He was virile, ripped, menacing — and then, he wasn't. When snapshots surfaced recently of rapper 50 Cent in an emaciated state, the blogosphere recoiled in gasps and rumor. Never mind that they were from the set of Things Fall Apart, a movie about a football player battling cancer that required Fiddy to drop 50 pounds. People were freaking out anyway. And why not? Since the Queens kid born Curtis Jackson debuted in 2003 with multiplatinum album Get Rich or Die Tryin' (and ubiquitous single In da Club), he has been a chiseled, intimidating force. As the 34-year-old MC prepares to play Jannus Live in St. Petersburg on Wednesday, he dialed up Pop Life to talk about the current state of rap, his turbulent relationship with producer Dr. Dre and the snapshots that shocked the world.
Were you surprised by the massive, freak-out reaction to the weight-loss pictures?
Absolutely. Those photographs were taken with my cell phone in my trailer (on the set of Things Fall Apart). They were supposed to go to OK! magazine, but they showed up everywhere. . . .
I shot the first half of Things Fall Apart at 214 pounds, then I went on my U.K. tour, where I fasted for nine weeks. I went on a liquid diet. Every time I'd be ready to go eat, I'd work out, do some cardio. By the end of the fourth week, that got really hard. But this was a special movie for me. When I was growing up, I had a friend who died of cancer. And there are lines in the movie when I say exactly what he said. I did everything I could to make it feel like it did with my friend.
There's already Oscar buzz and the movie hasn't even come out yet. They're comparing you to De Niro!
I read a lot about what De Niro went through in Raging Bull. Tom Hanks losing the weight in Philadelphia. Christian Bale losing weight for The Machinist, which was so extreme, I felt like I had to go beyond that. One out of eight people in the world dies of cancer. Chances are, if it's not one of us on the phone, then someone we know will die of cancer.
You're gaining the weight back. Chowing on Cheetos and Big Macs?
(Laughs) I did at first! I didn't care if I looked a little chubby or not. You know, I don't mind flying commercial airplanes. I'll fly first class. I'll fly coach. It doesn't matter. But I looked in the mirror when I was 170 pounds and I said, Oh no! I've been flying private planes ever since! 'Cause I know what all those bloggers are saying. You know how they are. "Fifty is sick!" "Fifty has AIDS!"
You'll have the last laugh when you win that Oscar.
Wow, man, from your mouth to God's ears.
When you listen to rap today, is it discouraging? It's pretty lightweight out there.
Hip-hop is recyclable. We sample everything else to make the hits. So I think it will eventually go full circle and come back to reflecting personal experiences.
How are you getting along with Dr. Dre these days?
Dre is not the easiest person to stay in good graces with unless you live in the studio. That's where he spends all his time — all his time. He's been working on his new album for 10 years! Me? I need to get out there.
If you go
50 Cent, with special guest Lloyd Banks, will perform at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Jannus Live, 16 Second St. N, St. Petersburg. $42.50. (727) 565-0550.
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The Summer Camp Playlist
Remember the boy who cried for the entirety of summer camp, mainly because everyone was mean to him and he had to spend most of the time with his shirt off — even in arts and crafts for some reason — and Chet the Evil Counselor mocked him and said he had "boobies" and the poor kid's parents told him either to tough it out at Camp Weetamoo or work at the family snowball stand where you'd get stung by wasps living near the vat of egg custard?
That boy, my friends, was me.
Tomorrow my daughters start summer camp. They're ecstatic. Their mother says I'm not allowed to warn them about Chet the Evil Counselor and/or my residual issues from spending the Summer of 1980 topless. (Seriously, what was up with that? Why couldn't I wear a shirt while making a friendship bracelet? For shame, Weetamoo!)
My kids are bouncing off the walls with visions of swimming, scampering, giggling. They're so sweetly excited about camp it breaks my heart. It's all I can do to keep from telling them the horrific story of the infamous Camp Weetamoo Costume Contest. No one told me about it and I didn't have a costume but they made me compete anyway and Chet shouted "Boobies!" when I was onstage. And then everyone gathered around and jabbed me with sharp sticks. Okay, maybe that last part didn't happen. But it may as well have.
1 Are You Ready for the Summer?, the Camp North Star Kids Chorus
2 Topless, Breaking Benjamin
3 That Bug Bit Me, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones
4 Cruel Summer, Bananarama
5 Sunburn, Owl City
6 Watching the Wildlife, Frankie Goes to Hollywood
7 The Wild Frontier, Bruce Hornsby & the Range
8 Kumbaya, Joan Baez
9 Friday the 13th Main Theme, Harry Manfredini
10 Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter From Camp), Allan Sherman