Curtis James Jackson III (born July 6, 1975 in South Jamaica, Queens, New York), better known by his stage name 50 Cent, is a Grammy award nominated rapper, actor, singer, entrepreneur, author and founder of the hip hop group and label G-Unit.
Jackson was born and raised in South Jamaica, a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens. His mother Sabrina, a drug dealer, died in a fire when he was 8. Since his father had already abandoned the family, young Curtis was sent to live with his grandparents. Growing up during the crack epidemic of the 80s and 90s, Jackson dealt drugs when he wasn't "killing time" at school or boxing at a local gym. His grandparents assumed he was at after-school programs when he was out selling crack. In tenth grade, Jackson was caught with guns and drug money passing through the metal detectors at Andrew Jackson High School in Queens. In 1994, Jackson was arrested again for selling vials of cocaine to an undercover officer, and three weeks later he was arrested yet-again after police found heroin, crack cocaine, and a starter pistol in his home. Jackson was sentenced to 3 to 9 years in prison, but opted to join a 6 month boot camp program and get his GED. Around this time, Jackson began going by "50 Cent," inspired by deceased Brooklyn stick-up man Kelvin "50 Cent" Martin.
After leaving drug dealing to pursue a rap career, he released his debut album Guess Who's Back Again in 2002. He was discovered by Eminem and Dr. Dre and then signed to Interscope Records. He has since released Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2003), The Massacre (2006), Curtis (2007) and Before I Self Destruct (2009).
50 Cent has engaged in feuds with other rappers including Jay-Z, Ja Rule, The Game, Cam'ron, Fat Joe, and Rick Ross. He has also pursued an acting career, appearing in the semi-autobiographical film Get Rich or Die Tryin' in 2005, the Iraq War film Home of the Brave in 2006, and Righteous Kill in 2008. 50 Cent is one of the richest hip-hop performers, having a net worth estimated at US $440 million in 2008.
Before 50 Cent ever inked a major deal, he built up a substantial fan base in New York through underground mixtapes. 50 Cent met up with Jam Master Jay of Run-DMC and was signed to his label to write all of Jay’s music. After he’d left JMJ, he signed to Columbia Records in 1996. On this label, he released Power of the Dollar, and the singles How to Rob and Ghetto Qua Ran. Columbia Records released him from the label after being shot on May 24th, 2000.
Around this time, Eminem had heard one of 50 Cent’s demo tapes and expressed a huge interest in him on MTV, as did Dr. Dre. Shortly after this, 50 Cent officially signed to Interscope Records. He was the first rapper to sign to the joint label owned by Dr. Dre and Eminem. The first song he released on this record was entitled Wanksta and was featured on the 8 Mile soundtrack.
In its first week of release, his debut ”Get Rich Or Die Tryin’” sold 872,000 units - easily reaching Gold status. Within the second week it went Platinum (1 mil) and on April 12th, 2004 the RIAA certified it six times Platinum.
In 2005 he followed the success of his album Get Rich or Die Tryin’ with a new release - The Massacre (originally called St. Valentines Day Massacre until the release date was pushed back). The first single released off this, Disco Inferno, was a huge hit - he followed this hit up by the release of Candy Shop and then again with Just a Lil Bit.
In 2003 Interscope Records allowed 50 Cent to have his own label - G-Unit Records. He first signed Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo and Young Buck as the established members of G-Unit Records. In 2004, Dr. Dre and 50 Cent had signed The Game under a joint venture.