50 Cent, AKA Curtis Jackson, on Kendrick, keeping calm and being a bit cuddly in Southpaw
Being a boxing promoter, I guess we don’t have to ask what attracted you to this film…
Yeah, that and my relationship with Floyd [Mayweather] kept me closer to the sport than usual. Just having a relationship with the top fighters drew me into that world. But the writing is real authentic. I actually had to ask [writer] Kurt Sutter if he was in boxing himself.
Your co-star Jake Gyllenhaal (who plays world champion Billy Hope) admitted he knew nothing about boxing. Did you give him any tips?
No, I didn’t need to. Jake immersed himself so far you thought he was a pro fighter. It was first nature for him to throw those combinations like they do on TV, because he was throwing them in real life.
Be honest, were you intimidated?
No, I really wasn’t. I don’t like to say “fat”, so I’ll say I played a cuddly version of myself in this film. If I came in as chiselled and in shape as Jake, you would see it in my face. It wouldn’t be authentic for the manager or a promoter to be as fit as the fighter.
You guys could have easily swapped roles: Jake the slimy promoter, Fiddy the angry, bankrupt boxer…
What’s cool about the project is we could have switched roles. But the work that Jake put in… shit. He trained twice a day for, I think, almost four months. After Southpaw I went to the premiere of Nightcrawler and it was trippy to me. He was so small in that film I was like, “Damn.” I lost weight one time for All Things Fall Apart. It was based on my best friend growing up who died of cancer and it was probably the most extreme film I’ve worked on. But to see Jake in Nightcrawler, that was incredible.
Did you pelt it back to the gym after filming?
You know this is what I was thinking, right? After the film was over I gave myself the excuse of training for the Frigo campaign [the underwear line he endorses], but I wasn’t the actual model for it. Though now you see I’m on the cover of Muscle & Fitness.
Why did you lose your tattoos?
When I started working on Twelve I removed some tattoos. The call time they were giving me for covering tattoos was four hours before everyone else’s call time. So if everyone is getting there at 6am, I’m there at 2am. So I was like, “Oh man, hold up.”
You’ve created quite a scary persona. Do you feel like you’ve got to live up to that image now?
No, I don’t feel pressure like that. In the environment I grew up in it was easier for people to stay out of your way when they knew that you were willing [to fight] in certain situations. So the same mentality kind of bled into the music. It created the largest debut hip-hop album, Get Rich Or Die Tryin’. It’s an energy that says all or nothing.
Speaking of GRODT, the trend now is for introspective hip-hop from the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Kanye. You rapped about girls, guns and being a gangster. Will it ever make a comeback?
I think our culture cycles. It goes from one extreme to the next and if you follow trends you’ll never have a moment. If you’re doing something that is already working for someone else, why would you stand out? Hip-hop is so popular now you can spin the globe and wherever it stops, there will be people who are into it.
Who’s your favourite rapper?
I’m into Kidd Kidd‘s music, he’s from New Orleans. He’s got a song called Ejected with Lil Wayne.
That bragging, goading bravado you see between boxers is also something you see in rap battles. Is it a similar sort of mentality?
The parallels are so clear. The things your opposition is saying won’t affect you on the night of the fight unless it makes you angry. If it changes your emotions you start to do things without thinking and they can make you pay for it. It’s the same thing in hip-hop culture.
Do you regret not making your Eurodance album Black Magic?
I don’t regret it because what I enjoy and what the public is ready to receive are two different things. See, when you talk about Kanye or Kendrick Lamar, after the very first song or album they did that worked, they did something different. They made those creative records because they felt like it. The public think, “OK we just said you were cool, so we can’t say you’re not cool right now” and they accept it.
You also recently turned 40. Did you do anything special?
I’m still celebrating my birthday. I started my birthday early because of Independence Day: I flew to Miami, did Club KOD, flew back up the East Coast and went to Atlantic City. I’m going to do 40 events. I’ve never had so much fun.
Do you worry about ageing?
It’s not like I’m getting older and you ain’t. I’ve diversified, I’ve done different things to challenge myself and it doesn’t affect me. Hip-hop culture is the sound of youth.
Finally, who would win in a fight: Floyd Mayweather or Billy Hope?
Floyd would beat the brakes off Billy Hope. Jake wanted Manny [Pacquiao] for the fight, he thought he’d beat Mayweather. There’s no way. I wouldn’t have attempted to make the fight if I thought Manny was going to beat him. Floyd is the best fighter of our time. People just don’t want to admit it.
Southpaw is at cinemas nationwide now