Before 50 Cent was television executive producer Curtis Jackson, before he sold 30 million albums worldwide, before he made $100 million off the Vitaminwater deal, he was a rapper from South Jamaica, Queens, trying to break into the music industry.
Under the tutelage of Jam Master Jay, who taught him how to structure his songs and add melodies to his hooks, 50 managed to polish up his rapping skills and make progress in the rap game. For his debut appearance on record, 50 linked up with Onyx, who were also from South Jamaica, Queens, and were signed to Jam Master Jay Records.
Thanks to the three hit singles – “Throw Ya Gunz”, “Slam” and “Shifftee” – off their debut, Bacdafucup, Onyx went platinum straight out the gate, and their sophomore album, All We Got Iz Us, managed to go gold. On their third album, Shut ‘Em Down, Onyx put 50 Cent on “React” – the project’s third single. Produced by West Coast producer, Bud’da, “React” was a moderate success on the charts, peaking at 62 on the US Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks and 44 on the US Hot Rap Singles.
Shut ‘Em Down was also host to a number of future greatest rappers of all time, featuring an an up-and-coming DMX, who was scorching hot at the time, as well as appearances from N.O.R.E., Big Pun, Raekwon, Method Man and Killa Sin.
50 Cent: I started writing lyrics full time in 1997. I met Jam Master Jay from Run DMC and he had his label, which would take people on and develop them until they were ready to go to a major. Jay taught me how to count bars – and when the chorus should start and stop. And I kept practising. Sometimes hard work beats talent. I wrote all the time, and so I got better and better.50 Cent interview: “My grandmother was the love of my life” | The Big Issue