Maybe it's the Hova- worship overkill, or his own intensely competitive spirit, but 50 Cent is puzzled by all the fuss over Jay-Z's performance in the Fade to Black documentary. In the back of his customized, bulletproof black-on-black SUV, he watches Hov's reflective opening monologue over the nighttime New York skyline on the plasma screen partition. "My whole career, I've been thinking of a night like this,” Jay proclaims. "I ain't trying to get too dramatic on y'all, but that night, I felt like the luckiest man in the world.” Expressionless, 50's blank stare punctures his present company: "Yo, you think he wrote that himself?” Later, as a sea of sparks flood the stage onscreen, he compares Jay's retirement (one show) to G-Unit's Anger Management three-stage show (20 dates nationwide). The other shoe finally drops: "It's Madison Square Garden,” 50 shrugs. "I do shows like that all the time.”

Three hours later, 40,000 fans from California's Inland Empire lose their minds when the Gorilla Unit alpha male leaps from a fallen Statue of Liberty head like King Kong, and onto the Hyundai Pavilion stage. With Mr. Carter swapping the booth for the boardroom, no other Big Apple rapper can evoke that kind of hysteria out of state. In less than three years, Curtis Jackson, former blackballed industry outsider, has fulfilled his Ali-style boast in "High All the Time” ("I can go at Nas and Jigga/ Both for the throne”). The king has retired; long live the king. But in order to accomplish all he has, Mr. Jackson, 30, followed a code; a few essential rules that have won him the most powerful force on the planet—influence.