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50 Cent catapults to the top

February 13, 2003|Geoff Boucher | Times Staff Writer

The rapper 50 Cent became notorious in the music industry with an underground hit about robbing big-name stars of their jewelry. Now the New York rapper is the big name, and he's stolen the top spot on the nation's pop chart.

The rapper's major-label debut, "Get Rich or Die Tryin'," is the biggest sales sensation of this young year after selling 872,000 copies in just four days, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It's the hottest seller since last year's "The Eminem Show" debuted with sales of 1.3 million.

The total was more than for all the other albums in this week's Top 10 combined. The closest competitor was the Dixie Chicks' "Home," which sold 114,000 copies last week.

50 Cent, whose real name is Curtis Jackson, gained fame in rap circles in 2000 for "How to Rob," a crime rhyme that mocks celebrity rappers and envisions sticking them up in the street. By specifically naming Jay-Z, Big Pun and others, 50 Cent assured himself street buzz, but he also earned the wrath of many. He has been shot, stabbed and beaten in the months since.

50 Cent does, however, have some notable people on his side. His Interscope Records debut arrives as a joint venture between Shady Records, headed by Eminem, and Aftermath Records, the shop run by producer Dr. Dre. Both contribute to the album's music as well. Sales have been stoked by two radio and club hits, "Wanksta" and "In Da Club." "Wanksta" also was featured on the soundtrack to "8 Mile," the hit movie starring Eminem.

50 Cent's feuds and his high-power affiliations created such heat around the album that Interscope abruptly changed the release date and put the album in stores last Thursday, five days earlier than planned. That bucks industry convention, but Interscope executives say it was necessary to mute the damage done by online piracy and bootlegging.

In only four days before the weekly chart cutoff point, "Get Rich" became the biggest debut since Shania Twain's "Up" opened with sales of 874,000 in November. The record for the best sales week belongs to 'N Sync's "No Strings Attached" with 2.4 million copies sold in March 2000.

Violet Brown, the urban music buyer for the Wherehouse chain, said a bonus DVD included with copies of "Get Rich" was a powerful lure to consumers.

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