If you’d told me 20 years ago that 50 Cent would become one of the hottest producers in television with a veritable cinematic universe to his name… Actually, I would have believed you. At the time, he was the biggest thing in rap music, a world-class superstar who had promised to put the radio game in a chokehold — and then did it.
Now, he’s done the same with premium TV; again, if you told me his Power franchise (with three spin-offs plus an unrelated but thematically relevant Black Mafia Family bio series) were majorly responsible for a big boost in Starz subscriptions for the past three years, I would definitely be inclined to believe you.
The story that began with Ghost St. Patrick and Tommy Egan way back in 2014 in the original Power is, in 50’s own words, coming full-circle with the upcoming spin-off, Book IV: Force. Following Tommy’s exploits when he leaves New York for his hometown, Chicago, Tommy will once again get wrapped up in criminal enterprise and intrigue as he gets caught between two of the city’s rival organizations.
With Book IV: Force set to premiere on Starz on February 6, executive producer 50 Cent sat down for a Zoom call with Uproxx to discuss the show’s cultural impact, its catchy theme music, and why he would actually prefer if his cinematic universe was a little more family-friendly.
What modern-day social issues do you hope to address with the show with the story of Tommy in this new city?
Coming into the town, he interacts with who he would just run into. It turns into a whole different thing, but in the future, you should expect him to see more of that culture that we are aware of coming into the show, but it comes in as a resource that he sees. When he’s under circumstances where he gets into something and he involves them to come as muscle.
I’m not trying to fix the world with television. I’m trying to entertain people with it. And I think when you look at everything else that’s there, when you look at the news, all you see are things that speak to the graphic nature of premium television. So this is where we make a connection that network television doesn’t. I think people connect with that, having really flawed characters that people could relate to. I think that’s what makes them watch the show with a different intensity. They feel like they could have played the character.
How much of yourself do you see in your characters when they make choices on the shows? Do you find yourself going, “Well, I would do that differently”? Every time Cane [In Book II: Ghost] does something, I’m just like, “This dummy.”
I definitely do that. “What is he doing? Why are you doing that? I get into it too. I’ve seen the material. I’ve read it. Even when I’m not on set, I still get a chance to see the pieces of it. I watch it, complete it before everybody else watches it, and I’m still not excited until I’m watching it and everybody else is watching it because I’m thinking what everybody else is thinking when they watch it.
How hard is it as the producer not to jump in and be like, “Don’t do that! No. Change that.”
It is very hard. Look, I’ll call the writers or the showrunners of the shows, I’ve called each one of them at points and said, “Why? Why is this like this? Why does it have to be like this?” There are certain scenes that they’ve done in Ghost. I look and go, “Yo, could we tone that down a little bit?”
So, when you put that with younger characters… Also knowing some of the audience is not as mature. I like the sex scenes and stuff but some of it can be insinuated, you don’t have to see it. The fact that we can do it, they feel like, okay, cool. We just don’t want to go from watching television that ended up in soft pornography.
How many spinoffs do you think this universe can support? What would an Avengers-like crossover look like between the shows?
Whew, you said Avengers, that’s crazy. Look, I already took this far enough. If you looked at Power, Ghost, Raising Kanan, and now, Force. finishes the story. Because it was Ghost and Tommy in the beginning.
It’s just, his lady would help him with things. She was the right woman for the journey and the wrong woman in the story because she’s only seeing him one way. So she just wants him to be the biggest drug dealer. Remember that line, “When you look at me what do you see?”, “Biggest drug dealer in the city.”
Right. Right. Right. And it’s like, don’t encourage me to be this. Encourage me to be better.
Something different. And then while he’s having to change a heart no one knows.
And that’s kind of like where every gangster show goes, right? The guys want to go legit and the city won’t let them. The game won’t let them.
At the point that you decide that “I have enough. I’ve made enough. I experienced enough.” Right. This is when you go, “maybe I could have did it legit or did it a different way.” And at that point, the irony of it is you’re under investigation.
Yeah. Because you’ve gotten too big. That’s the danger of being the biggest is that you become a target. When you’re recording the theme music what inspiration do you take away from the show itself and how does it differ from writing music for yourself?
When you get into the theme songs, it’s fun to make those records for me. It’s like each one of them is a separate energy, a separate piece. I’ll go in the studio. I’m like, “Yo, this last one was forced.” It was easy. I had to make something that felt like Chicago and no matter what I write about Chicago, it’s going to feel like New York.
So look, there’s two vocal versions of the song. So when you hear the television show, it’s slightly different from when it’s on the song and it’s because I’ve really set the vocals once I heard the tones in Durk’s verse and what Jeremih the chorus felt like finished. Because we’ve done it several times. He’s done the hook two, three different times before we got it all the way right.
Durk recorded one time and then sent it back and then we heard it and then we had everything, all the pieces to put the song together. And I didn’t want it to feel like a collage because I’m here, they’re there and we just put it together. So I matched the tones of everything else so it’ll feel like a cohesive song.
How do you find angles to play off each individual style out from the collaborators like with NLE Choppa and Lil Durk?
Look, you have with NLE and these guys, these are the new guys, bro. The “hip” part of hip-hop is youth. You know what I’m saying? So what they’re thinking and doing, you got to watch them and see how to wave for what’s coming next. It’s going to go.
Do you think you can ride that wave into the future?
The cadences that they using is not difficult at all. If you listen to the music, you could just go, “Okay. I could write that.” If I was coming right now, I’d be on fire. I think once you’ve been, let’s say seasoned, right? I sold over 35 million records, bro. I have a whole 12 years, 13 years of dominating hip-hop culture. Nobody wants to remember that time period though because it was not comfortable.
When you represent things that are street or that have the energy, it’s on the artist without him even saying anything. The NBA YoungBoy, these kids is coming from different territories, but they have street on them. They can’t help it. It’s already there. You don’t have to have Instagram or Twitter or any of that stuff because once it connects it, it’s just there.
Power Book IV: Force premieres February 6th on Starz.