Ludacris & 50 Cent: Unintentional Tycoons
Two 2000s rap A-Listers keep on keepin’ on in the fifteen years since their musical peak.
Their secret? Diversification.
50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’ turns 15 on February 6th, and Ludacris’s Chicken-n-Beer just hit that same birthday in January. It was 50’s first label release, and Luda’s first #1, and rocketed the two of them into entertainment’s A-List.
And despite neither of them having dropped a strong album in a decade, they’ve managed to stay relevant.
From feuds with Bill O’Reilly to Oscar-nominated movie appearances to stumbling onto millions on longshot investments, their unexpected, parallel resilience over the past fifteen years lays the groundwork for sustainability in the rap game.
Both albums have aged well — the deeper cuts off C-n-B arguably contain some of Atlanta’s trap DNA, and some of the city’s undisputed anthems. Give ‘We Got’ or ‘P-Poppin’ a listen — obviously the 808 snares and rolls aren’t quite at a Migos-level yet, but there’s a grimy, glistening edge that remains salient today. ‘We Got’ even features a younger 2 Chainz, a trap icon, though repping the name Tity Boy at the time.
Luda bridged the gargantuan gap between southern swang and the extravagant stylings of Busta or Wu Tang, a lyrical, bombastic delivery that became sought after. He was featured on Kanye’s debut, finale’d Usher’s megahit “Yeah,” played a foil for Missy Elliott on “Gossip Folks,” murdered Young Buck’s “Stomp.” This swaggering Southern bombast is something you can spot in Gucci Mane’s enunciation, or even in the playful boasts of a Yachty. The wide-mouthed, gymnastic pronunciations of Luda’s early 2000s explosion lay track for some of today’s more colorful characters emerging from the city.
Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ was the pinnacle of early 2000s gangsta-glam. Reflections on the album’s impact on its ten-year b-day underscore its lasting appeal — a charming, snarling, bodybuilt New Yorker simmering over Dr. Dre production became rap’s kingpin, ethering rivals, buttery smooth. Dre, Em, and Nate Dogg give heft, while 50’s G-Unit compatriots ripped like unleashed pitbulls.
But let’s be honest — their musical prime was short-lived. Luda’s following album, The Red Light District, was his last strong effort, and 50’s sophomore release, The Massacre, was a B+ before a string of underwhelming projects. Their best appearances since ’07 have come in features — 50 on YG’s “I Wanna Benz” and Keef’s “Hate Being Sober,” Luda on Ciara’s “Ride” and Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win.”
And while 50 has had his issues (namely needing to file for bankruptcy after he lost a $7 million civil suit and a business break-up), neither he nor Luda have fallen out of the public consciousness.
The secret to their longevity? Diversification.
Here’s a quick breakdown of their non-rap assets, accolades, and headlines over the last 15 years:
- Nabbing and nailing a role in 2 Fast, 2 Furious, leading to a recurring role in the seeming never-ending Fast and Furious series
- Starring in two Oscar-winning films, Crash (2004) and Hustle and Flow(2005), plus a cut of the rebroadcast residuals on all the above and a diverse assortment of cable-ready movies (No Strings Attached, anyone?)
- Getting those Puma and Boost Mobile endorsement bags for years
- A long, hard-fought feud with (scumbag) Bill O’Reilly
- Bringing it full circle — opening a (4.5 Yelp star rated) Chicken and Beer restaurant in 2016 at Atlanta’s airport, the world’s busiest.
- Last year, Luda teamed up with Google (not a bad choice of a partner) to host and executive produce a Youtube-native show — Best.Cover.Ever. Guests have included Katy Perry, Jason Derulo, Demi Lovato, and Charlie Puth.
- Early investments (amounting to about a 10% stake) in Glaceau, resulting in a $100 million payout when the Vitamin Water producer was bought by Coca Cola
- A Reebok deal licensing G-Unit shoes and apparel
- An array of entertainment companies, ranging from G-Unit books to G-Unit Films and Television, which produces the acclaimed Starz series, Power
- Acting gigs, from Jake Gyllenhaal’s Southpaw to Deniro/Pacino vehicle Righteous Kill
- Investing in the Neiman Marcus-stoked Frigo Underwear, along with fellow New York legends Derek Jeter and Carmelo Anthony
- Flipping his small stake in Effen Vodka for a cool $60 million dollars in 2017
- Somehow accepting Bitcoin for his album in 2014, only to discover it’s worth close to $9 mil in today’s cryptobubble.
While it may seem inevitable that such a big names would stick around, it’s… really not. Twista, Cassidy, Jadakiss, Jeezy had number one albums around the same time and just haven’t had the same staying power. T.I. went the reality show route, The Game is kind of on the fringes, and Nelly is in the news for all the wrong reasons.
Longevity in rap is a delicate task. From ‘Ye to Jay, Luda to 50, diversification shines through as the key to this marathon.
Make dope records then invest, Soundcloud generation, and reap them rewards.