Curtis Jackson, often known as 50 Cent, is a hip-hop musician and businessman whose streetwise raps and rise from poverty to wealth made him famous. After a youth filled with crime, drugs, and violence, he resorted to rap and shot to fame with his 2003 album Get Rich or Die Trying. 50 Cent, one of the most prominent performers in early 21st-century "gangsta" rap, has now branched out into acting and business. His side interests include the hip hop group G-Unit, investments in soda water firms, and video games. His recent music production has been intermittent, and his career has been marred by disputes with other rappers, arrests, and legal and financial problems.
Curtis James Jackson III was born in New York City's Queens borough on July 6, 1975. He was reared by a single mother in a Jamaican community. Jackson was raised by his grandmother after his mother perished in an odd fire when he was eight years old; she had been a drug dealer.
Jackson aspired to be a boxer as a child and fought at the junior level, but at age 12 he began peddling narcotics. At the age of 19, an undercover police officer arrested Jackson for selling four vials of cocaine. Three weeks later, during a search of his residence, authorities discovered crack and heroin. In lieu of serving his three-to-nine-year sentence, he attended boot camp and obtained his GED. At this time, he was already rapping and had adopted the name 50 Cent, which was the original pseudonym of a 1980s Brooklyn thug.
The introduction to Run-Jam DMC's Master Jay was his first significant interaction with the New York hip-hop culture. Jay was so pleased by Jackson's rapping skills that he created an album for him, but it was never released. Jackson also had a false start with the Columbia label, recording an album that was shelved before to its release. This album, Power of the Dollar, was subsequently pirated and demonstrates Jackson's combative approach; in the tune "How to Rob," he describes his intentions to steal from P. Diddy, Jay-Z, Mase, and Missy Elliott.
Jackson was the subject of a horrific shooting event in 2000 that resulted in several injuries. After his rehabilitation, he returned to music and released several low-budget songs with his mates Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo as G-Unit. Eminem and Dr. Dre noticed their efforts after hearing 50 Cent's "Guess Who's Back?" mixtape in 2002 and signed him to their labels, Shady Records and Aftermath Entertainment.
50 Cent's debut album, titled Get Rich or Die Tryin, was produced by Eminem and Dr. Dre. It was an enormous commercial success, ultimately selling 9 million units. Its grittier tunes, such as "Wanksta" and "In Da Club," were supported with catchy melodies that helped them become crossover mainstream hits. His physical look – muscular and tattooed, wearing a protective vest, and carrying a weapon – was certainly a factor in his popularity, as was the fact that his songs were based on real-life events, a rarity in a genre where most rappers' claims are empty. The Los Angeles Times praised, "His lyrics are ordinary, but his lisp, his exaggerated delivery, and the rhythms supporting him drive this compilation over the edge."
Jackson continued to rap about drugs, criminality, and sex on tracks such as "Candy Shop" and "Just a Little Bit" on his 2005 blockbuster album The Massacre. He founded his own label under Interscope, signed Lloyd Banks and Young Buck, and incorporated them into the G-Unit group on the 2004 album Beg for Mercy, which sold over 5 million copies.