Interview: Robert Greene on 50 Cent

In, the new book Robert Greene co-wrote with 50 Cent, Greene regards the rapper as the music world's modern-day Bonaparte.
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A few years ago, I interviewed 50 Cent in San Francisco. I was flown there from Toronto for an international press junket a couple months before the release of the rapper's second album, The Massacre. It was the sort of promotional event that major record companies simply can't afford anymore.

While I remember 50's frank answers, direct eye contact and villainous cackle, one of the more memorable parts of the interview happened as I entered the hotel suite. A journalist/hip-hop artist from France was concluding his interview by pitching his album to a clearly uninterested 50. The rapper's name was Lil' Napoleon.

Without dwelling on the redundancy of the word "Lil'" preceding "Napoleon," the point is that author Robert Greene might have seen some dramatic irony in this moment. In The 50th Law, the new book he co-wrote with 50 Cent, Greene regards the rapper as the music world's modern-day Bonaparte.

Greene, who has built his career on a series of bestsellers about power, seduction and war, thinks there's a lot we can take away from 50's M.O. -- above all, his fearlessness.

What can everyone learn from 50 Cent?

Well, looking at him, I decided he had the quality of being fearless in almost every situation. So based on that, and my talks and research, we kind of crafted The 50th Law, which is basically the fears that you have in life, they keep you stuck in the same patterns. Um, basically they keep you down. And to the degree that you are able to confront your fears and move past them, you have this particular kind of power. And we maintain in the book that this is kind of the ultimate law of power. I wrote a book called The 48 Laws Of Power, but if you're not able to deal with your fears -- and they come in many different forms -- then knowing the 48 Laws won't mean anything. So I'm calling this the ultimate law of power.

I know 50 is a fan of your other books, The 48 Laws of Power and The 33 Strategies of War. Has 50 Cent ever violated any of those rules?

Oh sure. We go way to far with our celebrity star culture and we turn them into these myths that are just ridiculous, and he's a human being. He's made mistakes, definitely. Sometimes he lets his emotions get the better of him, he can get a little too aggressive for his own good. He's trying now to kind of reinvent himself. I guess what differentiates him though, maybe in some ways differentiates someone like a Barack Obama in a way, is that he sees his mistakes and he learns from them. And he doesn't repeat them. And he's very self-aware. So he will make mistakes, and he will violate laws, but he reflects on what went wrong and he won't repeat it.

What's an example of a mistake that 50 Cent has made and learned from?

The launching of his last album did not go as well as he would have hoped, and the whole kind of beef with Kanye, and it seemed like he had sort of lost there. And he probably would have done it differently. But learning from your mistakes is a very important part of The 50th Law; a lot of people are afraid to try anything because they're afraid that they might fail or that they won't succeed or whatever. And that keeps them back. And 50's not afraid to try something like some of the many ventures he's tried that haven't done so well or the last album, and if it fails, so be it, he learned from it. You can't go very far in life unless you're willing to make mistakes and learn from them.

How much of this book is biographical?

Essentially what I've done is that there are 10 chapters, each dealing with a different form of fear, and each chapter begins with an anecdote from his life that kind of illustrates the story. And then there's a section after that that kind of shows you what that means, and then the larger lesson, and then the final section kind of discusses the fear in general and strategies on how to deal with them, so I'd say about a fourth of the book deals with stories from his life, and then the rest of it is stories, strategies and also people from history who fit this kind of fearless mode or model.

Which historical figure would you say is most akin to 50 Cent?

In the forward I say that 50 Cent is like the Napoleon Bonaparte of music. And I talk about Napoleon in there because he did something that nobody in the history of warfare ever did. So on one level, physically, he was very courageous and he would be out there, at the front of his troops, exposing himself to battle and danger, which is a chapter on being a fearless leader and leadership, I discuss the importance of leading from the front. But then on the other level, most generals were afraid to lose their armies and divide them up because they didn't feel comfortable with the chaos that might ensue.

He totally reinvented warfare; first of all he had a much larger army than any other country, and he broke it up into these large divisions and gave his field marshals great leeway to do what they wanted before the era of any kind of communications. And this took an incredible amount of faith and courage and I call it fearlessness because essentially he was allowing himself to add more chaos to the battlefield, less that he could control directly, but it gave him incredible flexibility on how to handle the danger of strategic moment. So I talk about how the world is an incredibly chaotic place, particularly now, and if you try to control everything directly, it's out of fear that's operating inside of you. You need to let go of that, and work with the chaos, and be very fluid and adaptable, adaptive in your movements. And Napoleon very much fits the mold.

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