50 Cent was a whirlwind of aggression that hip-hop was not ready for, and before the rapper (real name Curtis Jackson) had even released his first project, people were blown away by his talent. Born and raised in the South Jamaica neighbourhood of Queens, New York, Jackson brought an intimidating and coarse energy that kept rappers like Jay-Z indefinitely on their toes.
50 Cent had flooded the streets with mixtapes. He combatted Jay-Z’s mafioso rap style with sonically more aggressive and violent music. Hip-hop changed at the turn of the millennium, and the culture saw a massive divide. With its roots in Brooklyn, popularised by artists such as Biggie Smalls and Jay-Z, what was dubbed mafioso rap began rapidly taking off. With lyrics of opulence and the highlife, it was attractive to many. However, for others, it was unrelatable.
50 Cent, akin to artists like DMX and Cassidy, was far less focused on luxury and used his music to tell hair-raising tales of the criminal underworld and its bloody nature. This style took the underground by storm. By 1999, Jackson had become so prominent in New York that he ended up signing a deal with Columbia Records. Although 50 Cent had technically made it as a rapper after getting a record deal, the Queens musician remained stagnant when he was with Columbia. While working on his debut, Power Of The Dollar, Jackson and his project were quickly shelved in 2000. According to the rapper and multiple other sources, the label saw him as a liability after his fatal shooting.
Soon scouted by Eminem as a free agent, 50 Cent signed with Shady Records and Aftermath Entertainment in 2002 and quickly began working on his debut project, Get Rich Or Die Tryin’. Executively produced by Eminem and Dr Dre, Jackson’s first album was a chart-topping project. Debuting at number one on the Billboard 200, the body of work sold 12 million copies worldwide by the end of the year. The project’s lead single, ‘In Da Club’, was certified Gold by the RIAA.
Among the album’s most lauded tracks is ‘Many Men’. Produced by Digga, the song speaks about Jackson’s near-death shooting. For this 2003 hit, Digga sampled the 1977 R’n’B track ‘Out of the Picture’ by Tavares. Recorded in 2002, the song has an accompanying music video despite the fact it was not released as a single. ‘Many Men’ and other tracks on the body of work were written in a Long Island safe house, the home of producer Sha Money XL.
In an interview with Insider, the beatmaker explained, “I was 24, I just got my first big pay cheque and bought my first crib, and that was the same year 50 got shot,” Sha said. “I was telling him, ‘Bro, I got my own crib. I’m out the hood.’ I kept calling his grandmother’s house and kept telling him, ‘Call me.’ And then he came to my house every day, Monday through Friday, for like 1 ½ to two years.”
At Sha Money’s home, Jackson recorded ‘Wanksta’. He also wrote his hit ‘In Da Club’ there, plus ‘Many Men.’ You can watch the music video for the hit track in the video below.