Apart from chicken sandwich memes, nothing has captured Black twitter's attention this last week of August 2019 like Power's controversial remix of "Big Rich Town," the once-beloved banger of an intro crooned by old-school R&B singer Joe. The new version, featuring Trey Songz, debuted Sunday, and the roasting has been swift, the memes gut-busting.
Way back in July, TV Guide previewed Season 6's first episode and asked 50 Cent why the intro changed now, after five seasons. "We wanted to offer a new energy without conceptually changing it," he said. "It's giving it a younger, fresher, vibe." That advance notice did nothing to prepare fans for actually hearing it, though, and the clear consensus of an intense backlash has determined that people very much want it back the way it was, thank you.
Changing a theme song is not without precedent; The Wire, Felicity, Family Matters and In Living Color are among the many programs that switched up their sound. Still, after 48 episodes of hearing Power open with the same instantly recognizable smooth-gangsta bop, the move was jarring. An unarticulated pain point for viewers seems to be the logical assumption that Power will use this revamped opening for the entirety of Season 6. But it's probably not. "Big Rich Town-gate" is probably another example of 50 Cent's masterful trolling.
Some context: Back in 2016, when I met 50 for the first time, I had to summon the courage to ask him if I had really seen his, uh, manhood in a Season 3 episode that would come out later that summer. Like 98 percent of the population, I only knew 50 Cent as the tough, "shot-9-times rapper from Queens" persona he wore in public, and was surprised to find that Curtis Jackson was relaxed, easygoing, and even a bit silly. "My penis is going to debut!" he said, grinning, and went on to chuckle about it like it was no big deal. (After all, he'd been au natural on screen before.)
But weeks later, when the episode aired, 50 launched into an now-infamous Instagram rant against Power creator Courtney Kemp, insisting he had not allowed Power to show him sans trou. "Kiss my ass," he wrote in a post he later deleted. "Tell the people from Starz stop calling my phone, you call now. I don't give a f--- you on a plane bitch." This, as we know now, turned out to be a primo stunt from hip hop's preeminent stunt queen -- a dude whose posts have famously gotten him into feuds with Floyd Mayweather, Vanderpump Rules' Lala Kent, his own Power cast member Rotimi, and a bankruptcy court.
50 may set new goalposts for petty, sometimes childish social media messiness, but it would be a mistake to consider him foolish. Though his fortunes reportedly took a tumble from his onetime $155 million fortune around 2015, the Power executive producer and co-creator is still worth tens of millions and continues to broaden his stake in Hollywood, including the upcoming Power spin-offs. Awakened to the scope of his shrewdness after that penis stunt, I made it a point to ask him about how he uses social media controversies as publicity when I saw him at the Television Critics Association press tour in July of 2019.
"Bad news travels so much faster than good news," he told me, weeks before the Season 6 premiere. I recognized the suit he was wearing as Alexander McQueen from the subtle skull pattern on the jacket and pants -- a reminder of his taste, wealth, and sinister intelligence that people can easily overlook. "If you tell them Power is returning such and such date, people are like, 'OK cool.' 10 likes. If you say, 'This bitch put out a picture of my penis without letting me see, that motherf--er!' Then people go, 'Oh they're getting into a fight! 50 crazy!' So they buy into it." In short, never doubt that 50 Cent knows what he's doing. Which brings us to now.
50 is having a LOT of fun with this controversy on his IG and Twitter. So much fun, in fact, that it almost seems... calculated.
Hotnewhiphop posted on Tuesday that Trey Songz wrote "they hurting my feelings" on 50's IG, something Trey Songz would probably never write if he really meant it. Hot 97 noted that Joe wrote, "FANS HAVE A LOT OF #power! Ya'll are amazing!," on Instagram, adding, "@50cent - ALL LOVE - (we made a classic!)," which he'd absolutely not do if he had sour feelings about somebody else recording his song. (TV Guide has reached out to Joe's rep for comment.)
Most tellingly, a rep at Starz told TV Guide it was their understanding that the song was just a one-episode deal, but wasn't sure, which almost certainly means that when 50 joked that he might bring Joe's version back, that had been the plan all along. That 50 would've orchestrated a huge stunt to open an episode that was mostly brick-laying is not surprising -- it's what we should have expected. Power loves surprising its viewers -- Kanan's death is a prime example -- and disrupting the one thing fans could count on every week is a helluva way to do it. Although he's not on-screen anymore, 50 Cent is still very much pulling Power puppet strings, so the lesson here is to expect the unexpected. And for 50's powers to only get stronger. He recently expanded his repertoire of skills to include directing this season, for Episode 3.
"Directing was great, it was different experience," he said. "You're the first person there and last to leave. You have to have a say in every scene. It's so many moving parts but once you get comfortable with it's cool. It registers me as the boss. And I'm always on point."
Indeed. Well played, sir. Well played.
Power continues Sundays at 9/8c on Starz.