Curtis James Jackson III, known as 50 Cent, was born on July 6, 1975, in New York City. After an early life of crime, drugs and violence, he turned to a career as a rapper, rocketing to stardom with the release of the album Get Rich or Die Tryin' in 2003. One of the major figures in early 21st century "gangsta" rap, 50 Cent has since branched out to become a successful actor and businessman.
Childhood in New York
Curtis James Jackson III, now known by his rap name 50 Cent, was born on July 6, 1975, in the borough of Queens in New York City. He was raised in a broken home in the rough neighborhood of Jamaica. His single mother worked as a drug dealer and was murdered when Jackson was only 8 years old; after her death, he was raised by his grandparents. He had boyhood aspirations to be a boxer, but he began selling drugs when he was a teenager. He also began to rap during his high school years.
Breaking Into the Hip-Hop World
50 Cent's first important contact with the New York hip-hop scene was an introduction to Jam Master Jay from the group Run-D.M.C. Jay was impressed by 50 Cent's rapping ability and produced an album for him; however, it was never released. 50 Cent also made a false start with the Columbia label, recording an album that was shelved before its release.
In 2000, 50 Cent was the victim of a severe shooting incident that left him with multiple wounds and injuries. After his recovery, he began rapping again and made low-budget recordings with his friends Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo, as a crew called G-Unit. Their efforts were noticed by the hip-hop stars Eminem and Dr. Dre, who promoted 50 Cent as a solo act and signed him jointly to their record labels.
50 Cent's debut release, Get Rich or Die Tryin', was produced by Eminem and Dre. It was a massive success that eventually reached sales of 9 million units. Its singles, including "Wanksta" and "In Da Club," were crossover hits on the pop charts, since 50 Cent's gritty lyrics were backed by catchy musical hooks that appealed to audiences beyond the hip-hop scene. His personal appearance—muscled and tattooed, wearing a bulletproof vest and toting a handgun—was also a strong factor in his appeal, as was the fact that his rap lyrics were based on real-life experiences.
Get Rich was followed by another hit album, 2005's The Massacre, on which 50 Cent continued to rap about drugs, crime and sex on tracks like "Candy Shop" and "Just a Lil Bit." Later releases, including Curtis in 2007 and Before I Self-Destruct in 2009, didn't achieve the same sales figures. However, 50 Cent's personal history as a "gangsta," a criminal and a survivor of drugs, violence and poverty who had lived to tell the tale, had made him an influential figure in hip-hop culture.
Financial Successes and Problems
Following in the tracks of hip-hop moguls such as Dre and Jay-Z, 50 Cent successfully expanded his brand to other markets. He promoted and invested in Vitaminwater, a partnership that reportedly netted him $100 million when the company was sold to Coca-Cola in 2007. 50 Cent also founded the successful SMS Audio headphones line, and scored prominent roles in the films Escape Plan (2013), Spy (2015) and Southpaw (2015). Meanwhile, he ensured he remained a relevant name in the hip-hop industry with the release of the album Animal Ambition in 2014.
However, legal and financial problems mounted when he was sued by a girlfriend of rival hip-hop artist Rick Ross for releasing a sex tape without her permission. A jury found 50 Cent liable for $7 million in damages in July 2015, prompting the rapper-businessman to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
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