be worth as much as $150 million,” according to Variety.
So naturally, the man formerly known as Curtis Jackson is in a very good mood when we meet on this sunny New York day, riffing on everything from his $500,000 Trump snub to the rise—and coming out—of Lil Nas X.
So tell me about this Power spin-off, Power Book II: Ghost, starring Mary J. Blige.
It’s a monster. With the spin-off concept, instead of creating a whole new starting point, [we get] to continue from 36-48 hours following the aftermath of this season, and then you start to see new characters come on. The finale has enough excitement, and you’ll feel like it’s coming to a halt—but not every character’s dead, and not every character’s under circumstances where they wouldn’t actively be a part of the series anymore. So they’re part of the new regime that will be Book II.
Who does Mary J. play?
I’m not gonna spoil that now! But Mary’s comin’ back to New York and it’s a very gangster role for her. Having her come over to Power, it’s like, she’s the sweet spot. Courtney [Kemp] is adamant in having really strong female characters, and Mary is perfect for that.
What do you think has set Power apart from the pack as a series, and allowed it to succeed for so long in a very competitive cable-TV environment?
It’s the details in the flaws in the characters which allows people to become so invested. At its nucleus, the themes that run through Power are universal. All drug dealers who have achieved great financial success have made legitimate investments in order to spend the money that they have, so when he gets there, his dilemma is very real, and a lot of people know someone who’s gone through that issue. You know, in relationships, people escape who they are through someone new. Because when you meet someone, you offer the best version of yourself, so they don’t identify with your flaws due to this presentation until they’re around you and learn your habits. That happens all the time.
Men will do a lot for feelings. My grandfather went to work, came home, and gave my grandmother the check. I said, did you give her the whole check? And he was comfortable with those sacrifices in exchange for how she made him feel. And it’s ill because I never understood it—I never understood how he just gave her all the money—and he told me, look, I didn’t make the kind of money you made, and you couldn’t see it but when I gave her the money, it stopped her from looking at the things that I couldn’t give her.
I think I understand what you’re saying. Let’s talk about Power’s lack of Emmy nominations. You made some comments recently about how you think the lack of awards attention for the series has been racially motivated. Could you expand on that?
Listen, I would like to say it’s racially motivated—that would be the easiest way to approach it, because we don’t have an individual to point at and say, this person has a race issue. It’s a full organization with a history of what gets nominated and what doesn’t. But if you looked at it and said, what’s the logical reason why the show with the highest African-American and Latino audience is not even nominated to lose, you might come up with how it’s racial. For it to not get put on is crazy.
There’s also plenty of racism at the Grammys. I mean, it’s wild that you didn’t win Best New Artist, or that Kendrick lost it to Macklemore, or that Kanye or Jay-Z have never won Album of the Year.
I’m clear why I didn’t get it, Best New Artist. I sold 13 million records—the highest amount of records sold on a first rap album. Look at the aggressive tones in my music, and how it mirrored the environment I came out of. The fear is, if we give him these trophies, do our kids want to actually be 50 Cent? Hip-hop and youth culture loves things that are damaged. I was able to receive information and hold on to it enough to survive what was going on. My instincts couldn’t be taught in a class; I had to figure out what to do, or you might not make it.
Are we ever going to hear Street King Immortal? You’ve been working on that since, what, 2014?
[Laughs] You know, I just started re-approaching Street King. You know what happens to me? When I put the music down for a second… this time, I made the record and thought, there’s so much going on now, is this the right presentation? A lot of hip-hop is sounding the same these days.
Not Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.” That one sounds pretty different.
That one right there was a cool hybrid of country mixed into the rap. What it’s saying is, kids that are listening to hip-hop music are hearing that, hearing that, and know that style so well that he’s implementing it into a whole other format.
Lil Nas X came out recently, and I know you made some comments in support of gay marriage back in 2012.
I believe you also said, and I quote, “I’ve engaged in fetish areas a couple of times.”
[Laughs] I get the girls to do things with the girls! Hey, I’m trying to encourage these activities! You know, with Lil Nas X, interestingly enough, he gets to that No. 1 spot and it’s then that he says it. Very brave guy. When Frank [Ocean] came out, I had heard things before, and he made epic, timeless music. Kenny Greene was the lead singer of Intro, and he was one of the best vocal artists and one of my favorite R&B artists, and as I got into the music industry, people would tell me things like, yo, say that a little tougher! Say that tougher! So times are changing.
I know you ran into some well-publicized financial trouble not too long ago, and had to declare bankruptcy to reorganize your assets. How’s your financial situation now?
[Laughs] It’s good, man. Damn straight.
You have your big Starz development deal, but what’s the ultimate goal? Are you trying to build a media empire?
As far as film and television is concerned, there are endless opportunities. What Puffy did with Revolt, creating your own network, it’s a different responsibility. I have an overall development deal, and everything I’ve chosen to develop has been picked up, so it makes me feel like I have my finger on the pulse. And I’m not going anywhere.