Over the weekend, the LA Times’ Chris Lee profiled Curtis Jackson, the rapper better known to his fans as 50 Cent, and his recently launched publishing venture G-Unit Books. Thanks to its high profile spokesman and writers like Nikki Turner and Noire writing books for the imprint, Lee writes, G-Unit is poised to become the most high profile purveyor of a hot-selling literary genre sometimes called “urban fiction” or “street lit” that has steadily increased its cultural presence over the last half-decade.
Which is to say that the rapper, 31, is using his publishing clout and street cred to cross-promote a dazzling array of branded goods and intellectual properties. Other rappers signed to 50′s G-Unit/Interscope record label make frequent cameos in the books; mentions of his Glaceau Mineral Water line, video games, Reebok shoes and G-Unit streetwear collection abound. Reciprocally, the rapper gives shout-outs to G-Unit Books in his songs. “There’s a whole generation of people who feel underserved by the types of books that are often categorized as ‘mainstream,’” Vibe editor Danyel Smith said. “50 and his management team are going to exploit that and hopefully serve some readers at the same time. From a marketing perspective, I think it’s genius.”
None of this would have likely happened had it not been for Marc Gerald, who published early street-lit novels in the 90s during his tenure at Norton and as an agent, represents many of the top street lit authors and brokered the G-Unit Books deal with Pocket. “It’s entertainment at the end of the day,” he said. “Historically, black books have had a heavy burden. They were meant to uplift the race â€” to speak to some larger social issue. It wasn’t something you could kick back and enjoy like a Stephen King book. These books have been under the radar because they don’t try to be more than they are.”