Curtis James Jackson III (born July 6, 1975), better known by his stage name 50 Cent, is an American rapper, actor, producer, and entrepreneur. Born in the South Jamaica neighborhood of the borough of Queens, Jackson began selling drugs at age twelve during the 1980s crack epidemic.
50 later began pursuing a musical career and in 2000 he produced Power of the Dollar for Columbia Records, but days before the planned release he was shot and the album was never released. In 2002, after Jackson released the compilation album Guess Who’s Back?, he was discovered by Eminem and signed to Shady Records, under the aegis of Dr. Dre’s 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 as of 2019 is working on his sixth studio album, Street King Immortal. He executive produces and stars in the show Power, which airs on Starz.
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 and the third-best rapper (behind Eminem and Nelly) by Billboard. Rolling Stone considers Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and “In da Club” to be in its lists of “100 Best Albums of the 2000s” and “100 Best Songs of the 2000s” at numbers 37 and 13 respectively.
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 producer’s 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 are 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 May 24, 2000, Jackson was attacked by a gunman 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. Jackson returned to the back seat of the car, and 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. The alleged attacker, Darryl 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”. Jackson used a walker for six weeks and 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.
On October 13, 1996, Jackson’s girlfriend, Shaniqua Tompkins, gave birth to son Marquise Jackson. Tompkins later sued Jackson for $50 million, saying he promised to 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.” The two have bickered for years, and have even taken their feud to social media many times.
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 biceps (“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 the age of two years, Sire modeled for Kidz Safe, a headphone brand for kids, earning $700,000 through his contract.
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 of times.” He had been criticized for anti-gay comments in the past.
Despite having numerous songs that reference drug and alcohol usage, Jackson does not drink alcohol or do drugs, citing a bad experience with alcohol as his main reason.
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, isting 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.
In 2016, regarding his beef with Meek Mill, he commented “You know, he’s really not that bright. That kid is not that bright” he said. “The easiest thing you can do is bring other people into the statements you’re saying, right, while you’re writing music. On May 4, 2016, after making fun of a teenager who, unbeknownst to 50, had a disability, he donated $100,000 to Autism Speaks.
Jackson endorsed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the run-up for the 2016 U.S. presidential election.