We’re inching toward the 10-year mark of your recording career. When you first arrived you were a poster child for the new model of the record industry – how free mixtapes and underground buzz could catapult an artist to mainstream success. That’s still very much the model for hip-hop artists today. How do you think the industry has changed since you first arrived?
You’ve got people watching their computer more than they watch television now. The new artist is meeting the general public before they meet the record company. They’re able to put the material on YouTube and have a million views before they even meet an executive at a record company, and get the deal based on that.
A lot of people are saying that because of that dynamic, the major label system is becoming obsolete.
I don’t think they’re taking into account the marketing dollars it takes to be a superstar. To be a recognizable talent as an artist, within a community of a whole lot of artists, sure, you can do that on your own. But when you move into different tiers, there’s still a benefit to majors. But this is from someone who’s already established themselves – the new guy might want to take a shot on his own and see what happens.
Isn’t that, in a way, what you did?
When I put out my first mixtape, 50 Cent is the Future, it was the first tape where an artist did the entire tape in song format. It’s been 10 years since this happened for the first time. Before, a mixtape was performing with guys like Ron G, DJ Clue, Kid Capri, these different guys that you would have to go see and put 16 bars or 32 bars on an intro maybe, but not in song format.
You’d say that 50 Cent is the Future was the introduction of the album-format mixtape?
Right, exactly. It’s the standard now. I’ve had people come to me and hand me a CD, and not know that they’re handing it to me because of me. Puffy’s contribution to hip-hop culture was the remix. He offered us the music that his mom played in front of him, with newer drums and younger artists. That worked, and will consistently be there. The remix comes right after the original record, that’s something Puffy did to influence the culture. When they see a mixtape, it’s 50 Cent every time.
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