By Simon Vozick-Levinson
Updated January 13, 2009 at 12:00 PM EST
Lil Wayne: Jonathan Mannion

::Sniff:: Do you guys smell something? Ah, yes, it’s the delicate scent of desperation, wafting from the general direction of 50 Cent’s mansion. Lean in a little closer to some of 50’s most recent interviews and you’ll find that odor billowing at you in great gusts. Case in point: 50 called Eminem’s Sirius XM channel this weekend to promote his repeatedly-delayed upcoming album Before I Self-Destruct — by lobbing some hateful trash at current arch-enemies Kanye West and Lil Wayne. Click here for an NSFW summary of his commentary, if you must. Lovely stuff.

But hey, what other options does this guy have? 50’s last album, 2007’s Curtis, was his worst-selling record to-date. His MTV reality show was quietly canceled. Even the car he was developing with Pontiac is dead! When you pin your entire public image on your vast sales power the way 50 did in 2003-05, blaming the economy doesn’t quite cut it. And as the Roots’ ?uestlove pointed out in a recent message-board entry — he’s the guy posting as “15” — 50 might have maxed out in artistic terms, too. Wrote ?uest: “there is simply NO coming back from the term ‘i’ll kill you.’ its like…what is more gangsta than ‘i’ll kill you!’…it solidifies your status….but unfortunately you raise the bar sohigh that you can start counting down the minutes from there.” Put that all together and it’s no wonder he’s trying to get attention however he can.

The shame of it all is, some of the new music that’s leaked from 50’s studio sessions lately hasn’t been half bad. 50 Cent is a legitimate talent who’s made some great music over the years. And he has true star quality when he wants to. I’ve met him twice, and he’s come across as a smart, engaging, witty operator both times. But I guess that’s not the face he wants to show the public, especially not when his commercial future is in doubt. So the question is, after a few years watching him stick to this same holding pattern of beef, drama, and more beef, how much longer will you even be paying attention to 50 Cent’s antics?

More on 50 Cent:
50 showed up in Eminem’s exclusive personal photo album
Talking to 50 on the set of that cancelled reality show
50 performed at Sundance last year
His last album, Curtis, made EW’s Worst Albums of 2007

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