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50 Cent keeps tinkering, but to what end?

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50 Cent released his fourth studio album, "Before I Self Destruct," just last fall, and he claims his fifth is almost finished. You might just get to hear it, maybe as early as this summer -- if he's in the mood to let you.

"I don't know. It might not come out," says Fiddy, a k a Curtis Jackson III.

He's debating with himself.

He's still toying with ideas.

He's also recording a completely different album, simultaneously.

(He's also losing a freakish amount of weight, apparently.)

"'Black Magic' is almost finished," he says of the title already reported to be his next record, "and it's easier for me to go there. I've completed 18 songs. But I've started writing in a different direction, and I'm not sure what album I'll actually put out. I'll keep working until I'm certain I'm dead right."

He does this. He tinkers. He had the material for "Before I Self Destruct" ready to go three years ago, but as those tracks were being polished he started recording new ones. Those became "Curtis" in 2007. The "Self Destruct" tracks sat on the shelf until last year.

"But I've stayed on schedule," he says, as if punctuality trumps quality in hip-hop. "I've released an album every other year consistently, with three albums in-between by people I like. People I know make records whenever they're inspired to. They get out of bed when they feel like it. My process is different. I don't want to wait around. I want to give you something, right now."

052810fiddy.jpgWhen he says "people I know," he means one of his producer-muses, Dr. Dre (the other is good pal Eminem), whose recording process 50 Cent immediately begins denigrating. Dre -- who has been so busy collaborating with and producing other artists that he hasn't released a full-length album of his own so far this century -- clearly moves too slowly for Fiddy.

"You listen to things in Dre's studio and you think, 'What the hell's the matter with him?' I mean, the beat box is right there. Just press the button and do it! But he's up against all the success he's had in the past. He wants to make something that will top all that. That's tough. I feel the same way, but because I'm out and about, I can move faster. I'm more in the scene. Dre, man, you never see him. He's not a homebody, he's a studiobody. He's always in there working. But you listen to the stuff and you're like, man, you got it. Put it out already.

"If it ever takes me 10 years to make a record, you should think that's my last record. It probably means I'm going crazy in the process."

Given how weary the brags and boasts sounded on "Self Destruct" (yes, we get it, you were once a street tough bad-ass), maybe it wouldn't be a bad thing for 50 Cent to hole up in the studio for a few years. Those tracks didn't exactly improve with age as they sat on the shelf, watching the safe, shadowy "Curtis" leapfrog them into the marketplace, which was uninterested.

He does spend a large amount of time in the studio, though, toying with ideas and sounds.

"I hear a song and try to record one just like it, just to see if I can do it. No one hears it. I bring people in to do vocals and create sounds and beats and stuff that I never intend to put on an album. It's just to hear it, just to see if I can do it," he says.

But he's also more Mr. Hollywood than Dr. Dre or even Eminem. His name is on video games, biopics and vitamin water, and while Dre is sewing Frankenstein together in the lab, Fiddy is often at parties smiling for the paparazzi. Maybe he should take his Ritalin, listen to what Dre's doing, and go "see if he can do it."

While out and about, he hits the clubs, though he claims that his recent comments to British DJ Tim Westwood -- hinting that "Black Magic" will be a dance-music album -- have been taken out of context.

"There was a dance song," he says. "I was in the U.K., and I went into a nightclub. When I walk in someplace like that, it turns into the 50 Cent station. They start playing my music because I'm there. I said, 'No, play what you play if I wasn't here.' The songs that came on had a faster tempo, and I wanted to make a song like that. I had a band on the tour, so I took 'em to the studio and produced a track like that. It's not included in what's planned for 'Black Magic.'"

Then again, he's still not sure what's planned for "Black Magic." He insists people not "put me in a box." But he's trotting out a few new tracks on his new U.S. tour, which kicks off tonight in Cleveland, finally supporting "Self Destruct."

50 CENT
MONICA; SOULJA BOY; LLOYD BANKS

• • 7 p.m. Sunday

• • UIC Pavilion, 525 S. Racine

• • Tickets, $57.50-$107.50

• • (800) 745-3000; ticketmaster.com

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on May 28, 2010 8:00 AM.

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