How 50 Cent got Kendrick Lamar to make his acting debut

I’m on the phone with 50 Cent, and he sounds like a proud papa. Kendrick Lamar, the chart-topper, Pulitzer Prize winner, and reigning greatest rapper alive just made his acting debut on 50 Cent’s show Power, and fans and critics alike were enraptured.

“When was the last time you’ve seen someone perform as a guest and get that kind of response? It was a huge response,” he repeats three or four times throughout our conversation.

“I’m just a supporting voice behind everyone else. It’s obvious,” 50 says.

How did this happen in the first place? It was Kendrick—who has been a fan of the show since the beginning.

“This has been for over four years. He liked the show from season one. And he was like, ‘yo, we’ve gotta do something!’

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In 2012, when Kendrick Lamar was 25 and had already released a series of acclaimed mixtapes and his debut Section.80, ‘K-Dot’ signed with Interscope and Aftermath Records, the latter founded by Dr. Dre and launched the careers of 50 Cent, The Game and Eminem. That year, Lamar released his breakthrough, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City on the label, and it was at that time that 50 Cent and he first met.

“Kendrick’s career in music and his success is with Interscope. My entire run has been with Interscope. There’s no one in his career as far as executives are concerned behind the scenes that weren’t involved in 50 Cent’s career,” 50 says.

It was because of that connection that the two developed trust between them.

“We built a relationship over time where he could ask questions and say something to me and know that there’s nothing political or nothing that’s holding back my actual answer. I’m just going to say exactly what it is and everybody is already familiar with everybody. It was a close enough relationship with me and Kendrick and the label that Kendrick’s on where we talked about making it happen and we finally got around to it, we finally got it done,” 50 says.

Kendrick played Laces, a homeless addict who forms a quick connection with the once crime kingpin Kanan, played by 50 Cent. 50 wanted to be sure that when Kendrick came on the show, they worked directly together, because “it would be comfortable for him to do it with me in a scene,” he says.

“The way that Kendrick’s character was developed was a really smart guy that would require medication. He’s saying intelligent things because he’s supposed to be on medication but he’s getting high instead of using the medicine he should be using. It’s got him all over the place, you know what I mean? He picked a complex character for the first thing he wanted to do” he says.

Kendrick’s delivery as an actor has much the same effect as his music.

“When Ken says something to you, you internalize it, and you listen to it for a second, it stops you from doing what you’re doing, you know?” 50 Cent says.

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50 Cent was struck by Kendrick’s professionalism.

“Even the days that he spent on set as a performer, we had a good time. He already was really well prepared. Not thinking words, thinking about the performance, because he’d done the work prior to,” he says.

“Will you bring him on again?”

“You’ve got to. You have to bring him back. When he does that well, you’ve got to bring him back baby!” 50 Cent laughs.

“In that scene when you raised the gun to Kendrick’s head, I screamed no! We need more!”

50 Cent laughs heartily.

“No! What you doing, fool! Don’t shoot him, fool, this is good!” he mocks me, giggling.

But this wasn’t the first time 50 Cent tried to get one of his friends in the music industry on the show. 50 Cent had previously pressed for Monica, the 90s R&B sensation, to join the cast of the show as Laverne ‘Jukebox’ Garner, which he wasn’t able to make happen, he tells me.

“I was going to do something with Monica, but Anika Noni Rose ended up freeing up. And she came in and she played the Jukebox role but we were actually considering talking to Monica about doing that. Me personally, I was in communication with her about playing it because I knew she could have played that role in a whole other way,” he says.

“A lot of times in music you become your hit song. Monica is like ‘The Boy is Mine’ but there’s a lot more depth to her there.”

Power airs exclusively on the Middle East on Starz Play Arabia