Produced by Dr. Dre and Mike Elizondo, the track was created for Eminem's group D-12 to rap over, with the intention of using it on the 8 Mile soundtrack. It never came together for D-12, but after 50 Cent signed with Dre's Shady/Aftermath label, he was brought into the studio and offered the track. According to Elizondo, he spent an hour writing the lyrics and recorded most of his vocals that night.
The song was released as 50's first single, and it became a huge hit, topping the US Hot 100 for nine weeks. Predictably, it was especially popular in clubs, where some DJs played it twice in a row to satisfy demand.
This was he first song 50 recorded with Dr. Dre, and his first on a major label. After being dropped by Columbia Records without releasing an album, 50's mix tapes became wildly popular in underground scene and he was heavily bootlegged on the Internet. This got the attention of Dr. Dre and Eminem, who signed him to very lucrative deal with their label, Shady/Aftermath Records.
The video shows 50 going through training at Shady/Aftermath Records to become a superstar. It proved prophetic as 50 did become a star. The album sold 872,000 copies the first week it was released. Eminem is the only rapper to sell more records in a week.
This won for Best Rap Video at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards. 50 also won for Best New Artist In A Video.
50 Cent namechecks five different rappers in this song: Dr. Dre, Eminem, Xzibit, Lloyd Banks and Tupac. While the song is about going to a club in thug style, it covers a lot of ground, including some of 50's backstory ("been hit with a few shells").
Beyoncé recorded a version with different lyrics that was circulated on the Internet. Like the original, it became very popular in dance clubs. Her lyrics take the point of view of a girls' night out, and is called "Sexy Lil' Thug."
Mary J. Blige used the beat in song called "Hooked," which she recorded with P. Diddy.
Other rappers who used this beat include Bubba Sparxxx, who did a version called "In The Mudd," and Cadillac Tah, one of 50 Cent's rivals, who did an angry version called "There's A Snitch In The Club." Beyoncé and Mary J. Blige also recorded variations of it. Parody versions include "In Da Pub" by British DJ 50 Pence, and "In Da Dome," which was recorded for The Calgary Flames during the 2004 NHL playoffs. A Finnish rap group called Urbaanilegenda recorded a version called Klubilla (In Da Club in Finnish). (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
The line, "Go shorty, it's your birthday," dates back to a 1994 song by Luther Campbell of The 2 Live Crew called "It's Your Birthday," where he rapped, "Go Sheila, it's your birthday." The owner of Campbell's copyright sued 50 Cent, accusing him of stealing the line.
In 2007, this song was used in a commercial for Vitamin Water, with an orchestra playing the instrumental and 50 Cent conducting. 50 really did have his money on his mind: he was an early investor in Vitamin Water, and made a huge profit when the company was acquired by Coca-Cola.
This song became a hip-hop classic in part because of the line at the beginning, which is a much more quick and contemporary birthday tune than "Happy Birthday
"Every day it's someone's birthday," 50 said. "So it never loses it's relevance."