Curtis James Jackson III (born July 6, 1975), better known by his stage name 50 Cent, is an American rapper, singer, entrepreneur, investor and actor from New York City. Born in the South Jamaica neighborhood of the borough of Queens, Jackson began selling drugs at age twelve during the 1980s crack epidemic. Although he left drug-dealing to pursue a musical career, he was struck by nine bullets in a 2000 shooting. After Jackson released the compilation album Guess Who's Back? in 2002, he was discovered by Eminem and signed by Shady Records, Aftermath Entertainment and Interscope Records.
With the aid of Eminem and Dr. Dre (who produced his first major-label album, Get Rich or Die Tryin'), Jackson became one of the world's best selling rappers and rose to prominence with East Coast hip hop group G-Unit (which he leads de facto). In 2003 he founded G-Unit Records, signing his G-Unit associates Young Buck, Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo. Jackson had similar commercial and critical success with his second album, The Massacre, which was released in 2005. He released his fifth studio album, Animal Ambition, in 2014 and is working on his sixth studio album: Street King Immortal, scheduled for release in 2016.
During his career Jackson has sold over 30 million albums worldwide and won several awards, including a Grammy Award, thirteen Billboard Music Awards, six World Music Awards, three American Music Awards and four BET Awards. He has pursued an acting career, appearing in the semi-autobiographical film Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2005), the Iraq War film Home of the Brave (2006) and Righteous Kill (2008). 50 Cent was ranked the sixth-best artist of the 2000s, the third-best rapper (behind Eminem and Nelly), and Get Rich or Die Tryin' and The Massacre were ranked the 12th and 37th best albums of the decade by Billboard.
Jackson was born and raised in the South Jamaica neighborhood of Queens, New York City. He was raised by his mother, Sabrina, who gave birth to him when she was fifteen. A cocaine dealer, Sabrina raised Jackson until she was murdered when Jackson was eight. She lost consciousness after an unknown assailant drugged her drink; the assailant then turned on the gas and closed the windows of her apartment. After his mother's death, Jackson moved into his grandparents' house with his eight aunts and uncles. The rapper recalled, "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."
He began boxing at about age 11, and when he was 14 a neighbor opened a boxing gym for local youth. "When I wasn't killing time in school, I was sparring in the gym or selling crack on the strip," Jackson remembered. During the mid-1980s, he competed in the Junior Olympics: "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." At age 12, Jackson began dealing narcotics when his grandparents thought he was in after-school programs and brought guns and drug money to school. In the tenth grade, he was caught by metal detectors at Andrew Jackson High School: "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 selling 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 starting pistol. Although Jackson was sentenced to three to nine years in prison, he served six months in a boot camp and earned his GED. He has said that he did not use cocaine himself. Jackson adopted the nickname "50 Cent" as a metaphor for change. The name was inspired by Kelvin Martin, a 1980s Brooklyn robber known as "50 Cent"; Jackson chose it "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."
Jackson began rapping in a friend's basement, where he used turntables to record over instrumentals. In 1996 a friend introduced him to Jam Master Jay of Run-DMC, who was establishing Jam Master Jay Records. Jay taught him how to count bars, write choruses, structure songs and make records. Jackson's first appearance was on "React" with Onyx, for their 1998 album Shut 'Em Down. He credited Jam Master Jay for improving his ability to write hooks, and Jay produced Jackson's first (unreleased) album. In 1999, after Jackson left Jam Master Jay, the platinum-selling producers Trackmasters signed him to Columbia Records. They sent him to an upstate New York studio, where he produced thirty-six songs in two weeks; eighteen were included on his 2000 album, Power of the Dollar. Jackson founded Hollow Point Entertainment with former G-Unit member Bang 'Em Smurf.
Jackson's popularity began to grow after the successful, controversial underground single "How to Rob", which he wrote in a half-hour car ride to a studio. The track comically describes how he would rob famous artists. Jackson explained the song's rationale: "There's a hundred artists on that label, you gotta separate yourself from that group and make yourself relevant". Rappers Jay-Z, Kurupt, Sticky Fingaz, Big Pun, DMX, Wyclef Jean and the Wu-Tang Clan responded to the track, and Nas invited Jackson to join him on his Nastradamus tour. Although "How to Rob" was intended to be released with "Thug Love" (with Destiny's Child), two days before he was scheduled to film the "Thug Love" music video Jackson was shot and hospitalized.
On April 24, 2000, Jackson was attacked by a gunman (alleged to be Darryl "Hommo" Baum) outside his grandmother's former home in South Jamaica. After getting into a friend's car, he was asked to return to the house to get some jewelry; his son was in the house, and his grandmother was in the front yard. After Jackson returned to the back seat of the car, another car pulled up nearby; an assailant walked up and fired nine shots at close range with a 9mm handgun. Jackson was shot in the hand, arm, hip, both legs, chest and left cheek. His facial wound resulted in a swollen tongue, the loss of a wisdom tooth and a slightly slurred voice; his friend was wounded in the hand. They were driven to a hospital, where Jackson spent thirteen days. Baum, Mike Tyson's close friend and bodyguard, was killed three weeks later.
Jackson recalled the shooting: "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 autobiography, 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". After using a walker for six weeks, Jackson was fully recovered after five months. When he left the hospital he stayed in the Poconos with his girlfriend and son, and his workout regime helped him develop a muscular physique.
In the hospital Jackson signed a publishing deal with Columbia Records before he was dropped from the label and blacklisted by the recording industry because of his song, "Ghetto Qu'ran". Unable to work in a U.S. studio, he went to Canada. With business partner Sha Money XL, Jackson recorded over thirty songs for mixtapes to build a reputation. In a HitQuarters interview, Marc Labelle of Shady Records A&R said that Jackson used the mixtape circuit to his advantage: "He took all the hottest beats from every artist and flipped them with better hooks. They then got into all the markets on the mixtapes and all the mixtape DJs were messing with them." Jackson's popularity increased, and in 2002 he released the mixtape Guess Who's Back?. He then released 50 Cent Is the Future backed by G-Unit, a mixtape revisiting material by Jay-Z and Raphael Saadiq.
2002–06: Rise to fame
In 2002 Eminem heard Jackson's Guess Who's Back? CD, received from Jackson's attorney (who was working with Eminem's manager, Paul Rosenberg). Impressed, Eminem invited Jackson to fly to Los Angeles and introduced him to Dr. Dre. After signing a $1 million record deal, Jackson released No Mercy, No Fear. The mixtape featured one new track, "Wanksta", which appeared on Eminem's 8 Mile soundtrack. Jackson was also signed by Chris Lighty's Violator Management and Sha Money XL's Money Management Group.
Jackson released his debut album, Get Rich or Die Tryin' (described by AllMusic as "probably the most hyped debut album by a rap artist in about a decade"), in February 2003. Rolling Stone noted its "dark synth grooves, buzzy keyboards and a persistently funky bounce", with Jackson complementing the production in "an unflappable, laid-back flow". It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 872,000 copies in its first four days. The lead single, "In da Club" (noted by The Source for its "blaring horns, funky organs, guitar riffs and sparse hand claps"), set a Billboard record as the most listened-to song in radio history within a week.
Interscope gave Jackson his own label, G-Unit Records, in 2003. He signed Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo and Young Buck as members of G-Unit, and The Game was later signed in a joint venture with Dr. Dre's Aftermath Entertainment. In March 2005 Jackson's second commercial album, The Massacre, sold 1.14 million copies in its first four days (the highest in an abbreviated sales cycle) and was number one on the Billboard 200 for six weeks. He was the first solo artist with three singles in the Billboard top five in the same week with "Candy Shop", "Disco Inferno" and "How We Do". According to Rolling Stone, "50's secret weapon is his singing voice - the deceptively amateur-sounding tenor croon that he deploys on almost every chorus".
After The Game's departure Jackson signed Olivia and rap veterans Mobb Deep to G-Unit Records, with Spider Loc, M.O.P., 40 Glocc and Young Hot Rod later joining the label. Jackson expressed an interest in working with rappers other than G-Unit, such as Lil' Scrappy of BME, LL Cool J of Def Jam, Mase of Bad Boy and Freeway of Roc-A-Fella, and recorded with several.
Jackson has had a successful business career, founding G-Unit Records in 2003. In November 2003, he signed a five-year deal with Reebok to distribute a G-Unit Sneakers line for his G-Unit Clothing Company.
One of Jackson's first business ventures was being a beverage investor with Glacéau to create an enhanced water drink called Formula 50. In October 2004, 50 Cent was given a minority share in the company in exchange for becoming a spokesperson after learning that he was a fan of the beverage. The health conscious Jackson noted that he first learned of the product while at a gym in Los Angeles, and stated that "they do such a good job making water taste good." After becoming a shareholder and endorser, Jackson worked with the company to create a new grape-flavored "Formula 50" variant of VitaminWater and mentioned the drinks in various songs and interviews. In 2007, Coca-Cola purchased Glacéau for $4.1 billion and, according to Forbes, Jackson, who was a minority shareholder, earned $100 million from the deal after taxes. Though he no longer has an equity stake in the company, Jackson continues to act as a spokesperson for Vitaminwater, enthusiastically supporting the product including singing about it at the BET Awards and expressing his excitement over the company's continuing to allow his input on products. He joined Right Guard to introduce a body spray (Pure 50 RGX) and endorsed Magic Stick condoms, planning to donate part of their proceeds to increasing HIV awareness. Jackson signed a multi-year deal with Steiner Sports to sell his memorabilia, and announced plans for a dietary-supplement company in conjunction with his film Spectacular Regret in August 2007.
Jackson has founded two film-production companies: G-Unit Films in 2003 and Cheetah Vision in 2008. When G-Unit Films folded he focused on Cheetah Vision, and in 2010 the company obtained $200 million in funding.
In July 2011 Jackson launched a philanthropic initiative to provide food for one billion starving people in Africa by 2016, joining Pure Growth Partners to introduce Street King. A portion of the proceeds from each Street King purchase would be used to provide a daily meal to an underprivileged child. The partnership coincides with Jackson's goal to feed a billion people in Africa during the next five years. "50 Cent and I share a common vision: to address the world's problems through smart and sustainable business models," said Chris Clarke, founder and CEO of Pure Growth Partners. "With the rampant starvation in Africa and hunger afflicting children worldwide, we need socially responsible businesses that affect real change now more than ever." Jackson said, "I'm inspired by Clarke's vision and innovative approaches to tackling serious issues. It's our mission with Street King to really change children's lives around the world." In 2011 he founded SMS Audio, a consumer-electronics company selling Street by 50 headphones, pledging to donate a portion of their sales to charity.
On July 13, 2015 Jackson filed for chapter 11 protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Hartford, Connecticut
Jackson has two sons. On October 13, 1997 Jackson's girlfriend, Shaniqua Tompkins, gave birth to son Marquise Jackson. Tompkins later sued him for $50 million, saying that he said that he would take care of her for life. The suit, with 15 causes of action, was dismissed by a judge who called it "an unfortunate tale of a love relationship gone sour." As of February 2009, Tompkins and her lawyer were considering an appeal. [needs update?]
Marquise's birth changed Jackson's outlook on life: "When 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 credited his son for inspiring his career and being the "motivation to go in a different direction". Jackson has a tattooed "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"),and has "50", "Southside" and "Cold World" on his back: "I'm a product of that environment. It's on my back, though, so it's all behind me".
Jackson dated model Daphne Joy and had his second son, Sire Jackson, with her, on September 1, 2012. At two years old, Sire modeled for Kidz Safe, a headphone brand for kids, earning $700,000 through his contract.
He dated actress Vivica A. Fox for several months in 2003, announcing their breakup on The Howard Stern Show when their photos appeared on the cover of the magazine Today's Black Woman without his knowledge. Jackson also dated comedienne Chelsea Handler and singer Ciara.
In 2005, Jackson supported President George W. Bush after rapper Kanye West criticized Bush for a slow response to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. If his felony convictions did not prevent him from voting, he said, he would have voted for the president. Jackson later said that Bush "has less compassion than the average human. By all means, I don't aspire to be like George Bush." In September 2007 he told Time that although he would not endorse a candidate in 2008, he "liked Hillary [Clinton]". Six months later the rapper told MTV News that he had switched his support to Barack Obama after hearing him speak, but had lost interest in politics. Asked his opinion of President Obama's May 9, 2012 endorsement of gay marriage, Jackson said, "I'm for it ... I've encouraged same-sex activities. I've engaged in fetish areas a couple times." He has been criticized for anti-gay comments in the past.
Forbes noted Jackson's wealth in 2007, ranking him second behind Jay-Z in the rap industry. He lives in a Farmington, Connecticut mansion formerly owned by ex-boxer Mike Tyson, listing it for sale at $18.5 million to move closer to his son (who lives on Long Island with his ex-girlfriend). The mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut declared October 12, 2007 "50 Cent Curtis Jackson Day", honoring the rapper with a proclamation and a key to the city. One of Jackson's New York homes, purchased in January 2007 for $2.4 million and the center of a lawsuit between Jackson and Shaniqua Tompkins, caught fire on May 31, 2008 while he was filming in Louisiana.
In December 2008 he told the Canadian press that he had lost several million dollars in the stock market and, unable to sell his Connecticut mansion, had postponed Before I Self-Destruct because of the economic downturn. Jackson won a lawsuit in November 2009 against Taco Bell over the fast-food chain's use of his name without permission.
Main article: 50 Cent discography
Power of the Dollar (2000)
Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2003)
The Massacre (2005)
Before I Self Destruct (2009)
Animal Ambition (2014)
Street King Immortal (2016)
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