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Curtis James Jackson III (born July 6, 1975) is an American rapper commonly known by his stage name 50 Cent. He rose to fame following the release of his albums Get Rich or Die Tryin' and The Massacre. 50 Cent achieved multi-platinum success with both albums, selling over twenty-one million records worldwide.
Born in South Jamaica, Queens in New York, 50 Cent began drug dealing at the age of twelve during the 1980s' crack epidemic.After leaving drug dealing in favor of pursuing a rap career, he was shot nine times in 2000. After the release of his mixtape compilation Guess Who's Back? in 2002, 50 Cent was discovered by rapper Eminem and signed to Interscope Records. With the help of Eminem and Dr. Dre-who produced his first major commercial successes-he became one of the highest selling rap artists in the world. He founded the record label G-Unit Records in 2003, which has signed several successful rappers such as Young Buck, Lloyd Banks, and Tony Yayo and he has engaged in numerous feuds with other rappers including Ja Rule, The Game, and Cam'ron.
50 Cent, born Curtis James Jackson III, grew up in the South Jamaica neighborhood of Queens in New York City. He grew up without a father and was raised by his mother Sabrina Jackson, who gave birth to him at the age of fifteen. Sabrina, who was a cocaine dealer, raised Jackson until the age of eight, when she was murdered. At the age of twenty-three, she became unconscious after someone drugged her drink. She was then left for dead after the gas in her apartment was turned on and the windows shut closed. After her death, Jackson moved into his grandparents house with his eight aunts and uncles. He recalls, "My grandmother told me, 'Your mother's not coming home. She's not gonna come back to pick you up. You're gonna stay with us now.' That's when I started adjusting to the streets a little bit." Jackson grew up with his younger cousin, Michael Francis, who earned the nickname "25 Cent" in reference to being his younger counterpart. Francis currently raps under the stage name "Two Five".
Jackson began boxing around the age of eleven. In the mid 1980s, he competed in the Junior Olympics as an amateur boxer. He aspired to fight in the Golden Gloves boxing tournament, but was too young to compete. He recounts, "I was competitive in the ring and hip-hop is competitive too... I think rappers condition themselves like boxers, so they all kind of feel like they're the champ." Jackson began dealing narcotics at the age of twelve. He sold drugs "between the hours of 3-6 pm" when his grandparents thought he was at after school programs. He also took guns and drug money to school. In the tenth grade, he was caught by metal detectors at Andrew Jackson High School. He later stated, "I was embarrassed that I got arrested like that... After I got arrested I stopped hiding it. I was telling my grandmother [openly], 'I sell drugs.'"
On June 29, 1994, Jackson was arrested for helping to sell four vials of cocaine to an undercover police officer. He was arrested again three weeks later when police searched his home and found heroin, ten ounces of crack cocaine, and a starter gun. He was sentenced to three to nine years in prison, but managed to serve six months in a Shock Incarceration boot camp, where he earned his GED. Jackson said that he did not use cocaine himself, he only sold it. He adopted the nickname "50 Cent" as a metaphor for "change". The name was derived from Kelvin Martin, a Brooklyn robber in the 1980s who was known as "50 Cent". Jackson said: "I took the name 50 Cent because it says everything I want it to say. I'm the same kind of person 50 Cent was. I provide for myself by any means."
Early career In 1996, a friend introduced 50 Cent to Jam Master Jay of Run-DMC who was organizing his label. It was the first time 50 Cent had entered a studio. Jay taught him how to count bars, write choruses, structure songs, and make a record. 50 Cent's first official appearance was on a song titled "React" with the group Onyx on their 1998 album Shut 'Em Down. He credited Jam Master Jay as an influence who helped him improve his ability to write hooks. He produced 50 Cent's first album, however it was never released. In 1999, after leaving Jam Master Jay, the platinum selling producers Trackmasters took notice of 50 Cent and signed him to Columbia Records. They sent him to a studio in Upstate New York, where he produced thirty-six songs in two and a half weeks. Eighteen were included on his unofficially released album, Power of the Dollar in 2000.
50 Cent's popularity started to increase after the successful but controversial underground single, "How to Rob", which he wrote in half an hour while in a car on the way to a studio. The track comically describes how he would rob many famous artists. He explains the reasoning behind song's content as, "There's a hundred artists on that label, you gotta separate yourself from that group and make yourself relevant." Offended by the record, Jay-Z, Big Pun, DMX, and the Wu-Tang Clan replied to the song. Following the release of the single, Nas invited 50 Cent to travel on a promotional tour for his Nastradamus album. The track was intended to be released with "Thug Love" featuring Destiny's Child, but two days before he was scheduled to film the "Thug Love" video, 50 Cent was shot and had to be confined to a hospital due to his injuries. The next single, "Ghetto Qu'ran", dealt with the history of the drug trade in Queens, mentioning the names of individuals who were involved in the business during the 1980s.
Shooting On May 24, 2000, 50 Cent was attacked by a gunman outside his grandmother's house. He went into a friend's car, but was asked to return to the house to get jewelry. His son was in the house while his grandmother was in the front yard. Upon returning to the back seat of the car, a car pulled up nearby. An assailant then walked up to 50 Cent's left side with a 9 mm handgun and fired nine shots at close range. He was shot nine times-in the hand (a round hit his right thumb and came out of his pinky), arm, hip, legs, chest, and left cheek. The face wound resulted in a swollen tongue, the loss of a wisdom tooth, and a small but permanent slur in his voice. His friend also sustained a gunshot wound to the hand. They were driven to hospital where he spent thirteen days in recovery. The alleged shooter was killed three weeks later.
50 Cent recalled the incident saying, "It happens so fast that you don't even get a chance to shoot back... I was scared the whole time... I was looking in the rear-view mirror like, 'Oh shit, somebody shot me in the face! It burns, burns, burns.'" In his memoir, From Pieces to Weight: Once Upon a Time in Southside Queens, he wrote, "After I got shot nine times at close range and didn't die, I started to think that I must have a purpose in life... How much more damage could that shell have done? Give me an inch in this direction or that one, and I'm gone." The recovery process took five months, and he used a walker for the first six weeks. His physical workout regimen helped attain his muscular physique.
While in hospital, 50 Cent signed a publishing deal with Columbia Records. However, he was dropped from the label and "blacklisted" in the recording industry after finding out he had been shot. Unable to find a studio to work with in the U.S, he traveled to Canada. Along with his business partner Sha Money XL, he recorded over thirty songs for mixtapes, with the purpose of building a reputation. 50 Cent's popularity rose and in early 2001, he released material independently on the mixtape, Guess Who's Back?. Beginning to attract interest, and now backed by G-Unit, 50 Cent continued to make songs. They released the mixtape, 50 Cent Is the Future, revisiting material by Jay-Z and Raphael Saadiq.
Rise to fame In 2002, Eminem listened to a copy of 50 Cent's Guess Who's Back? CD. He received the CD through 50 Cent's attorney, who was working with Eminem's manager Paul Rosenberg. Impressed with the album, Eminem invited 50 Cent to fly to Los Angeles, where he was introduced to Dr. Dre. After signing a one million U.S. dollar record deal, 50 Cent released the mixtape, No Mercy, No Fear. It featured one new track, "Wanksta", which was put on Eminem's 8 Mile soundtrack.
On February 6, 2003, 50 Cent's commercial debut album, Get Rich or Die Tryin' was released. All Music Guide called it "the most hyped debut album by a rap artist in about a decade." Rolling Stone noted the album for its "dark synth grooves, buzzy keyboards and a persistently funky bounce" with 50 Cent complementing the production in "an unflappable, laid-back flow." 872,000 copies were sold in the first four days. It was certified gold in its first week, platinum the following week, and was eventually certified six times platinum by the RIAA. The lead single, "In da Club", which The Source noted for its "blaring horns, funky organs, guitar riffs and sparse hand claps" broke a Billboard record as the 'most listened-to' song in radio history within a week.
Interscope then granted 50 Cent his own label, G-Unit Records in 2003. He appointed his manager Sha Money XL as the president. The label signed Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo, and Young Buck as the established members of G-Unit. Dr. Dre and 50 Cent signed The Game under a joint venture. On March 3, 2005, 50 Cent's second commercial album, The Massacre was released. He became the first solo artist to have three singles on the Billboard top five in the same week with "Candy Shop", "Disco Inferno", and "How We Do". Rolling Stone noted that "50's secret weapon is his singing voice - the deceptively amateur-sounding tenor croon that he deploys on almost every chorus."
After the departure of The Game, 50 Cent signed singer Olivia and rap veterans Mobb Deep to G-Unit Records. Spider Loc, M.O.P., and Young Hot Rod later joined the label. 50 Cent has expressed interest in working with other rappers outside of G-Unit, such as Lil' Scrappy of BME, LL Cool J from Def Jam, Mase from Bad Boy, and Freeway of Roc-A-Fella, some of whom he has now recorded with.
Personal life In 1997, 50 Cent's then-girlfriend Shaniqua Tompkins gave birth to a son, Marquise Jackson. The birth of his son changed his outlook on life, "[w]hen my son came into my life, my priorities changed, because I wanted to have the relationship with him, that I didn't have with my father." He credits his son with inspiring his career, "[m]e being an artist on the music front came from my son actually. He was motivation to go in a different direction." 50 Cent has a tattoo of "Marquise" with an axe on his right bicep. "The axe is 'cause I'm a warrior. I don't want him to be one, though," he explains. He also has "50", "Southside", and "Cold World" inscribed on his back because "I'm a product of that environment. It's on my back, though, so it's all behind me."
In 2005, 50 Cent expressed support for President George W. Bush after rapper Kanye West criticized him for the slow response in assisting the victims of Hurricane Katrina. If his felony convictions did not prevent him from voting, he claimed that he would have voted for Bush. In 2006, 50 Cent was recognized for his wealth by Rolling Stone, placing him second behind Diddy in the rap industry. He resides in Farmington, Connecticut, in the former mansion of ex-boxer Mike Tyson. 50 Cent has put the mansion for sale at $18.5 million in order to move closer to his son who lives in Long Island with his ex-wife.