Near the end of the new straight-to-DVD documentary "Stop Snitchin, Stop Lyin," Compton gangsta rapper the Game is shown creeping through the underbrush behind a Farmington, Conn., home he says belongs to his hip-hop rival, 50 Cent. It's the latest salvo in an escalating war of words between the Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum selling MCs that has raged across stages, in TV interviews and on underground mix-tapes for almost a year.
From all accounts, the feud appears to be real, not just a marketing ploy, and, as such, could be dicey for Interscope Records. The label is home to both hard-core rapper 50 Cent (real name: Curtis Jackson) and the Game (Jayceon Taylor), two of the company's highest-selling artists whose albums sold 7.2 million copies last year. Now fans across the hip-hop blogosphere are wondering how Interscope will handle damage control. " 'There were legal threats against the Game if [the DVD] did come out, as well as a ton of pressure from Interscope,' " gossip columnist Illseed wrote on allhiphop.com's Rumors website, quoting an anonymous source. "I guess I'll never see it, huh?"
Interscope is keeping silent on the matter, saying it does not comment on unofficial releases.
For a few weeks, several websites were selling the DVD -- blairsnitchproject.com, wedonttalktopolice.com, stopsnitchinstoplyin.com and 50snitch.com among them. But they were shut down last month in the days before "Stop Snitchin's" original Dec. 6 street date.
After first pushing back the date to Jan. 17, Bungalo Records, the company distributing it, said Tuesday morning that "Stop Snitchin's" release had been canceled for unspecified reasons.
In the DVD, the Game, who also directed the 100-minute film, and several friends hop a fence to make their way onto the compound's basketball court -- a luxurious property recognizable to anyone who watched last year's MTV special "50 Cent's House Party."
While attempting a slam-dunk, he snaps the hoop's metal rim -- it looks like an accident -- and steals it.
In late November, the Game bragged about the theft on Sirius Satellite Radio's Westside Hype Radio show, whose DJ said the Game wore the rim around his neck during the interview.
"We broke ... 50's basketball court," the rapper said. "This is 50 Cent's rim from his backyard. This is my new bling-bling!"
While the Game's attitude was lighthearted, a tense undercurrent between the two artists remains -- not to mention the possibility of trespassing charges against the rapper, a former member of the Cedar Block Piru Bloods gang. (The Farmington police said no charges had been filed against the Game, and 50 Cent has not indicated that he plans to press charges.)
Since bursting on the scene in 2002, 50 Cent has become nearly synonymous with hip-hop infighting, slinging insults at nearly two-dozen rap luminaries, and selling millions of records in the process. The conflict between 50 Cent and the Game tracks back to 2004 when 50 Cent was pressed into collaborating on the Game's debut album, "The Documentary," by their hip-hop mentor, Dr. Dre, at the behest of Interscope Geffen A&M; chairman, Jimmy Iovine.
Early last year, 50 Cent accused the Game of what he perceived as disloyalty and fired him from the rap collective G-Unit, sparking what has become the industry's most voluble and acrimonious rivalry.
Unlike the mid- to late 1990s' East Coast-vs. West Coast hip-hop war that pitted rappers and executives at New York's Bad Boy Entertainment against those of the Southland's Death Row Records -- during which rap superstars Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. perished in separate, still unresolved shootings -- the Game vs. 50 Cent feud plays out against the corporate backdrop of a single label. An executive there privately admitted to much hand-wringing over the swipes.
Last February, when a member of the Game's entourage was shot in the leg outside New York's Hot 97 radio station, 50 Cent was making a studio appearance there. (The G-Unit camp denies any tie to the assailant. Police said they concluded that 50 Cent was not involved in the altercation but declined to say if an investigation is ongoing.) And even though the rappers negotiated a truce at a charity event last March, they have continued to trade barbs.
In an October interview on Hot 97, 50 Cent told Funkmaster Flex: "I could get rid of Game in 16 bars. [Bars are measures of rap lyrics.] There's so many inconsistencies with who he is and what he says, it would probably spin him out of control."
On several occasions, 50 Cent has taken credit for writing six songs on "The Documentary," notably, the duet "Hate It or Love It (featuring 50 Cent)," a hit single with a Grammy nomination for best rap song and best rap performance by a duo.
Onstage at June's Summer Jam concert in New York, the Game inflated a giant rubber rat wearing a G-Unit T-shirt.
Both the Game and 50 Cent declined interview requests.
DJ Skee is one of two producers who worked on a mix-tape, also called "Stop Snitchin, Stop Lyin," that is part of a trilogy of diss mixes aimed at 50 Cent. He said the Game decided to go on the attack after witnessing 50 Cent's verbal assault on another rapper, Ja Rule in 2004.
"50 was on the radio talking about Game and trying to destroy his career," Skee said. "So he thought about what 50 did to Ja Rule. He didn't want to turn out in that same pattern. Ja Rule never responded to 50 and he looked weak. [The Game] did this to save his career."
Apparently his career salvation included renting a billboard on Queens' Jamaica Avenue. In the DVD, the billboard is emblazoned with the slogan "G-Unot" -- a barbed play on the name of 50 Cent's G-Unit crew.
"The DVD is not as serious as it may sound," DJ Skee said. "A lot of it is quite funny."
The film, shot on digital video, functions as a mean-spirited hip-hop travelogue, following the Game from UCLA to locations throughout the Eastern Seaboard. Searching for his nemesis, he conducts man-on-the-street interviews with attractive women and street-savvy men who invariably disparage 50 Cent. And the Game is shown inciting a crowd of protesters to march through New York with signs picketing 50 Cent.
On the hip-hop website PimpWiz.com, a reviewer wrote: "People love soap operas. We have to say it's a pretty brilliant marketing campaign to pull the same moves 50 pulled on Ja Rule but bigger and badder. And, of course, [the Game] had to do it bigger by starting a full-fledged 'movement' against 50."
Leading up to the DVD's cancellation, its viral marketing has been good for sales of the underground CD. As of last week, the "Stop Snitchin" mix-tape was sold out at a number of local hip-hop music shops. (Although not technically legal, hip-hop mix-tapes build street credibility and are tolerated by the recording industry. Sales figures are impossible to verify.) And according to several sales clerks, a steady stream of customers has been in to ask about the DVD.
"I don't know how exactly they get the word that they're coming out," said Johnny Juice, 25, an employee at Hollywood's Fat Beats record store. "This whole series of tapes that the Game has done dissing 50 Cent and G-Unit, [customers] know even before we get them that they're coming."
The mix-tapes also function as dramas, providing fans with intimate details and developments about their favorite rap stars' fractured relationship.
"It's fun because they listen to the things that are said and the funny punch lines," Juice said. "At the same time, they're like, 'How much longer can it go on? Move on. Just make your music.' "