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Rapper-turned-actor-turned-entrepreneur Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson not only typified the street thug persona in his music and film roles, he actually came from the New York streets where he sold crack, robbed street corner rivals and escaped attempts on his life. But without his checkered past, which he routinely mined for lyrics and self-promotion, Jackson might not have become a top-selling artist. As it turned out, Jackson parlayed his huge musical success into business ventures as a producer and founder of clothing and shoe lines. It was natural that the popular performer would try his hand at acting, and his first major outing in the fact-based autobiography "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" (2005) was a moderate box office hit. He stuck close to home with follow-up roles as violent characters who have run-ins with the law in the Iraq War drama "Home of the Brave" (2007) and "Righteous Kill" (2008). While his music career went on hold due to ongoing disagreements with his label, 50 Cent started to become better known for his acting than his rapping.
Jackson was born July 6, 1975, and grew up in a rough part of Jamaica, Queens, NY. When his crack-dealing mom was murdered in their home at the age of eight, Jackson went to live with his grandmother, and by the age of 12, was following in his mom's footsteps, selling crack in the neighborhood - though he was careful to keep his business dealings from his grandmother. He was also careful not to fall into the trap of sampling the merchandise - the downfall of so many other proprietors who consumed their stash instead of selling it. In tenth grade, he had his first run-in with the law for dealing and was given juvenile probation. At 18, legal trouble struck again when Jackson was popped for possession of heroin, crack and a starter pistol. He was sentenced to three to nine years in prison. Jackson earned his GED while serving time and he was released in 1995.
Upon his release, Jackson began rapping as an alternative to selling drugs, and was taken under the wing of Jam Master Jay of Run DMC fame, who signed the fledgling rapper to his tiny JMJ Records label. From him, Jackson learned the basics of song structure and rapping but did not break through as an artist at that label. Eventually Jackson signed with Trackmasters, a successful production team responsible for Jay Z and Foxy Brown, among others. In 1999, he landed a deal with Columbia Records and cut the tracks for what would have been his debut commercial album, Power of the Dollar. Before the album was released, Jackson was stabbed at a Manhattan recording studio in March 2000, presumably by a rival East Coast rapper, though no one was officially held accountable. Then on May 24, 2000, right before Columbia was to release his debut, Jackson was shot nine times while waiting inside a car outside his grandmother's house in Queens. One of the bullets went through his cheek, knocking out a tooth and causing a permanent hiss in his speech; another took out the knuckle on one of his hands, with the rest landing in his arms and thighs.
Despite the notoriety Jackson gained from nearly losing his life, Columbia shelved the album, canceled filming his first video and dumped the rapper before his career had a chance to begin. He spent his recovery in a small studio with friends cutting new tracks about his violent encounters and tried peddling the new songs to music executives, but failed to capture interest in his new material. Perhaps the execs were frightened off when Jackson showed up to meetings in a bulletproof vest, surrounded by a security detail. But the tenacious thug was undeterred by his failure to land a deal and released the songs independently on mix tapes distributed by bootleggers to underground clubs. Paul Rosenberg, manager for Eminem, got hold of a tape and handed it off to his client, who was so impressed that he immediately declared Jackson to be his favorite artist. After Eminem passed the tape onto his mentor, Doctor Dre, who also loved the music, Jackson was flown out to Los Angeles for a meet and greet. Jackson ultimately agreed to a seven-figure contract with Eminem's Shady Records, Dre's Aftermath Entertainment and Interscope Records.
Jackson's much-hyped debut album, Get Rich or Die Trying (2003) sold over 800,000 copies its first week and went on to reach number one on several charts, including the Billboard 200, ultimately reaching multi-platinum success. Eminem even featured the first single, "Wanksta," in "8 Mile" (2003), the rags-to-riches story loosely based on Eminem's life. Based on Jackson's success, Interscope gave Jackson his own label imprint, G-Unit Records, and the rising mogul began creating his own stable of artists. In fast order, he also began banking on his image with a clothing line (G-Unit Clothing Company), and a deal with Reebok to distribute G-Unit sneakers. He leveraged his celebrity to break into movies and television, appearing as himself in "Beef" (2003), a documentary about the increasingly controversial nature of rap, and voiced himself on an episode of "The Simpsons" (Fox, 1990- ). Jackson made his acting debut, expectedly, in a straight-to-video gangsta thriller called "Full Clip" (2004).
On the big screen, Jackson starred in a fictionalized version of his life story, "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" (2005), co-starring Terrence Howard and helmed by Irish director Jim Sheridan. The film took events from Jackson's life almost verbatim - a murdered mother, dealing crack and becoming a rapper with the bullet marks to prove it - and lumped them together into a typical rags-to-riches narrative that was panned by most critics, though hip hop audiences were responsive enough for the film to recoup its budget. In the spring of that year, he released his second commercial album, The Massacre (2005), which sold over one million copies in four days and saw three of its singles in the Billboard top five simultaneously: "Candy Shop," "Disco Inferno" and "How We Do." The following year, Jackson made his first real acting stretch by portraying a traumatized Iraqi soldier returning to civilian life in the disappointing "Home of the Brave" (2006).
Jackson's third album, Curtis, was released in late 2007 to mixed reviews, with some critics complaining that the rapper was delivering more of the same. Despite the lukewarm reception, Jackson was given the title of Best Selling Hip Hop Artist at the World Music Awards that year. He continued to broaden his media scope by founding G-Unit Books and writing his first novel The Ski Mask Way, based on the life of a small-time drug dealer. The following year, the novice actor was given the unprecedented opportunity to share the screen with movie legends Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in a supporting role as a nightclub owner caught between two detectives investigating a potential serial killer in "Righteous Kill" (2008).
The release of his fourth album, Before I Self-Destruct (2009), was accompanied by a bonus DVD/download of a full-length feature film of the same title starring Jackson. The album debuted to mixed reviews and weaker sales than 50 Cent's previous efforts. Its follow-up was repeatedly delayed as relations between Jackson and Interscope Records deteriorated. In the meantime, Jackson co-starred in the Joel Schumacher crime drama "Twelve" (2010) and the underground gambling thriller "13" (2010) in quick succession. Further crime dramas "Caught in the Crossfire" (2010) and "Gun" (2011) were followed by Mario Van Peebles' college football drama "All Things Fall Apart" (2011), the Bruce Willis action thriller "Setup" (2011), and the Robert De Niro vehicle "Freelancers" (2012). Jackson reteamed with Willis alongside Josh Duhamel in the firefighting drama "Fire with Fire" (2012) before playing supporting roles in the fact-based manhunt drama "The Frozen Ground" (2013), starring Nicolas Cage and John Cusack, and the Stallone/Schwarzenegger team-up "Escape Plan" (2013).
After a series of delays and a change of labels, 50 Cent released his fifth solo album, Animal Ambition (2014) to generally poor reviews. Jackson continued his thriving career in crime thrillers with kidnapping drama "The Prince" (2014), co-starring Willis and Cusack. He also moved to television with a supporting role in the series "Power" (Starz 2014- ). The following year, Jackson played a comedic version of himself in Paul Feig's action comedy "Spy" (2015), starring Melissa McCarthy. He also co-starred with Jake Gyllenhaal and Rachel McAdams in Antoine Fuqua's boxing drama "Southpaw" (2015).
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