Before the popularization the internet as we know it, the act trolling required effort and dedication. With no Instagram, YouTube, , or forums to peruse and comment at leisure, trolls aspirant needed to find new and exciting ways to ruffle feathers. Short renting blimp-advertising space and lining the dirigible with provocative messages, reaching the masses with one’s mischievous words required a degree ruthless ingenuity. In that regard, 50 Cent was always destined for greatness.
On August 10th, 1999, 50 Cent released his notorious “How To Rob,” a lyrical equivalent to “get the strap” if ever there was one. Selected as the lead single f his debut (albeit shelved) album Power Of The Dollar, “How To Rob” revealed a rapper without fear consequence retribution. Calling out names in hip-hop was generally reserved for more personal beefs, yet 50’s single fired rounds indiscriminately, at friend and foe alike. Consider that Fif, as a relative newcomer in the game, had little to no rapport with the more established artists catching his ire; true, Power Of The Dollar featured acts like Noreaga, Bun B, and Destiny’s Child, but the ubiquity Curtis Jackson truly popped f with the arrival Get Rich Or Die Trying.
Still, “How To Rob” certainly put 50 on the game’s collective radar. Though the younger generation may attempt to lay claim to “clout chasing” as a way life, “How To Rob” proves that history is truly a wheel. It’s hard not to see Lil Pump’s shrill cries “Fuck J. Cole” as diluted fallout from the school “How To Rob.” Likewise for the brazen tactics Tekashi 6ix9ine, who called out The Game, Nipsey Hussle, Chief Keef and more, all while waving the newcomer flag. Perhaps it’s no wonder that 50 has taken on the rainbow wonder as somewhat a protege, given their similarities in approach.
The legacy “How To Rob” is well documented. With a mischievous tone and tongue-in-cheek deliver, the single skirted malicious territory, feeling closer to parody than warmongering. Yet the mere fact that names were put on wax made “How To Rob” undeniably provocative. In one brilliant move, 50 dared some hip-hop’s biggest names to shine a retaliatory light upon him. In true double-edged-sword fashion, recipients 50’s buffoonery risked coming f as easy targets if they opted for the high road. Conversely, responding in kind would be playing directly into 50’s eager hands.
All them, with the (surprising) exception R. Kelly, are called out by name. A notion difficult to fathom in the era subliminals. Yet 50 Cent was right there, clowning to his heart’s content. Think the cartoonishly diabolical image he’s putting forth. Kidnapping Lil Kim so he can ransom her to Puff Daddy. Putting the pistol in Keith Sweat’s grill. Chain snatching and outrunning Big Pun, while poking fun at his “400 pound” weight. Robbing Timbaland and Missy Elliott for jewel and hotdog alike. Ridiculing the otherwise menacing Sticky Fingaz over his boxing loss to skateboarder Simon Woodstock. Taking everything from Juvenile, including each individual golden tooth.
On paper, the provocations have an air silliness to them, absent in hip-hop’s more scathing diss tracks. Yet the song most definitely caused a fair share wounded pride. As Lil Pump’s “Fuck J. Cole” eventually yielded Cole’s “1985,” and 6ix9ine’s inflammatory comments had Nipsey, Game, and Chief Keef calling for his head, “How To Rob” had several targets getting familiar with their feelings.
On Ghostface Killah’s Supreme Clientele, the skit “Clyde Smith” found Raekwon responding to 50, threatening to sic not one hundred, not two hundred, but five hundred wolves upon him. On Jay-Z’s Life And Times S. Carter, the song “It’s Hot” finds Jay reciting “go against Jigga yo’ ass is dense, I’m about a dollar, what the fuck is 50 Cents?” Sticky Fingaz clapped back on “Jackin For Beats 99,” rapping “The real 50 from Brooklyn, God bless, he got outed, you just a fake clown that front and rap about it, I got a new deal for a few mil, shoot to kill, You fruity like Dru Hill, you spare change.”
Big Pun kept it gangsta on his response “My Turn,” simply stating “And to the 50 Cent Rapper, very funny, get your nut f, cause in real life, we all know I’d blow your motherfucking head f.” Kurupt got at him too, threatening to turn him to “10 cent” after fifty continuous beatdowns. Missy Elliot managed to laugh it f, later thanking Fifty for encouraging her to hit the treadmill. Mariah Carey was allegedly so upset about her original inclusion, she threatened to leave Sony records if her name was kept on the record; suffice it to say, 50 bowed down, instead setting sights on Case Woodard and Mary J. Blige. Still, the old threats have since tarnished, and the original version can be heard as 50 intended. Clearly, “How To Rob” proved a worthwhile stepping stone in validating an unproven talent, so much so that bonafide heavyweights found themselves rattled.
These days, were an artist dedicated to following in 50’s footsteps, they’d quite possibly forego the musical component altogether. Even 50 seems to have turned in the mic, opting to take his shit-talking expertise to Instagram; now, he keeps his wits sharp through the act incessant trolling, firing f his “Get The Strap” as ten as he once yelled “G-Unit!” In hindsight, it makes sense that ambitious artists might subconsciously draw from “How To Rob’s” blueprints, hoping such an abrasive and brash tactic may facilitate the transition from scrub to contender. Yet not every young artist is lucky enough to possess the charisma 50 Cent in his prime, let alone the skillset. In that regard, 50 is a unique brand bully, too comedic to truly hate, yet too ruthless to truly embrace. He kept the game on their toes back in 1999, and continues to do so even today, albeit through an entirely different platform. In the immortal words Cosmo Kramer, “he’s the best, and the worst.”