The 37-year-old South Jamaica, Queens native, born Curtis Jackson, began selling drugs at 12, received a six-month jail sentence at 16, launched a late, not-especially-noteworthy rap career at 21, then his desperate 1999 single "How to Rob" earned him the ire of his would-be peers and nine bullet wounds.
Surviving the attack, 50 began recording mixtape tracks in Canada, as no U.S. recording studio would have him. He was shunned by the industry, while his popularity soared. His story excited fans, and he soon signed a reported $1 million record deal with Dr. Dre and Eminem, with whom he released his record-breaking Aftermath debut Get Rich or Die Tryin'.
Though he was now one of rap's most popular figures, the former hip-hop pariah bore a hefty grudge, engaging in highly-publicized beefs with Ja Rule, Fat Joe, Nas, Jadakiss, former G-Unit rappers Game and Young Buck, Diddy, Cam'ron, Lil Wayne and finally, Rick Ross, whom he ridiculed for having been a corrections officer.
When his recording career began to falter, his business ventures gained momentum. He scored a windfall via a partnership with Vitamin Water, launched a successful clothing line and an acting career, performing alongside Al Pacino, Mickey Rourke, Ray Liotta and Robert De Niro (twice).
For the most part, 50's film roles have been autobiographical; he's played drug dealers, struggling former drug dealer-rappers, and, in his production company's latest release, "Freelancers," which stars Forest Whitaker and De Niro, Fif is a former criminal-turned-cop, an interesting turn for an artist with such a violently anti-police persona.
"It was a bit different, that part," 50 tells The BoomBox, during a press day for "Freelancers." "I had on detective clothing, so you can't really tell [I was a 'cop'] as much... In my neighborhood ... they view the police as someone who comes to take their loved ones away."
For 50 to have an objective understanding of people on either side of the law is telling; he's been a millionaire for a decade. Still, returning to his old neighborhood to produce and star in a film as an undercover cop must have been disconcerting.
"It's just a different perception of it," he continues, evenly. "Anyone with good sense would understand we have to maintain order somehow, so it's necessary for [police] to be there, but it just doesn't feel that way to [the neighborhood], when you consistently in the environment, seeing that."
Given the parallels drawn between himself and his character in the film, we can't help but query as to whether, if offered the opportunity to avoid jail, he too would have become a cop. His answer is surprising, coming from someone who mocked rival Rick Ross mercilessly for making the same choice, but as he explains in the video interview below, 50 Cent is simply a persona; he is careful to make the distinction.
"Why would you not do that [become a cop]? There's nothing the matter with that," he says, shaking his head. "I have people that made those choices from my neighborhood. It was interesting because they got the job and started working and moved up faster, too, because they knew exactly the way people in the environment think."
"Freelancers" is available on DVD and Blu-Ray Tuesday (Aug. 21).
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