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Curtis James Jackson III (born July 6, 1975) is an American rapper commonly known by his stage name 50 Cent. He rose to fame following the release of his albums Get Rich or Die Tryin' and The Massacre. 50 Cent achieved multi-Platinum success with both albums, selling over twenty million records worldwide.
Born in South Jamaica, Queens in New York, 50 Cent began drug dealing at the age of twelve during the 1980s' crack epidemic. After leaving drug dealing in favor of pursuing a rap career, he was shot nine times in 2000. After releasing his mixtape compilation Guess Who's Back? in 2002, 50 Cent was discovered by rapper Eminem and signed to Interscope Records. With the help of Eminem and Dr. Dre-who produced his first major commercial successes-he became one of the highest selling rap artists in the world. In 2003, he founded the record label G-Unit Records, which signed successful rappers such as Young Buck, Lloyd Banks, and Tony Yayo. 50 Cent has engaged in numerous feuds with other rappers including Ja Rule, The Game, Fat Joe, and Cam'ron.
50 Cent has also pursued an acting career, appearing in the semi-autobiographical film Get Rich or Die Tryin' in 2005 and the Iraq War film Home of the Brave in 2006.
50 Cent, born 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 fifteen. Sabrina, who was a cocaine dealer, raised Jackson until the age of eight, when she was murdered. At the age of twenty-three, she became unconscious after someone drugged her drink. She was then left for dead after the gas in her apartment was turned on and the windows shut closed. After her death, Jackson moved into his grandparents 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 grew up with his younger cousin, Michael Francis, who earned the nickname "25 Cent" for being his younger counterpart. Francis raps under the stage name "Two Five".
Jackson began boxing around the age of eleven. In the mid 1980s, he competed in the Junior Olympics as an amateur boxer. He recounts, "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 the age of twelve, Jackson began dealing narcotics when his grandparents thought he was at after-school programs. He also took guns and drug money to school. In the tenth grade, he was caught by metal detectors at Andrew Jackson High School. He later stated, "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 helping to sell 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 starter gun. He was sentenced to three to nine years in prison, but managed to serve six months in a Shock Incarceration boot camp, where he earned his GED. Jackson said that he did not use cocaine himself, he only sold it. He adopted the nickname "50 Cent" as a metaphor for "change". The name was derived from Kelvin Martin, a 1980s Brooklyn robber known as "50 Cent". Jackson chose the name "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."
50 Cent started 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 organizing his label Jam Master Jay Records. It was the first time he entered a studio. Jay taught him how to count bars, write choruses, structure songs, and make a record. 50 Cent's first official appearance was on a song titled "React" with the group Onyx on their 1998 album Shut 'Em Down. He credited Jam Master Jay as an influence who helped him improve his ability to write hooks. He produced 50 Cent's first album, however it was never released. In 1999, after leaving Jam Master Jay, the platinum-selling producers Trackmasters took notice of 50 Cent and signed him to Columbia Records. They sent him to a studio in Upstate New York, where he produced thirty-six songs in two weeks. Eighteen were included on his unofficially released album, Power of the Dollar in 2000. He also started the now-defunct company with former G-Unit member Bang 'Em Smurf called Hollow Point Entertainment.
50 Cent's popularity started to increase after the successful but controversial underground single, "How to Rob", which he wrote in half an hour while in a car on the way to a studio. The track comically explains how he would rob many famous artists. He explained the reasoning behind song's content as, "There's a hundred artists on that label, you gotta separate yourself from that group and make yourself relevant." Rappers Jay-Z, Big Pun, DMX, and the Wu-Tang Clan replied to the song and Nas, who received the track positively, invited 50 Cent to travel on a promotional tour for his Nastradamus album. The song was intended to be released with "Thug Love" featuring Destiny's Child, but two days before he was scheduled to film the "Thug Love" music video, 50 Cent was shot and confined to a hospital due to his injuries.
In 2002, Eminem listened to a copy of 50 Cent's Guess Who's Back? CD. He received the CD through 50 Cent's attorney, who was working with Eminem's manager Paul Rosenberg. Impressed with the album, Eminem invited 50 Cent to fly to Los Angeles, where he was introduced to Dr. Dre. After signing a one million U.S. dollar record deal, 50 Cent released the mixtape, No Mercy, No Fear. It featured one new track, "Wanksta", which was put on Eminem's 8 Mile soundtrack. He was also signed to Chris Lighty's Violator Management and Sha Money XL's Money Management Group.
On February 6, 2003, 50 Cent's commercial debut album, Get Rich or Die Tryin' was released. All Music Guide described it as "probably the most hyped debut album by a rap artist in about a decade." Rolling Stone noted the album for its "dark synth grooves, buzzy keyboards and a persistently funky bounce" with 50 Cent complementing the production in "an unflappable, laid-back flow." The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 872,000 copies in the first four days. The lead single, "In da Club", which The Source noted for its "blaring horns, funky organs, guitar riffs and sparse hand claps" broke a Billboard record as the 'most listened-to' song in radio history within a week.
Interscope then granted 50 Cent his own label, G-Unit Records in 2003. He signed Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo, and Young Buck as the established members of G-Unit. The Game was later signed under a joint venture with Dr. Dre's Aftermath Entertainment. On March 3, 2005, 50 Cent's second commercial album, The Massacre was released. The album sold 1.14 million copies in the first four days (the highest in an abbreviated sales cycle) and peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 for six weeks. He became the first solo artist to have three singles on the Billboard top five in the same week with "Candy Shop", "Disco Inferno", and "How We Do". Rolling Stone noted that "50's secret weapon is his singing voice - the deceptively amateur-sounding tenor croon that he deploys on almost every chorus."
After the departure of The Game, 50 Cent signed singer Olivia and rap veterans Mobb Deep to G-Unit Records. Spider Loc, M.O.P., and Young Hot Rod later joined the label. 50 Cent expressed interest in working with 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, some of whom he recorded with.
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