50 Cent on Headphone Line, Teaming with Timbaland at CES 2013
Billboard -- 50 Cent 's first foray into headphones didn't go well. In fact, it was something of a disaster. A 2010 investment in Sleek Audio failed to materialize any headphones, but it did spawn a lawsuit. It also convinced the hip-hop icon that if he wanted to pursue his own branded line of musical headgear, he'd have to do it himself.
"I've bumped my head in this space before," he says. "I invested in a company that was the wrong company. I came to CES for the first time in 2010 and presented the concept of what I wanted to do. It didn't work out with that company, so I acquired Kono Audio, which specialized in child safety products, so they understand how the ear registers sound."
Kono was digested into SMS and the company has been making high-end headphones for the past two years. This year, at CES, 50 Cent is once again on hand to unveil Street by 50, a new high-end line ranging in price from $180 to $300.
He also unveiled a new investment partner in SMS - mega-producer Timbaland has come on board as a principal and member of the company's board of directors. In addition, he'll have "substantial involvement" in the design and audio engineering process for forthcoming products. SMS is a return of sorts to the music industry for 50 Cent the businessman, who has primarily focused on other ventures. Previous successful investments include Vitamin Water and Street King energy drinks. He has also struck deals with Reebok and Right Guard for a variety of licensed products.
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That diversification helped him break public perceptions that formed after the release of his breakthrough album - 2003's "Get Rich or Die Tryin'".
"I became that to the general public," he says. "It makes it difficult to be … the guy who should be endorsing major corporations. … I've since destroyed that aura of me not being the guy who can endorse products."
He also expanded his artistic reach beyond music, appearing in films and video games - areas where he plans to remain active.
An active player of NBA games, he says he longs for the days of classic titles - and wants to see if there's a way to modernize them.
"I like fighting games - the old games are exciting to me, like 'Street Fighter' and 'Outrunner,'" he says. "I want to be able to take that and do a newer version of that and bring something to the table, because that's exciting and entertaining."
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On the big screen, he's appearing in two upcoming films: The thriller "Frozen Ground," with Nicholas Cage and John Cusak and "The Tomb" with Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. He also recently completed filming for the Robert DeNiro/Morgan Freeman holiday release "Last Vegas".
"I like to keep myself in good company," he says.
Musically, his next album - the first in four years - drops Feb 26. The delay was caused by the regular audit process that came as he reached the end of his obligations to Interscope.
"I kinda got writer's block until I got paid," he says.
Once it was settled, though, that writer's block was cured fast. While the CD will only contain 13-14 songs, he says he ended up recording more than 70.
And, he says, there's a good chance of a reunion with Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo, his partners in G-Unit.
"People grow in different directions," he says. "[They] have different agendas about things they want to do and they're sorting themselves out in that way and I'm focused on thngs that are important to me right now, but there's a strong possibility there will be a G-Unit [collaboration] with the three of us. But right now, I'm focused on my solo project."
A technology nut, 50 says he lives by his phone and constantly carries a Canon camera to document his travels.
He also carries a MacBook Air, but says it irks him from time to time, since he's unable to watch movies on the device (which lacks an optical drive).
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Find more online: Billboard.com
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