50 Cent, a real bargain

MORE SO than any other music since the blues, hip-hop and rap are all about stories. They are criminal minded and grand, enthralling and unbelievable, but also interesting and convincing. That’s why, despite being blackballed by the industry, heads still gravitated to Queens’ realest son, 50 Cent.

He is the real deal, the genuine article. He’s a man of the streets, intimately familiar with its codes and violence, yet incredibly intelligent and deliberate. Couple his true life hardships with his knack for addictive, syrupy hooks and it’s clear that 50 has exactly what it takes to ride down the road to riches and diamond rings.

In many ways, he’s the ideal East Coast rapper, big framed with bulging biceps and a six-pack, tattoos, trademark bullet-proof vest and iced crucifix. Curtis Jackson, or 50 Cent as he’s more commonly known, has endured many obstacles throughout a remarkable and dramatic life.

Before becoming the most discussed figure in rap, he had an unsuccessful run at mainstream success in the late 90s, before an attempt on his life in the year 2000 sent him underground. However, a successful run on the New York mix-tape circuit brought him to the attention of Eminem, who signed him to a seven figure contract in 2002, helming a quick rise towards success in 2003.

The product of a broken home in the rough neighbourhood of Queens in the US, 50 lived everything most rappers write about but never actually experience: drugs, crime, imprisonment, stabbings and, most infamously of all, shootings – and all of this before he even released his debut album. These experiences became 50’s rhetoric – he revelled in his oft-told past and made headlines everywhere he went. However, his distaste for materialistic women, paradoxically coupled with an appetite for guns, drugs and wealth, made him a welcome alternative to the bling-bling sect of the early 2000s.

As a teen, 50 followed his mother’s lead and began dealing in crack cocaine. The trade proved lucrative for him, until he eventually encountered the law and began making visits to prison. At this point, in the mid-90s, he turned away from crime and towards rap. His break came in 1996 when he met Run DMC’s Jam Master Jay.

Impressed by what he heard, Jay signed the aspiring rapper to JMJ Records label. Not much resulted from the deal, however, and 50 moved to Trackmaster Columbia’s sub-label where he began work on his debut album, Power of the Dollar. A trio of singles preceded the album’s release: Your Life’s on the Line, Thug Love (featuring Destiny’s Child) and How to Rob. His willingness to rap openly about life attracted attention…attention that would come back to haunt him.

His first brush with death came shortly after the release of How to Rob, when he was stabbed at the Hit Factory studio on West 54th Street, Manhattan. Shortly afterward came his most storied incident. On May 24, 2000, just before Columbia was set to release Power of the Dollar, an assassin attempted to take 50’s life on 161st Street, Jamaica, Queens, shooting him nine times while the rapper sat helpless in the passenger seat of a car. One shot pierced his cheek, another reached his hand and the seven others his legs and thighs – yet he survived. Even so, Columbia wanted nothing to do with 50 when they heard the news, shelving Power of the Dollar and parting ways with the now-controversial rapper.

During the next two years, 50 returned to the rap underground, formed G Unit, worked closely with producer Sha Money XL and began churning out mix-tape recordings, which earned him an esteemed reputation on the streets of New York. This constant presence throughout 2000/2002 garnered industry attention as well, slowly moving the rapper into the spotlight.

Eminem signed 50 to Shady/Aftermath, where he and Dr Dre worked closely with him to produce his debut album, Get Rich or Die Tryin. Before Get Rich, Eminem debuted 50 on the 8 Mile soundtrack, setting the stage for In da Club, the Dre produced lead single from Get Rich.

Amid all this, 50 made headlines everywhere – he was linked to Jam Master Jay’s shooting in October 2002 and jailed on New Year’s Eve 2002 for gun possession. By the time Get Rich was released on February 6, 2003, he had become the most discussed figure in the music industry.

If bad boys are your thing, or you fancy a night In da Club, before going to the Candy Shop, 50 Cent will be performing on October 1, at Pavilhão Atlântico, Parque das Nações in Lisbon as part of his European tour. The concert starts at 9.30pm and tickets are available at www.plateia.iol.pt or by calling 210 036 300.