Fans lined the stairs all the way up to the third floor of the flagship Henri Bendel store in New York on Wednesday night, waiting for their turn to meet 50 Cent (and also purchase his SMS Audio headphones and wireless speaker). The launch of the partnership marks the accessories retailer's first in-store audio products, and another rung scaled along the rapper-CEO's climb up the premier audio-game ladder.
While a store known for fashion accessories and cosmetics may not seem like the perfect pairing on paper, 50 Cent is confident it will produce positive results on both ends.
"I think it's going to be great. It's organic; it made perfect sense to me," 50, whose real name is Curtis Jackson, said in an interview with HuffPost Entertainment. "When you want to make high-quality audio, you need to find high-quality consumers, and the consumers who consistently shop here are the ones who will make that sacrifice."
Jackson revamped the STREET wired and SYNC wireless headphones himself. "I first asked myself what [the media] would ask: 'Why buy this above the rest of the market?'" he said about the accessories. "I looked at the imperfections of the products I had previously purchased and went from there. Obviously sound quality was first, but I wanted to focus on other things like durability."
The STREETs offer style incomparable, coming in a variety sleek, high-gloss colors such as red, green, and teal. The SYNCs offer the company's first Bluetooth headphones, ranging up to 35 feet, five feet more than the Beats Bluetooth headphones. While the original SYNC model's wireless receiver operating system brought about criticism, Jackson said that Bluetooth technology just wasn't good enough at the time of their creation.
This summer's revamp also marked the debut of SMS Audio's Bluetooth speaker, and according to Jackson, this is just his first step into the device field.
"You know, I had a nightclub audio system at the house for no reason, and I really like the idea of adding a sound system," he said with a laugh. "There's always a way to evolve it to have better functionalities. Think about the big speakers we had in the past. They're gone now, and instead we have docks. I want to create a bigger system."
Beyond the impressive qualities of Jackson's audio line, the purchase incentive expands because he is not just offering a product, but a brand that stands for more than its surface. A portion of each U.S. sale helps provide meals to insecure families through Feeding America, in-store or online. The company also helps bring attention to deserving underground artists through its Behind The Unsigned casting. One might expect a rapper's lineup to strictly include emcees, but with a funky soul collective like Biscuits & Gravy on the roster, it is clear that the limit ends only with passion and hard work.
"They have to be creating something original; something that stands out," he said. "I'm not just into hip-hop, and really, hip-hop is the genre that pulls from all other genres. I appreciate the people who perform differently. I remember hearing Ariana Grande for the first time and thinking, 'Look at this shit!' I've seen a lot of people create their music right in front of me, and I love hearing their live recordings and then seeing how it changes through different plug-ins and the whole recording process."
So what's next for the entrepreneur? "Well, because of the holidays, even though this isn't necessarily the most popular gift, maybe some high end underwear. You can never have enough underclothes," he said, citing a recent visit to a Frigo pop-up store as his inspiration.
But what about his long-coming album, "Street King Immortal"? Unfortunately, there is no word on the album release yet, but Jackson said he plans to put out a full body of work in January. While he did not label it as an album, he stated that it was more than a mixtape, and that it includes all original material. As to the sound of the release, he said he was "inspired in a whole other direction."
Jackson didn't offer up what direction that was, but when asked about his favorite records from 2013, he maybe provided some perspective.
"I've really been enjoying Big Sean's 'Beware,' Drake's 'Started From The Bottom' and I'm a Miley Cyrus fan," he said. Discussing the controversy surrounding Cyrus, he said, "You can’t have artists just sitting in a box. Sometimes you build your own restraints and you prevent yourself from doing the things you truly want to do."