Between 2004 and 2007, there was a slight feud between Kanye West (now known as Ye) and 50 Cent. However, the feud wasn’t personal. It had more to do with the direction of hip hop than it had to do with egos. Furthermore, it was a battle for who was in the driving seat when it came to the culture.
During the early noughties, from the time that Kanye West dropped his first album, The College Dropout, hip hop was polarised as to who was the better artist between 50 Cent and Kanye West. Both were at the forefront of the culture, but the question was, who was that little bit better?
Some swore by 50 Cent and saw the Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ creator as an unstoppable force. However, others swore by Kanye and saw him as an unstoppable visionary. 50 Cent had a hardcore Gangsta rap edge to him, and his music was sonically more menacing than Kanye’s, and a lot of people liked his style.
However, Kanye’s chipmunk-soul trademark sound was slightly more light-hearted and soulful. Songs such as ‘We Don’t Care’ and ‘Slow Jamz’ from The College Dropout certainly don’t scream violence or menace to society, and with its teddy bear artwork contrasting 50 Cent’s bullet hole and shattered glass cover of Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, hip hop was seeing a schism emerge.
Both were extremely high-selling artists, and in 2007, there was a battle of the albums between Kanye West’s Graduation and 50 Cent’s Curtis, with both projects released on the same date.
To this day, fans of 50 Cent are often told that West ended Cent’s career by surpassing his album sales with a sound that, both sonically and aesthetically, completely contrasted 50 Cent’s brand. Graduation, with its pink and purple cute teddy bear artwork, its electronic production and overall feel of hedonism and futurism, was the opposite of Curtis.
Curtis boasted a black and white cover and featured songs such as ‘I Still Kill’ and ‘My Gun Go Off’. It most definitely did not give off hedonism. However, it still had hits, such as ‘Ayo Technology’ featuring Justin Timberlake, which debuted at number five. Curtis debuted at number two behind Graduation, and for many, marked the end of gangsta rap.
Graduation was groundbreaking, and it shifted the sonics of hip hop. Songs from Graduation, such as ‘Stronger’ and ‘Good Life’, performed extremely well commercially, and the project sold 957,000 copies in its first week, going on to be certified five times platinum by the RIAA. The album won a Grammy at the 2008 awards for ‘Best Rap Album’.
Kanye continued to incorporate more digital and electronic sounds into his music, and, slowly, hip hop began to embrace synthesis and sequencing, two things typically associated with electronic dance music. This is why there was a feud between Kanye West and 50 Cent, because (in the form of an album sales battle) they held an election as to who should determine the new direction of hip hop, and the people of America voted for Kanye West.
Watch Kanye and 50 Cent talk about the rivalry in a 2007 interview below.