Looking Back On: 50 Cent – 21 Questions

I remember my very first listen to Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ (GRODT). I was in a pretty pissy mood that January and I chose my leaked copy of 50 Cent‘s debut album as my preferred mood music of the moment. Breezing right along, I was loving all of the aggressive content (as 50 calls it) of the album, and I knew that GRODT would be a classic before it even hit shelves.Then I reached track 14, “21 Questions”.

Immediately, the beat reminded me of LL Cool J‘s “Luv U Better”, which had come out the summer before so I assumed it was a Neptunes beat (Dirty Swift of Midi Mafia). But more importantly, what the hell was this track that was clearly made for the ladies doing around all this aggressive content?!

A syrupy Nate Dogg hook.

Simplified lyrics from 50.

A beat that samples Barry White‘s “It’s Only Love Doing Its Thing”.
Again, what the hell?
The reason(s)? Because 50 knew he had to show that he could do different types of records. Dr. Dre didn’t even want “21 Questions” on GRODT, but 50 insisted and won. “21…” would go on to set up future singles such as “Candy Shop” and “Just A Lil Bit”. Without 50 taking the shot here, who knows if those singles would’ve worked down the line.
I believe he also made “21…” as a further dig at Ja Rule. Throughout GRODT, 50 successfully mimicked Ja’s sing-songy flow that had taken himself and Murder Inc. to the top the charts. Being able to pull off a “chick song” as well as Ja did had to be just as much of a diss as a song like “Back Down” was. Of course, the 50/Ja beef would only escalate from GRODT, but there was no doubting that 50 had won the war after his debut album dropped.
I was only reminded of the track when it came across my satellite radio on the Pop2K station. Not one of the hip-hop/R&B; stations, one of the channels that plays pop hits from 2000-2009. I would expect “In Da Club” or the aforementioned “Candy Shop”. But instead, the little single that could was filling my ears and I was transported back to when I was 19/20 and mad at the world. And how a sugary little track in the middle of an album filled with anger made me realize things were going to be okay.
Of course, everybody else gave me shit for being such a fan of “21 Questions” but 10 years later, not everyone wants to listen to “Many Men” for the 9 billionth time when they’re on a road trip. Sometimes, it’s nice to remember to compare love to how a fat kid loves cake.

0 Replies to “Looking Back On: 50 Cent – 21 Questions”

  1. I totally agree! I feel like “21 Questions” also had a lot to do with generating sales from female listeners and branding 50 as a stone cold gangster with an occasional softer side. Hearing the “street cred” 50 clash with the R&B; 50 of “21 Questions” creates curiosity which pulls people in and makes them wonder what he's really about. The track is also a “BONUS” track which suggests 50 had second thoughts about slipping it on there – or so appearances may seem. “21 Questions” was creative marketing and allowed 50 to double down if it didn't take well with his audience. If people thought the song was weak, he could simply have blamed the label for including it. Clever.

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