Dr. Dre decided to endorse expensive headphones. Despite not being that great, they're becoming sidewalk ubiquitous. Ergo, 50 Cent (aka Curtis Jackson, aka known purveyor of rap and B-movies and Vitamin Water), isn't going to be left out. We chatted with Curtis about his new cans, Twitter, and women.
50 (which I decided to call him, a few minutes before we sat down) is a nice guy, almost nervous, and surprisingly talkative. I say surprising because Dr. Dre is a giant monolith of gadget endorsement, sitting stoic and mute at every press event I've seen. He likely fears that talking with ruin the mystique he's been riding since his last album, which came out sometime in the 1940s, if I recall correctly. Or maybe he just doesn't care—he's rich whether he says anything more than a humble "Thank you for coming" or not.
50 Cent, on the other hand, is in flux. He's gone from gun rapper to guy who croons about toe-curling sex to businessman in a suit that costs more than the Washington Monument. I tried to look directly at his jeweled ring and immediately had a seizure. But Curtis Jackson is a friendly guy—it's in his interest to be, because now he sells things that are more successful than his songs. His image as a congenial fellow matters as a salesman. Or maybe he really is just friendly, despite the likelihood that he forgot my name faster than I could retract my outstretched hand. He faked it well, though.
We talked about his headphones, which sound pretty good. Better than Dre's, that's for sure. They're clearly gunning for the exact same market as Beats by Dre—conspicuously colored, bass-heavy, prominent logo on each cup—and you can't blame the guy. Dre's become a rich man made richer by shilling for sound gear—so why not 50? We were assured that SMS Audio uses "technology" that pushes 50's cans past the likes of Dre or Ludacris, the latter of whom I'm pretty sure doesn't actually know he's endorsing a headphone line.
What was this "technology"? We were never told. One of 50's publicists mumbled something about the word "clear" and then said she'd have to check. 50 didn't seem to mind.
But he clearly cared about the endeavor in a way Dr. Dre clearly doesn't. He wouldn't shut up about the attention he's put into running the company, the fact that part of the proceeds go to charity, or his certainty that his Rapper Headphones are The Best Rapper Headphones. He gives a shit about this business, superficial as it may be, suggesting a role beyond signing off on a form and receiving a check.
Is SMS Audio a cash-in? Of course it's a cash-in. But it's one of the most genuine-appearing gadget cash-ins to date. The technology—whether actual technology or "technology"—behind SMS Audio doesn't matter. People wear Beats by Dre headphones for the same reason people wear Bose headphones, which is the same reason plenty of people buy iPhones: to look and feel cool. How 50 Cent pulls that off is irrelevant, as the countless people with a giant "B" affixed to their ears might agree.