Jay-Z versus 50 Cent wasn’t really a beef, but a brief disagreement with a lot of subliminal shots. 50 Cent was the instigator in this battle and obviously wanted more from the situationship because he stood to gain the most. However, Jay-Z wasn’t interested in the feud and opted for the subliminal route, which is the path you take when faced with a perceived less worthy adversary.
Their rocky relationship started with the release of 50 Cent’s 1999 controversial track “How To Rob.” He had just signed with Columbia Records and was waiting for his album, Power Of The Dollar to get released. To ensure the album and his career received maximum attention, 50 Cent dissed a bunch of rappers that were more popular than him at the time and used them for clout. Some of the rappers he name-dropped include Busta Rhymes, Lil Kim, Mase, Will Smith, DMX, Big Pun, Slick Rick, Master P, Diddy, and Jay-Z.
A lot of artists ended up responding to 50 Cent, which was exactly what he was hoping to achieve with the track. It was his Control moment, and a blueprint the next generation of rappers would attempt to mimic. A few months later, 50 Cent ran into Jay-Z at Hot 97’s annual Summer Jam festival. Shaka Zulu, who was doing radio at the time at Columbia decided to take 50 Cent backstage at Summer Jam for a meet-and-greet so that the press could get familiar with the name and face behind the song. Additionally, he wanted to inform the public that “How To Rob” wasn’t a serious diss, and that the track was recorded for entertainment purposes.
As 50 remembers it, Jay-Z was impressed by the song but said he wasn’t going to let it slide.
“I ran into Jay at Summer Jam and he said ‘yo I don’t like that record you got, I love that record you got,” Fif recalls. He goes on to say Jay vowed he was going to respond but “I didn’t know he meant right then.”
“He go on stage, that’s the first time I ever seen 30,000 people,” 50 continued. “He said ‘I’m about a dollar who the f-ck is 50 Cent?’ I ain’t even know 30,000 people knew who 50 Cent was. I should send him a bottle of champagne for that.”
In an interview with veteran disk jockey Funkmaster Flex, Jay-Z detailed his encounter with The Massacre rapper and revealed he came up with the 50 Cent-referenced track while preparing for his set backstage.
“That was actually the first time I performed that record,” Hov told Funk Flex. “I ain’t even know the record, I was backstage trying to make sure that I could get it and I seen him. I bumped right into him while he’s backstage. He came up like ‘yo I’m 50 Cent.’ I said that record you got is hot. I like that joint, he was like ‘thanks man.’ I say ‘but you know I’m about to go in right?’”
50 Cent was elated with the events that transpired because he had just been acknowledged by one of the biggest rap stars in the game. With his buzz seemingly up, Columbia Records finally decided to put a machine behind him.
December 28, 1999– Jay-Z released his fourth studio album “Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter,” and on track No. 6, “It’s Hot (Some Like It Hot)”— Jay-Z put those bars going at 50 Cent on wax, rapping “Go against Jigga? Your ass is dense/I’m about a dollar; what the fuck is 50 cents?” In 50’s eyes, it was officially on between him and the Reasonable Doubt rapper. In the early 2000s, 50 Cent released a response track titled “Be A Gentleman” where he tells Hov to “watch what you say.” The track eventually appeared on his compilation mixtape ‘Guess Who’s Back’ which was released in April 2002.
Unfortunately for 50, by the time the track arrived, Jay-Z was having his own issues with Mobb Deep and Nas and never got to respond. 50 Cent was eventually dropped from Columbia Records after getting shot nine times. He resurfaced in 2002 with a compilation tape titled Guess Who’s Back which he followed in June of that year with the G-Unit mixtape. His buzz was back up and labels were queuing for his signature. He eventually inked a deal with Eminem and Dr. Dre on June 20th, 2002.
Jay-Z recognized 50 Cent was on fire and in response told all of his artists to flood the streets with new music before 50 Cent released his debut album under Shady records.
“I remember one time working in the studio and it was like a small Gap and [Memphis] Bleak, Beans [Beanie Sigel], everybody was in there, and I was like ‘I’m telling you, man, y’all got a chance right now just flood it. Put out a lot of music because 50 Cent is coming’ and you know four months later in the club hit and it was over,” Jay said in a 2013 interview with The Breakfast Club. “It was just like okay now everybody got to sit on the sidelines and wait this tidal wave out.”
And that’s exactly what happened. On February 6, 2003, 50 Cent released his critically acclaimed debut album Get Rich Or Die Trying. The album sold an outstanding 872,000 copies within its first week of release and remains the largest opening week sales for a debut hip-hop album. 50 Cent was the hottest thing at that moment and with Jay-Z having issues with Irv Gotti and Murder Inc., and 50 Cent not liking them at that time as well, it made perfect sense for him to stand next to 50.
April 18, 2003– Jay-Z announced his sneaker partnership with Reebok with the launch of the S. Carter collection, which he celebrated by releasing the S. Carter collection mixtape. He also jumped on 50 Cent’s “If I Can’t” track to signal their friendship. A couple of weeks later (May 1st, 2003) 50 Cent and Jay-Z announced they were doing a tour together titled Rock The Mic. To promote the tour, they stopped by Entertainment Weekly Magazine to talk about the dynamics of their newfound relationship.
Off the rip, Entertainment Weekly wasted no time in stirring up the hornet’s nest. “So for the record, which of you is the better MC?” They asked.
50 Cent responded with high Praise for Jay-Z. “[Jay] is by far. I’ve been listening to him for a long time. I’m the new kid.”
Entertainment Weekly interjected with “that’s not what you say on your records,” but 50 who is not new to controversies downplayed his gimmicks as competitive fun.
“ I’m confident. I’ve always been competitive but when you’ve got eight years under your belt and a kid only has one summer,” at that moment Jay-Z interrupts and says “seniority rules but all records are made to be broken. You’ve got Dr. Dre and then you have Michael Jordan and then you’ve got Kobe [Bryant]. The game just keeps surviving. That’s what it’s about. If he continues on this path he could be the greatest who knows it’s hard to judge.”
Jay-Z then revealed he decided to go on tour with 50 Cent because he’s a believer in supporting new talents. “A lot of the time in hip-hop things that could be big never get to happen. We used to have the fresh fit in 1984, you had Run DMC, Houdini the whole lineup on one tour, you seldom get that now. I believe in putting out the hottest thing. We could have toured separately but we figured if we bring it together it would be unstoppable.”
With this successful tour came a lot of business ideas and Ventures, and on June 16, 2003– 50 Cent also Inked a deal with Reebok for his G-Unit sneakers. According to Steve Stout, it was Jay-Z’s idea to give 50 Cent his own sneakers.
“It was originally Jay’s idea to get to even extend an invite to 50 to do his thing,” Stout said. With both New York rappers touring and having sneaker deals under the same company, they decided to shoot a commercial for their shoes with a freestyle.
50 Cent later revealed that G-Unit sneakers outsold Jay-Z’s S. Carter Collection 6:1 and netted him $80 million with Reebok.
However, their relationship wouldn’t last long. As November 2003 approached, G-Unit as a group was getting ready to release their debut album Beg For Mercy, at the same time, Jay-Z was getting ready to release The Black Album, which he stated was going to be his last album before retirement. Both parties ultimately settled on a November 18 (2003) release date for their albums. Jay-Z spoke about the clash in his 2010 autobiography and Memoir Decoded.
“When I was about to release the Black Album we had to push up the release date to get the jump on Bootleggers, which put us in the same initial sales week as Beg for Mercy, the first album from 50’s crew G-Unit. 50 in his showman style got on the radio and announced that he was putting money on Beg For Mercy outselling The Black Album. This was the same year that 50’s first album Get Rich Or Die Trying had an incredible run including huge first-week numbers. Kevin Lyles at Def Jam called me asking if I wanted to push the day back a couple of weeks to get 50’s album — and some other high-profile releases that week — a chance to breathe. I love Kevin, he’s one of the nicest people you ever meet. But I told him to put my shit out as planned.”
Fans embraced the clash and eagerly awaited the date of November 18, 2003, but unfortunately, both albums ended up leaking ahead of time, forcing the record labels to push the albums up even further. Both albums were eventually released on November 14– meaning, G-Unit and Jay-Z only had three full days of sales leading up to Tuesday, November 18th.
On November 19th the sales for those three days came in and Jay-Z’s “The Black Album” debuted at number one, selling 463,000 copies in the first week. G-Unit’s “Beg For Mercy” debuted at number three, selling 377,000 copies in its first week, behind Tupac‘s “Tupac Resurrection” album.
Jay-Z reflected on beating G-Unit in his Memoir Decoded saying, “The Black Album debuted number one, Beg For Mercy was third and the soundtrack to Resurrection the Tupac documentary was the number two album on the charts. There was something beautiful about Pac being my closest competition on the charts that week. Aside from the Heartbreak of losing two great MCS and one great friend — I’ve always felt robbed of my chance to compete with Tupac and Biggie in the best sense and not just over first-week sales numbers. Competition pushes you to become your best self and in the end, it tells you where you stand.”
Although Jay-Z beat the G-Unit album when it comes to first-week sales. He was facing a lot of issues behind the scenes with Rockefeller and Damon Dash on where the album should go creatively when it comes to single selection. Due to creative differences and poor single selection, The Black Album would eventually fall behind G-Unit’s Beg For Mercy in the long run. As a result, Jay-Z officially announced his retirement from music.
August 22, 2007– 50 Cent and Jay-Z would see each other once again at Scream Fest. At that event, Ciara decided to bring out surprise guest 50 Cent for a performance of their track “Can’t Leave ‘Em Alone.” 50 Cent remained on stage afterward and performed “I Get Money” in which he bragged about running New York.
50 Cent and Jay-Z, as well as Diddy, would eventually team up for the remix of I Get Money on September 17, 2007. Unfortunately, no music video was shot for the record due to conflicting schedules. Jay-Z spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the recording.
“I just wanted to show that we’re not enemies. it’s a great story for this, you’re the first person to ask so you got great timing. 50 Cent called me to ask for the remix and I told him he couldn’t put the remix out until the first week came.” Jay-Z said, referencing 50 Cent’s 2007 album clash with Kanye West, which the latter won.
“I didn’t want it to affect any type of numbers so as you see, it came out the 17th when the sound scan cycle is finished. So just to show I’m still competing, we’re not enemies, we’re just competing.”
Entertainment Weekly went on to say. “At the end of that verse, I love how you say New York is still mine even though you’ve transitioned into a CEO role, you still want to put that out there.” Jay-Z responded by saying, “I was in artist mode at that time when I’m in artist mode why wouldn’t New York be mine.”
It was ironic that Jay-Z made those statements in his interview with Entertainment Weekly because Funkmaster Flex revealed that around this time when 50 Cent released “I Get Money,” and was yelling out “I run New York”— Jay-Z was getting envious of 50 Cent’s dominance and success. Funk Flex had thrown his weight behind 50 Cent and had proclaimed him the top King of New York, which he said made Jay-Z jealous.
“I think one time I said, 50 Cent was hot. I went on radio that day and said he was the King of the City,” said Flex. “Kaiser connected Jay, and Jay said ‘we can’t give him that right now. It’s too soon.’”
50 Cent also felt that his album duel with Kanye West was really a battle between him and Jay-Z because Jay-Z at the time was the president of Def Jam and Kanye was signed to Def Jam. 50 believed as president of Def Jam, Jay-Z put a machine behind Kanye West and did everything possible to ensure Ye came out victorious.
“I was competing against an artist whose label was doing everything and I mean everything to make sure he beat me. Jimmy Lovine might not have cared about beating Kanye, but Jay-Z, who was the head of Def Jam at that time damn sure cared about beating me,” 50 Cent wrote in his 2020 book Hustle, Harder Hustle Smarter.
“Jay had been extremely uncomfortable with my run in New York City for years, so he did everything under the sun to make sure he could beat me through Kanye. I realized what I was up against in the weeks leading up to the release when Kanye and I both agreed to do joint appearances on BET. I had planned to bring Eminem with me but BET told Interscope we couldn’t have guests. Interscope said fine, and told Eminem not to Come. Then the day of the show, I get there and Jay-Z is performing with Kanye. So clearly Jay-Z had gone to some length to get around the “no guests” rule, whereas Interscope Records had just let it go. They simply weren’t as motivated as Jay-Z.”
“Jay-Z took a lot of pride in Kanye's Victory. I think that's one of the reasons he's so disappointed in Kanye today. Jay knows how much he supported Kanye during that period, but it wasn't enough for Kanye. That probably hurt Jay. Jay even mentioned my battle with Kanye in his book decoded, taking a little shot at me when he wrote, ‘Rappers who use beef as a marketing plan might get some quick press but they're missing the point.’ I congratulate Jay for doing the right thing by his artists in that situation, but I think he was the one who missed the point. First, like I mentioned, there was no actual beef in that particular competition. Second, without the competition, I have little doubt that due to interscope's missteps, my sales would have been much lower. Our competition actually turned what would have been a tough first week for me into a very respectable one. If I had just left Interscope to their own devices, I might have only sold 400k that week. Instead, I managed to salvage a tough situation and create a historic moment. As I later told an interviewer, “Kanye West gets the trophy 50 Cent gets the check!” That’s no shot at Kanye, he made a lot of money too, but it's a trade I'll take every time.”
In 2008, 50 Cent took his dominance to the next level, overthrowing Jay-Z on Forbes’ 20 Biggest Hip-Hop Earners list. 50 Cent topped the list with $150 million that year, while Jay-Z dropped to number two with $82 million. It should be noted that was the same year 50 Cent sold his Vitamin Water stake and made $100 million.
September 13, 2009– Kanye West interrupts Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the VMAs. Ironically, during Jay-Z’s performance of Empire State Of Mind with Alicia Keys, at the same Award show, Lil Mama randomly went on stage to pose next to the duo. I’m sure you’ve seen the videos and pictures. For reference purposes, there’s one attached below.
It became a huge topic on news sites, with several celebrities sharing their opinions on both situations. In an interview on September 16, 2009. 50 Cent said he would give Kanye a black eye if he ever tried the stunt with him. “I wish he would come take one of my Awards so I could black his eyes in front of everybody,” 50 Cent said on MUCH.
September 22, 2009– while Jay-Z was doing his promo run for Blueprint 3, he stopped by BBC 1’s Trevor Nelson’s show. During the interview, Trevor revealed what 50 Cent said about Kanye West and that nobody would go on stage if he was there. Jay-Z responded to Fif’s boastful claims, saying “I think he would have done that if that was 50 Cent. No one’s scared of 50 Cent. I want everyone to be clear. No one’s scared of 50 Cent.”
Around this time, 50 Cent was promoting his new album Before I Self Destruct and was doing various interviews, and responding to questions about Jay-Z calling him a punk and saying that he avoids real beef.
“I think the guy who was talking to him made him feel like a punk. You see what I’m saying. So he had to say, ‘yo ‘nobody scared of 50.’ Let’s get this clear, nobody needs to be scared of 50 [Cent], but I’m not the issue. Him making me feel like a punk is the issue. At the end of the day, I look at it and people don’t assess themselves, even really intelligent people. Jay’s a smart guy you know what I’m saying. He’ll analyze other people and other things that they’re doing, and not actually look at what’s happening to him and his transition indifference. But his actual right now, he’s in a real safe space he created this real safe aura, this is why people walking on the stage and why shit is happening like that. A lot of it wouldn’t have been like that if he actually dealt with his issues himself. He’s a piece of work man, he always put somebody in front of him.
“When Jada came for him he put Beanie [Sigel] in front of him, and then he went back and forth with Jadakiss. When Cam came for ‘em, he put Tru life in front of him, and they went back and forth and he just didn’t compete.”
November 4, 2009– Beanie Siegel and 50 Cent appeared on the same stage at a radio station amid Beanie’s fallout with Jay-Z. Since both of them had a dislike towards Jay-Z, 50 Cent kept Beanie Sigel close to him and started using him to go against Jay.
November 9, 2009– 50 Cent released his fourth studio album titled “Before I Self Destruct,” and on track No. 4, “So Disrespectful,” he sends some shots at Jay-Z. “Jay’s a big man, he’s too big to respond. I’m a big d-ck, you know, the one everybody on. You ‘gon make me sing ”Murder Was the Case”
November 13, 2009– Beanie Siegel and 50 Cent collaborate for a new track titled “I Go Off” and on the outro, 50 Cent is attacking Jay-Z. “You let the money change you Jay. You used to be, from Marcy N-gga. Now you a pass the grey poupon ass n-gga.”
November 22, 2009, at the American Music Awards, while accepting his award, Jay-Z said at the end of his acceptance speech “women lie, men lie, numbers don’t lie.” Many assumed it to be a shot at 50 Cent, but the Bulletproof rapper dismissed the claims. “I didn’t take that directly towards me,” 50 said in a 2009 interview with DJ Envy. “If that was then he should say something a little more direct so we can stop rapping and get right to the shit.”
December 5, 2009– 50 Cent claimed Jay-Z isn’t a big artist internationally during an appearance on Tim Westwood.
“There’s a huge difference and energy internationally and 50 Cent and Jay-Z. In fact, his largest selling record sold four hundred and thirty-something thousand copies. My largest selling records plural, two of them sold five million. And let them be fooled in America and think there’s a competition there because America can be purchased. We can buy it with marketing dollars, but the rest of the world, there’s not enough marketing dollars to go around.”
50 Cent and Jay-Z would eventually run into each other on September 3rd, 2010. Eminem and Jay-Z around this time were doing a couple of concerts together and they performed at Comerica Park on September 3rd. While there, they brought out a lot of guests including 50 Cent, Dr. Dre, G-Unit, D12, and various other people. The crazy thing is 50 and Jay ran into each other backstage and a photo of them talking went viral online. When MTV asked 50 Cent about the photo and what they talked about, he said “we got a chance to kick it for a minute. I know people were interested in what the conversation was like, but they can ask Jay-Z. I take people’s actions as if it’s genuinely how they feel. I can only use what I saw you do as if that’s what you meant, I can’t understand what your motivation was prior to that. I had a conversation with P. Diddy the night before Jay. He gave me a whole new perspective on his actions. We created a little Clarity out there.”
After a lengthy break, 50 Cent resumed taunting Jay-Z in his interviews. While in Europe promoting his album Animal Ambition, 50 Cent said in an interview in April 2014 that he was the one that made Jay-Z retire. “What was Jay-Z from 2003 to 2006? I sold 23 million records between 2003 and 2006. He’d stop making music said I’m gonna go be the president of a record company. Like I quit. We’ll get back to what me and you got later Fif, I quit. Timeout!! I’ll come back to play later. Then he signed the Beyonce contract, I was like ‘yeah men lie, women lie, numbers don’t. That shit is a tough one to compete against.”
In a 2014 interview with The Breakfast Club, 50 Cent revealed that Beyonce once attacked him over claims that Jay was only popular overseas because of his marriage to Beyoncé.
“One time she jumped off of the ledge, came running over because she thought me and Jay had issues. I was like, did she really just jump down in front of me. She looked at me ‘what’s up?’ and Jay starts laughing.”
June 30, 2017– Jay-Z released his new album “4.44.” 50 Cent was not impressed and criticized the album for being “too smart.” “I listened to Jay’s the 4.44. I thought that shit was alright, but I’m gonna Keep it 100. The shit was too smart. I felt like I was supposed to be wearing like glasses and like ties, like a f-cking sweater around my waist. it’s like ivy league shit,” he said in a video clip. “I’m gonna tell you the truth, this is hot out here so they don’t want to hear that shit, they just want to have a good time. You know what I’m saying, and that you can’t be the best rapper at 47 because the new n-ggas is here, they coming with new shit going on.”
“You gotta let the young n-ggas come in… what is the matter with you man, I ain’t gonna hold you up son, it was like Golf Course music.”
September 16, 2022– Jay-Z’s audio engineer Young Guru revealed Jay-Z used to envy 50 Cent’s hooks because of how amazing they were. 50 saw the video and responded on Instagram saying, “I love you guys too. I just need somebody to compete with. It makes me find a way. Jay-Z knows I will always find a way.”
August 13, 2022– 50 Cent claimed Jay-Z got to win lots of awards in his career because he and his wife, Beyoncé signed a contract that guarantees they both get a trophy whenever they’re nominated.
“Jay got all the motherfucking trophies, man. ‘Cause he signed that contract, the one with Beyoncé” 50 said during an interview with The Breakfast Club. “If you don’t give him a trophy she ain’t coming.”
In a 2011 interview with MTV News, 50 Cent explained his feud with Jay-Z was important for both their careers.
“We don’t have those kind of relationships. These people are people I associate with. We are in the same business, we are not necessarily friends. We don’t call each other for no reason, it’s not like we have something against each other to make us enemies. Me and Jay will use each other repeatedly for energy.”
During a January 2023, interview with Big Boy on Big Boy’s Neighborhood, 50 Cent claimed Jay-Z tried to use his role as the NFL’s live music entertainment strategist to stop him from performing alongside Dr. Dre, Eminem, and Snoop Dogg at the Super Bowl LVI Pepsi halftime.
“I got the call before the ad went out. I wasn’t in the ad because Jay-Z and ‘em was putting it together. I think they still harbor some energy towards me,” Fif said, adding Jay images himself after famous American painter, Jean-Michel Basquiat, who was documented as bisexual.
“So you image yourself after the gay painter. Big homie want to look like the gay painter.”
On January 20, Jamal Crawford, in the midst of making a basketball analogy on his top five NBA players, said that Jay-Z’s impact on Hip-Hop is bigger than Eminem’s record-breaking album sales. He made the claims while on Shaquille O’Neal’s ‘The Big Podcast.’ The conversation involved Eminem, and naturally, 50 Cent was bound to step in. He also wasn’t going to miss another easy opportunity to throw dirt on Jay-Z’s name.
50 Cent responded to Crawford’s claims by simply writing, “ha bullsh*t” with a sneezing emoji in the comments section of the clip, which was shared by The Hip-Hop Wolf on Instagram.
And the beef goes on…
Stories from Diverse Mentality contributed to this report.