Curtis James Jackson III (born July 6, 1976) is an American East Coast rapper commonly known by his rap name 50 Cent. He rose to fame following the success of his albums Get Rich or Die Tryin' and The Massacre. 50 Cent achieved multi-platinum success with both albums, selling over 21 million albums worldwide. He is known for his "gangsta" image. He currently resides in Farmington, Connecticut, in the former mansion of boxing star Mike Tyson.
Childhood and youth
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 15. She was a cocaine dealer and raised Jackson until he was 8 years old before she was murdered. At age 23, she became unconscious after someone put something in her drink, and then was left for dead after the house was set on fire. After her death, Jackson moved in with his grandparents in a crowded 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 began boxing around the age of 11. In the early 1980s, he competed in the Junior Olympics as an amateur fighter. He aspired to compete in the Golden Gloves boxing competition but was too young. Jackson recounts, "I was competitive in the ring and hip-hop is competitive too. In so many ways they're similar. I think rappers condition themselves like boxers, so they all kind of feel like they're the champ."
When young Curtis was 12, he was already dealing narcotics. He said getting involved with selling drugs was easy since all of the people he met when he was young sold drugs. Jackson regularly hid cocaine from his grandmother and would bring guns and money made from the drugs to school. At the 10th grade, he was eventually caught by metal detectors at Andrew Jackson High School. He later stated, "I was embarrassed that I got arrested like that. That's the worst way to get arrested. After I got arrested I stopped hiding it. I was telling my grandmother [openly], 'I sell drugs.'"
In 1994, Jackson was arrested twice in three weeks. During his stay in jail, he earned his GED.
The birth of his son, Marquise Jackson, nicknamed 25 Cent, put things in perspective for the adolescent, and he began to pursue rap seriously.
Jam Master Jay Records
In 1996, a friend introduced 50 Cent to Jam Master Jay of Run-DMC who was then organizing his label. It was the first time he ever went into a studio. Jay began teaching 50 how to count bars, write choruses, structure songs, and make a record. His official appearance on a song was "React" with the group Onyx on their 1998 album Shut 'Em Down. 50 Cent credited Jam Master Jay as an influence who helped him develop his skill for writing catchy hooks. Jay produced 50's first album but it was never released.
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After leaving Jam Master Jay, the platinum hitmakers Trackmasters took notice of 50 and signed him to Columbia Records in 1999. They shipped 50 to Upstate NY where they locked him up in the studio for 2 1/2 weeks. He turned out 36 songs in this short period, which resulted in Power Of The Dollar. His career took off after the release of the successful, but controversial underground single "How to Rob" playfully painting him as a deliriously hungry up-and-comer daydreaming of robbing famous rappers. Offended by this record, Jay-Z, Big Pun, Sticky Fingaz, and Ghostface Killah all replied to the song. The next single, "Ghetto Qu'ran" goes in depth about the business of the drug trade and it´s history in Queens mentioning the names of many that had been in the business in the eighties - most of them convicted and doing time in the jail at the time.
On May 24, 2000, 50 Cent was nearly shot to death outside his grandmother's house at 11:20am. He got into a friend's car to go to a tattoo parlor and studio but was asked to go back in the house to get some jewellery. His son was in the house while his grandmother was at the front yard. Upon returning to the back seat of the car with his friend, a blue General Motors car pulled up close by. An assailant then walked up to 50's left side with a 9MM handgun and fired nine shots at close range. 50 took bullets in the hand (a shell hit his right thumb and came out his pinky), hip, calf, chest, and face, which went through his left cheek. The latter wound shaved a chunk off his gums and left a hole between the top and bottom rows of his teeth. His friend Alton Brown also sustained a gunshot wound to the hand. They were driven to hospital where 50 spent 13 days in recovery. The alleged shooter was killed three weeks later. Following the shooting, 50 Cent was "blacklisted" in the recording industry and dropped from Columbia Records. Unable to find a studio to work with in the U.S., he travelled to Canada where he recorded the album Guess Who's Back?.
In an MTV interview, he recalled the attack 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 ****, somebody shot me in the face! It burns, burns, burns.'" Also, in a Rolling Stone interview, 50 said, "You don't actually feel each one hit you. The adrenaline is pumping. You movin' and tryin' to get out of the way. I was bouncing around the back seat. We pulled off."
After his recovery, 50 Cent returned to the recording studio, despite having no income or backing, with his new business partner and friend Sha Money XL. The two recorded over 30 songs, strictly for mix tapes, with the sole purpose of building a reputation. 50 Cent's popularity rose  and by the end of Spring 2001 he released the new material independently on the makeshift LP, Guess Who's Back?. Beginning to attract interest, and now backed by G-Unit, 50 Cent continued making more songs. But rather than create new songs as they had before, 50 decided to showcase his hit-making ability by retouching beats which had already been used.  They released the red, white and blue bootleg, 50 Cent Is the Future, revisiting material by Jay-Z and even Raphael Saadiq.
In 2002, when Eminem finished recording his album The Eminem Show, he listened to a copy of 50 Cent's Guess Who's Back? cd, which he received through 50's attorney who was working with Eminem's manager Paul Rosenberg. Impressed with the album, Eminem invited 50 to fly to Los Angeles where he met with himself and Dr. Dre. "One of the things that excited me about Tupac," Eminem said, "was even if he was rhymin' the simplest words in the world, you felt like he meant it and it came from his heart. That's the thing with 50. That same aura. That's been missing since we lost Pac and Biggie." After getting signed to a reported U.S. $1 million deal, 50 quickly released another bootleg of borrowed beats, No Mercy, No Fear. The CD featured one new track, "Wanksta". The track was put on Eminem's 8 Mile soundtrack.
Popularity of G-Unit
G-Unit Records Logo
G-Unit Records Logo
In its first week of release, his commercial debut album Get Rich Or Die Tryin' sold 872,000 copies. The album was certified gold in its first week and platinum the next. The rapper's debut album "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" was certified six times platinum by the RIAA.
Interscope then granted 50 Cent his own label, G-Unit Records. 50 Cent appointed his manager Sha Money XL as the president. The label signed on Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo and Young Buck as the established members of G-Unit. Dr. Dre and 50 Cent had signed The Game under a joint venture. After the departure of The Game, the rapper signed singer Olivia and rap veterans Mobb Deep to G-Unit Records. Spider Loc, M.O.P., and Young Hot Rod joined G-Unit after the signing of Mobb Deep. 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 Records, some of whom he has now recorded with.
Endorsements and projects
Since releasing Beg for Mercy with his group G-Unit, the rapper teamed up with Reebok to release his own G-Unit Sneakers. He also invested in Vitamin Water bottled water which takes after his name Formula 50 and his own clothing line called G-Unit Heavy Weight Clothing. A video game starring 50 Cent, called 50 Cent: Bulletproof, is available on the PlayStation 2, the Xbox, and the PlayStation Portable. 50 Cent has recently teamed up with Glaceau vitaminwater to create and market a new flavor in its line of low-calorie, natural drinks. 50 Cent with a vitaminwater bottle in a Reebok commercial, Glacéau executives offered to join forces. The rapper oversaw the choice of flavor for the new drink - grape - the purple label design and the name: Formula 50.
Television and films
50 Cent made a cameo appearance as himself on The Simpsons episode Pranksta Rap. He starred in the semi-autobiographical film Get Rich or Die Tryin' directed by Jim Sheridan, and co-starring Joy Bryant and Terrence Howard. He has also just released a film called Home of the Brave, co-starring Samuel L. Jackson, and Jessica Biel. Currently, he is working on a role in the movie The Dance, alongside Nicholas Cage, and is set to star opposite Robert De Niro in the 2008 film New Orleans, a movie regarding a police death.
50 Cent released a memoir about his life up to his success titled From Pieces to Weight: Once Upon a Time in Southside Queens. He launched his G-Unit Books imprint on Thursday January 4, 2007 at Borders-Columbus Circle at the Time Warner Building in New York. 50 Cent said he was reading The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene and is currently working with the author in a book titled The 50th Law, an urban take of the popular 48 Laws of Power.