by Booker Sim
Eminem and 50 Cent have both overcome tremendous obstacles to get where they are today. Both tell their stories through their music. And together they dominated the charts for more than half a decade.
And both have made the transition to the silver screen, with movies based on their lives.
But while Eminem’s “8 MILE” took in over $50 million its opening weekend, grossing $120 million during its North American run, 50’s “GET RICH OR DIE TRYING” faltered, with “disappointing” North American box office receipts of $30 million.
Could it be that “8 MILE” outsold “GET RICH” because Eminem is more popular? True, Eminem has sold 27 million albums in the US compared with 50’s Cents 11 million. But it took Em more than twice as long and in a more robust market. Nor is it that 50’s life is less interesting (50 was shot 9 times, and battled against even greater odds than Em to find fame).
No, “8 MILE” outsold “GET RICH” because it was truer to the protagonist’s story. “GET RICH” betrayed the truth of 50’s life. To succeed, it needed to be less – not more – Hollywood.
It’s also worth noting that “8 MILE” has little in the way of sex, violence and “bling,” proving that hip-hop’s appeal is more about honest, moving stories than glamorizing the “crime life.” Certainly, crime factors in when it’s truly part of a rapper’s story, but it’s not in-itself compelling.
The lesson here is that harnessing the power of hip-hop is not just about rap music, nor even the story told by that music, and even less about sex, money and violence. Hip-hop is about HOW the story is told: with honesty, power and conviction.