You can't accurately tell the story of mid-2000's hip-hop without mentioning 50 Cent, an artist who defined commercial gangsta rap with bulletproof street mythos, grimy lyrics and a knack for anthemic hooks. It's also hard to tell the complete story of 50 without giving a hard look at his discography, which effectively defines different eras of his career.
Fif first made serious noise when he dropped his tongue-in-cheek 1999 single, "How to Rob." For the track, the South Side Jamaica, Queens rapper becomes a stickup kid robbing the biggest artists in hip-hop. 50 continued building buzz with his 2000 song "Ghetto Qu'ran," which details the inner workings of New York City crime in the 1980s and 1990s. The song was supposed to be on his debut album, Power of a Dollar, but after 50 was shot in May 2000, the LP was shelved and he was released from his record deal with Columbia Records. Three years later, he hit the scene harder than ever.
In 2002, Eminem and Dr. Dre signed 50 to a joint deal with Shady Records and Aftermath, and 50 created the song that would help change his career. Released in 2003, "In Da Club" saw 50 use a slightly slurred delivery—the result of being shot in the mouth in the 2000 shooting—as he repurposed a modern happy birthday song to make a hit for the club. "In Da Club" proceeded to become the biggest song of his career, and when his debut album, Get Rich or Die Tryin' hit shelves in 2003, and went multiplatinum, it was clear 50 was a certified superstar.
After dropping his debut G-Unit album, Beg for Mercy, later that year in 2003, 50 returned on his solo wave in 2005. That was the year he dropped off The Massacre, a sophomore solo LP that sold over 1.1 million copies in its first week. 50 started promotion for the album with "Candy Shop," a track that was criticized for being formulaic, but inevitably peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Also on the album were tracks like the scathing diss song "Piggy Bank" and "Just a Lil Bit," the latter being another commercial ditty that only fortified 50's album sales.
At times playful, at others deadly serious, Fif continued to spend his pre-TV career vacillating between street anthems and tracks made for the radio. On his 2007 album, Curtis, he shot back to the top of the charts with "I Get Money," a track that included quote-worthy death threats and a sample-based hook that begs for repeats. That same LP also includes the Akon-featured single "Still Kill," a track that continues Fif's penchant for street music.
Since then, 50's continued releasing tracks that demonstrate his ability to go from slick talk to gun runner. In 2009, he teamed up with Ne-Yo to flip a line from "I Get Money" into a Billboard Hot 100 single called "Baby by Me." Since then, as he's shifted more of his attention to the world of TV, he's dropped off well-received songs like the Joe-featured theme song from the 50 executive-produced TV series Power ("Big Rich Town"). In 2016, he reminded fans of his hit-making prowess with his Chris Brown-assisted single, "I'm the Man."
All of these songs are the most emblematic of 50's career, spotlighting his rise to prominence as he journeyed to variations of the same tried and true formula of grit and well-rounded songwriting abilities. Now, you can check out 50's most important songs in one place. Today, XXL takes a look at 50 essential 50 Cent songs. If you consider yourself a 50 fan, you should peep the list below the break.