50 Cent Writes A Letter To His Younger Self & Notes Lessons From Jam Master Jay

Last week marked the 13th anniversary of Jam Master Jay’s murder. J.M.J.’s tragic death coincided with the same 2002 that saw the meteoric rise of one of his former pupils, 50 Cent. For The Big Issue, Fif conceptually wrote a piece aimed at advice toward his younger self and he also shared some of his learnings from Jay.

The titanic Queens, New York Rap figure wrote candidly about his grandmother’s cancer changing his life, teenage hustling as a means of survival, and urged his younger self to practice rapping more. In speaking to the young Curtis Jackson, 50 was introspective and even wistful. “If I could talk to my teenage self, I’d tell him to focus on music with a stronger intensity. He could still have this career without going through all the things I went through,” he wrote. Yet, he also noted that even in the early days, he had the presence of mind to try to savor the moment at times: “If I could go back to any time, I’d go back to when the sales figure for the first week of Get Rich or Die Tryin’ came out. I went to sit at the back of the tour bus and just thought, wow. I couldn’t believe it…But I also knew that feeling, that confirmation, that finally you have the momentum – you only feel it once. I knew I would never have that feeling again.”

On the subject of the late Run-D.M.C. DJ and turntablist, 50 Cent expressed that his tenure with J.M.J. Records did not prove to be the relationship either party had hoped for, but he did take learnings from Jay. “I started writing lyrics full time in 1997. I met Jam Master Jay from Run D.M.C. and he had his label, which would take people on and develop them until they were ready to go to a major.” Artists developed through J.M.J. Records included ONYX and Jayo Felony, among others. Fif continued, “[Jam Master] Jay taught me how to count bars – and when the chorus should start and stop. And I kept [practicing]. Sometimes hard work beats talent. I wrote all the time, and so I got better and better.”

Jam Master Jay and Randy Allen would produce and A&R some of 50’s (as “Fifty Cent”) earliest recordings, including 12″ single, “The Glow”:

Curtis Jackson, who grew up in the same Queens where Jay also hailed from, explained the kinship. “I think Jay liked me ‘cause I looked like the lyrics. I had all the [jewelry], I looked like a hustler. I’d been on the street so long, people respected me. The honest truth is, at that point, the drug dealers were the leaders of the [neighborhood]. They had more money than the rappers. The things LL Cool J and Run-D.M.C. wanted were the things guys hustling already had. Now, of course, the artists are way richer than the dealers, the Hip-Hop culture has grown so much.”

Is 50 Cent a living testament to Jam Master Jay’s ear for talent, especially given his 2000s impact?

Read: Letter To My Younger Self: 50 Cent by Jane Graham at The Big Issue.

Related: Ever See This 1999 Cypher With 50 Cent, Consequence, Punchline & N.O.R.E.? (Video)