Rapper 50 Cent in His Own Words

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Noah Callahan-Bever, editor-in-chief of Complex magazine talks about his new book, 50 x 50, which he co-wrote with rapper 50 Cent.

FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

Rapper 50 Cent has penned his second autobiography. It's titles, "50 x 50" and it hits stores this week. In the book, 50 talks candidly about his tough childhood and his rise from the streets to the recording studio. The book also includes personal essays, handwritten song lyrics and baby pictures.

Noah Callahan-Bever co-authored the book. He's also the editor-in-chief of Complex magazine. Noah joins me now to talk about the upcoming issue and his new book.

Welcome back to the show.

Mr. NOAH CALLAHAN-BEVER (Editor-in-Chief, Complex Magazine): Hello, thank you.

CHIDEYA: So the October issue hits stores next week, and there's an article counterfeit sneakers called Faking the funk(ph). So, what exactly are we talking about here?

Mr. CALLAHAN-BEVER: One of the things that has become more and more prevalent as sneaker culture has grown is basically bootleg sneakers have been popping up all across the country. You go on eBay and you'll see very, very cheap prices on things that, you know, you know at a sneaker boutique, either New York or L.A., you know, you pay hundreds of dollars for it. Yet somehow, someone in Taiwan is selling it for $40.

CHIDEYA: And it's tens of millions of dollars.

Mr. CALLAHAN-BEVER: Oh, yes. Chinese bootleg sneakers account for 81 percent of all the counterfeit merchandise that enters into the United States, according to customs authorities, 81 percent out of 135 million.

CHIDEYA: Well, let's move on to the book that co-authored with 50 Cent. So how did you sit down with him and process what you were going to put into it?

Mr. CALLAHAN-BEVER: I've known 50 for the better part of 10 years at this point. You know, we would sit down for two or three hours, and you know, we just look at the photos and, you know, I'd get him to sort of tell me stories about them, sort of the players and who the people are in them. And then also just sort of recounting these little sort of vignettes from his life. And then I just sort of, you know, helped to put them all together into one sort of somewhat more cohesive narrative.

CHIDEYA: When you think about the fact that just last year, he published a New York Times bestselling biography, "From Pieces to Weight," what's new about what you've just done?

Mr. CALLAHAN-BEVER: All the visual stuff that he came to the table with me, there's pictures of him as a child, pictures of him in juvenile detention centers, all kinds of crazy stuff that no one's ever seen before. The beautiful part about doing "50 x 50" was that, because we had the photos to inform the narratives, it enabled us to sort of tell a lot of sort of interesting asides that weren't able to be covered in any of the sort of more straightforward, you know, tellings of his story.

CHIDEYA: There's a great picture of him with his grandmother, his aunt at a picnic at a drug rehab program. What exactly is that about?

Mr. CALLAHAN-BEVER: Well, he was, I think about 15 or 16, he got busted for having a crack in his shoe and basically they tested him for drugs. And although he wasn't a drug user, he - because he had been cooking up crack and using his hands to cut the coke, it absorbed through his pores and he was, you know, tested positive.

And so, basically his lawyer got the judge to agree to send him to a drug rehabilitation clinic rather than to send him to a juvenile detention center. And so he ended up going through that. And it's a very interesting sort of learning process, you know? He definitely attributed a lot of his ability to manipulate and his ability to discipline himself.

CHIDEYA: It talks about physical discipline. Do you ever think, okay, I'm working with this guy whose really talented, but he used to be a dealer, he talks all the time about getting shot. What kind of message am I sending to 12, 14-year-olds? Is this really what I should be doing?

Mr. CALLAHAN-BEVER: Hmm. To be honest, I don't really ever feel particularly conflicted by that. I think that he is fascinating person and incredibly intelligent person. And I think that, you know, really the takeaway from his story should not be sort of the glorification of the negative side of his life. What's so interesting is how sort of fiercely analytical he is in his approach to life and how pragmatic he is in sort of overcoming the adversities and sort of the bad things that were thrown his way.

CHIDEYA: Now, what about this whole bet with Kanye? Is he going to retire?

Mr. CALLAHAN-BEVER: Probably not. I think that if he does, it's going to have a lot more to do with his unhappiness with Interscope's ability to promote his album than it will, with anything having to do with Kanye West. I think he feels very much that he delivered on his end and that everyone around him sort of dropped the ball.

CHIDEYA: All right. Well that could be the next book. So Noah, thanks a lot.

Mr. CALLAHAN-BEVER: Oh, thank you.

CHIDEYA: Noah Callahan-Bever is editor-in-chief of Complex magazine and co-author of the book, "50 x 50."

The October issue of Complex hits newsstands on October 9th.

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