In Da Department Store
50 Cent Talks Tall Tees, High-Tops, and the Internet
We talked to the Animal Ambition rapper on his recent stopover at the Nordstrom flagship where he met fans and signed products from his new SMS Audio line.
Is it just me or was that a weird weekend?
Weird like...just plain different. Other. That morning hail and the thunderstorms, the Blue Angels in a humid sky and stuck traffic everywhere below, the whiff of Beyoncé and Jay Z still circling around in the air (and your Instagram and FB feeds)...
That's it really: The air just felt a little...different.
Even Nordstrom felt a little different as I wandered up from the light rail on Saturday and made my way up to the fifth floor where I was to talk with the rapper 50 Cent, in town to meet with Nordstrom—and about 300 other people—on the occasion of his new SMS headphones release.
The nature of the beast with these visiting big-name media moments is such that you know you're getting 10 or 15 minutes and about three questions, but you always hope for a little more. I'm never one to stick too closely to a set of questions, but in these cases I'm weary of getting too conversational (as I am forever wont to do) and blowing my precious quarter of an hour chit-chatting about something random instead of getting some good quotes that I can pass on to you.
All of which is just to say that I began by asking Mr. Cent why it's worth it for him to come to Seattle and sign autographs and meet fans. Of course it's a marketing and publicity thing, but does he learn anything from the adoring crowd? Does he pick up on their vibes or hear directly about their experiences and feedback? Do they give him direction for future projects? Is there still a thrill at the level of rabid fandom?
The rapper and investor (any chance you're drinking Vitamin Water right now? He just got a little richer...) is super business savvy and he knows how to market—himself and his products, so he gave me a few passing answers about how his fans will definitely let him know what they like and what they don't, and how they'll tell him how and when they're using his products.
He also made sure I know that he personally uses the headphones when he's traveling or doing sports activities.
Okay, check: SMS headphones are useful for drowning out airport white noise and motivating you through the last half mile of your run.
Having lobbed around one requisite question about the product launch at hand, I moved on.
"So what about those Margiela high-tops you 'Grammed this morning?"
I had started following the rapper on Instagram a few days before and had watched that morning as a killer pair of kicks showed up on top of a perfectly placed Nordstrom box. It sort of seemed like his way of saying, "I'm herrrrrrrrrre."
"Did you notice my audience didn't understand them?" he asked. I hadn't, and when I went back in to see what he was talking about some time on Sunday afternoon, the shot was gone.
In the interview Fiddy had related that his fans are the kind of people who will wait in line for a retro Air Jordan release, but they just weren't feeling the Margiela angle. "Even after the Kanye lyric?" I asked. Fiddy just looked at me like I had switched over to some extra obscure Mandarin dialect.
Okay but isn't it your job to give your audience new ideas, to expand their style repertoire and design vocabulary? I thought Fiddy and I agreed that yes, it was, but I guess he had second thoughts.
I'm giving you my professional journalist diagnostic impression here: 50 is every bit the enigma wrapped around a mystery rolled up and tucked into an almost-impossible-to-undertand and equally impossible-to-not-like megabrand that you've heard he is.
So let's just stick to the more straightforward stuff. What are you feeling sartorially these days, I asked him. What's your steaze?
Not those triple XL tall-tees.
"I realized I was wearing a dress around my house," he explained, flashing a million dollar smile and laughing at his own canned joke. He referred to the tidy pinstriped T-shirt he was wearing and said, "I do them fitted now."
And, when appearing at a Nordstrom meet-and-greet at least, with an SMS gold and diamond nameplate.
Although I was pretty sure Fiddy had been due downstairs a good 10 minutes prior, I got off one more question—I asked him to pass on some advice to our city's own gear gurus and product developers. You know, don't you, that he's not just a headphone developer? He's a life coach.
I wish I could more succinctly download all his comments for you, but honestly, he went circling around a few ideas and almost lost me before he landed back at the idea that you gotta just keep your ass on the Internet.
"You can put up five product shots when you only really have two of them to sell, and just put 'sold out' on the other three!" Again, that smile. That laugh.
Got that, dear city of technology and e-commerce? Stay right where you are, and fabricate demand.
It seemed like advice we could put to use right then and there by making the crowd wait just another few minutes.
"So, I just have one more question, and it's one I've never asked anyone I've interviewed ever before."
The room got kinda heavy for a minute. Even I was on the edge of my seat.
"Can I get a picture with you?"
That one I put on my own Instagram. No way I'm taking it down, either. Regardless of what my audience thinks.