Curtis Jackson, known as 50 Cent, is known as one of the biggest hip-hop stars of the 2000s, famous for his streetwise raps and his rags-to-riches life story.
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“I come from the bottom and I have risen up and I have changed but I have never forgotten.”
Curtis James Jackson III, known as 50 Cent, was born on July 6, 1975, in the borough of Queens in New York City. After an early life of crime, drugs and violence, he turned to a career as a rapper. He was promoted by hip-hop legends Dr. Dre and Eminem, and he became a star with his debut release, Get Rich or Die Tryin', in 2003. He is considered one of the major figures in early 21st century "gangsta" rap.
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.
Success and Stardom
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 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.
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