Steve Berman, senior executive-marketing and sales at Interscope Geffen A&M Records, part of Vivendi Universal's Universal Music Group, says the meteoric rise of 50 Cent began with authenticity. 50 Cent has it: rap sheet, former second-generation drug dealer and multiple gunshot survivor. He also helped to build his own buzz before he'd ever put out a record, by circulating his mix tapes and working the hip-hop circuit as his own goodwill ambassador.
"He had done so much to heat up the streets," says Mr. Berman, one of the architects of 50 Cent's ascent. "He was well on his way."
Interscope's sibling division, Eminem's Shady Records, signed 50 Cent after he was dumped, post-shooting, by Sony Music Entertainment's Columbia Records. Eminem featured 50 Cent on the sound track for his semi-autobiographical feature, "8 Mile." That move was pivotal in introducing him to a mainstream audience, Mr. Berman says.
Then, for the release of 50 Cent's first CD early this year, 500,000 copies of "Get Rich or Die Tryin' " included a DVD about his up-from-the-streets life.
"We decided to tell a story," Mr. Berman says. "We knew this wasn't about one song; it was about how 50 Cent tapped into the culture."
He also had creative powerhouses Eminem and Dr. Dre behind him, which Mr. Berman and his team used strategically. The three were photographed together for the cover of XXL magazine, and they appear in the video for "In Da Club."