Despite selling more than 20 million albums in the U.S., having nearly a dozen top 10 singles, being ranked as the third top overall artist of the 2000-2009 decade by Billboard magazine behind Eminem and Usher and snagging a mantle's worth of Grammys, American Music Awards, Video Music Awards and BET Awards, he still feels looked upon as the underdog, and that perplexes him.
“I think it's because you’ve had so much success," he reasons, while noshing on fried shrimp in a private dining room at a West Hollywood hotel. "When you’ve had so much, people are tired of rooting for you to win."
It doesn't take long for the frustration to appear on his face.
"It boggles me. I’m still looked at as the underdog. I mean, how is it, a ... sells 30 million records and be looked at as the underdog? For some reason, I get it," he chuckles as he shakes his head. "It’s a mystery to me. I feel like no matter what I do, it’s going to be something.”
He knows part of that is due to the performance of his last album, 2008's “Brass Knuckles,” which delivered first-week sales that paled in comparison to the storied blockbuster success of his previous albums. That slide resulted in his latest release, “5.0,” being pegged as a "comeback."
The disc, which debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard 200 for the week of Nov. 24 after selling a relatively few 63,000 copies, rides on the strength of his platinum single “Just a Dream.”