What You Never Knew About 50 Cent

When he burst onto the scene in 2003 with the album "Get Rich or Die Tryin'," 50 Cent quickly established himself as a hit-maker, leaving a trail of No. 1 singles only rivaled by Drake, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne. Years later, as he emerged from the ceiling like a bat in 2022's historic Super Bowl half-time show, many viewers could have associated him first with television, champagne, or weird feuds on the internet before hip-hop. 50 Cent has become the king of multi-hyphenates, with his hands in everything from books to boxing.

For Curtis Jackson, a business school degree is hardly required on the path to becoming a mogul, and he's been able to adapt by using lessons from his youth, when he began hustling in the streets of New York at age 12. He claims that business follows the "same tactics with a different approach" (via Entrepreneur), using a piece of paper instead of a gun. "They'll do it in a way where you feel nothing — and just rob you right there," he's said.

Despite his fame, there's a lot to learn about the rapper. Here's what you never knew about 50 Cent.

He was only 12 when he began dealing drugs

50 Cent's debut album, "Get Rich or Die Tryin'," was full of semi-autobiographical songs depicting his life as a young drug dealer in Queens, New York. He grew up in a single-parent home, where his mother, Sabrina, reportedly sold drugs. Though there are differing reports of her death, he says she was murdered when he was 8, but her influence on him lasted throughout his life. She taught him to survive in the streets by never showing weakness and even told him to hide toys in his socks to use as weapons during schoolyard fights.

After Sabrina's death, 50 Cent went to live with his grandparents, and money was tight. He was soon tempted by the wealth he saw displayed by drug dealers. "The only people I saw coming round who had nice things were from my mom's life," he told The Guardian. "They had Cadillacs, expensive jewelry, everything that symbolized financial freedom." 

At 12, he told his grandparents that he joined an after-school program, but in reality, he had started dealing drugs. He said he found learning in the streets easier than in the classroom. "I could break down a kilogram of cocaine into ounces, grams or any combination of the two," he said, as reported by the New York Post. "That's how I learned my fractions and metric conversion, through real-life applications." By 19, he was caught and ended up in a two-year incarceration boot camp program.

50 Cent boxed as a kid

Around the same time he began hustling, 50 Cent also started boxing at a gym in Southside Queens during his pre-teen years. While training, he learned skills that helped him in the streets. "It changed my attitude, and it made me not care about fighting, because every time I sparred, it felt like I was in a real fight," he told Entrepreneur. "And because I was doing it every day, I didn't mind being in a fight. I didn't adjust well, because I took that right across the street, into the neighborhood, with what I learned in the gym."

He sparred there daily, matching up against kids much older than himself because there weren't regular boxers at the gym and so they didn't have weight classes. "They had a mental advantage because they were older, but that faded the more I got into the groove of doing things," he said. 

Boxing is still a passion for the rapper, who went on to start a boxing promotion company, SMS Promotions, where he was licensed to put on fights in New Jersey and Nevada. He's also shown on social media that he likes slip back on the gloves occasionally. "I'm hitting hard, I ain't turning down no fades," he wrote alongside an Instagram video of himself pounding on an enormous punching bag.

He lost a major record deal after being shot

50 Cent's storied lyrics on "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" were largely authentic gansta rap, stemming from his dangerous lifestyle as a drug dealer. But that same lifestyle also cost him his first major record deal. In 1999, 50 Cent had signed a deal with Columbia Records and was on the verge of releasing an album and filming a music video (via The Baltimore Sun), but just months after recording, he was shot nine times in front of his grandparents' house. 

Though he survived, Columbia Records dropped 50 Cent quickly after the attack. For the rapper, seeing his dreams go up in smoke was worse than being shot. "In the 'hood, it ain't nothing shocking," he said. "You heal up. You get back to work. The truth is: Losing that record deal hurt me more than that shooting."

But the setback didn't stop 50 Cent from pursuing a rap career. He began recording tracks with a friend after he was released from the hospital and put out a mixtape that wound up in the hands of Eminem, who became an instant fan. He signed a major deal with Eminem's Shady records, and secured a $1 million advance, which he badly needed. Before moving into the mansion (formerly owned by Mike Tyson) that he bought after the success of "Get Rich or Die Tryin'," he could barely make the rent on his $800-per-month apartment.

You probably won't see 50 Cent drinking his own champagne

Even if you see him in the club with a bottle full of bub, 50 Cent is probably not drinking it. The rapper revealed in his autobiography, "Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter," that he prefers to keep a clear head when he's out partying. But since he's often out promoting Chemin du Roi, he came up with a way to fake drinking something bubbly. "First I'll pour drinks from a bottle of Champagne for everyone who is in VIP with me," he wrote (via Page Six). "When the bottle is empty, I'll give it to one of my guys and have him quietly refill it with ginger ale." He added, "I'll take swigs every now and then just to keep the vibe right, but I'm not drinking anything but Canada Dry."

50 Cent has said in the past that despite dealing drugs in his youth, he never got high on his own supply because he'd rather make money from selling. He also largely abstains from drinking. During an interview with CNN, he mentioned that seeing family members intoxicated turned him off from most substances, and though he's imbibed before, he just doesn't drink that much. "I've had an experience that made me paranoid because of it, and I stayed away from it following that," he shared.

He had an unusual collab with Bette Midler

In 2008, the Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson Community Garden was opened to the public in Jamaica, Queens. But it took some prompting from none other than Bette Midler for 50 Cent to get on board with the restoration of the 11,000-square-foot public space. "I called and nagged him," Midler said, as People reported. For her New York Restoration Project, Midler likely knew getting the rapper involved with sprucing up the green space in his old stomping grounds would give it more heft, and 50 Cent was happy to deliver. "When Bette calls you don't say 'no.' Not if you want your reputation to stay the way it is," he said.

The garden functions as an outdoor classroom for kids to learn about growing food. Since its relaunch, the space has seen some neat upgrades like a solar-powered water pump.

He helped fund the project through his G-Unity Foundation, and ended up connecting with it on a personal level. "I wish I had this to come to when I was growing up around here. The opportunity to create this garden for the youth and the community is a great one." Meanwhile, 50 Cent and Midler grew close, and they've joked about collaborating together on a future album. "I will be rapping," Midler said. "He's writing a song for me right now." 

Oprah Winfrey once confronted him about his dog's name

Oprah Winfrey has never been shy about broaching awkward subjects in her interviews, so when she had a sit-down with 50 Cent in 2012, she got straight to the point on a matter that was needling her: his dog's name, Oprah Winfree. During an interview for "Oprah's Next Chapter," Winfrey asked 50 Cent why he named his Schnauzer after her. Looking somewhat bashful, he replied, "At the time, I was just looking at the situation, and I saw I was developing negative feelings for someone who doesn't even know me. And then I gave it to the dog because I was excited about the dog." (He also confirmed he has a cat named Gayle.)

As a dog lover, Winfrey said she considered this a compliment, whether he "meant it to be one or not," knowing that his feelings toward her were less than warm in the past. When 50 Cent first got the canine Oprah, he wasn't on the best terms with the media mogul over what he and other hip hop artists perceived as slights from the host. When asked if he had "greater affection" for her now, 50 Cent said, "Absolutely." 

Oprah the Dog, however, expressed on its Twitter account that it was less than thrilled about being left out of the conversation: "So my dad @50cent thinks I should be thankful for the mention on Oprah ... OK ... Just left you a BIG thank you present in your office ... ENJOY!"

He's released several books

While he's long been associated with writing music, 50 Cent also had a career as an author. He partnered with Pocket/MTV Books in 2005 to establish G-Unit Books, an urban fiction series featuring members of his crew. He told the New York Post that he didn't "read books for fun" as a kid, and hoped that the same things that attract youth to his music would bring them to reading. "The novels are the harsh realities in certain situations," he said. "And the actual honest content in the music and the books are a spinoff of that reality. That's what's hip-hop about them."

The last work published under the G-Unit Books banner was a YA novel, "Playground." But 50 Cent has continued to pen books since then. He's also written non-fiction books, such as "Formula 50," a fitness and nutrition book, and "Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter," a hybrid self-help and business book taking lessons from the rapper's street sensibility and career pivots.

The rapper has admitted to embellishing his lyrics

We know 50 Cent likes to write fiction, but how much does that bleed into his song lyrics? A little bit, according to the rapper. When Vanity Fair strapped a lie detector test to 50 Cent, he admitted to sliding into people's DMs and being "starstruck" by Meryl Streep, but when asked point-blank if he "lied in his songs," he waffled a bit. For the song "High All the Time," the interviewer pointed out that 50 Cent doesn't smoke, and he quipped that it was from his crew's secondhand smoke. He also admitted that his "bottle full of bub" in the hit "In Da Club" was more likely filled with ginger ale. When asked if there were other tracks he lied in, he responded, "There's points that you say things because you're being creative."

While most of these lyrical embellishments are pretty tame, he's been accused of bigger lies. 50 Cent's ex Shaniqua Tompkins called him out as a "fraud" on Instagram (via BET). "You created this fictitious character and you try to discredit me because I know the real! I know you made up you got shot 9 times and it was actually 5 because you didn't want to be compared to Tupac!" she wrote, implying he lied about the number to boost his street cred. "Remember I was there!"

50 Cent became a water mogul

In a partnership that ended up netting him more money than his record deals, 50 Cent became a water mogul when he linked up with Glacéau's VitaminWater in 2004. He started off as a fan of the enriched water, having tried it after exercising at a gym one day. "They do such a good job making water taste good," he told ABC News. The story goes that the company approached the rapper after seeing him holding a bottle of VitaminWater in a Reebok ad. He was offered a minority stake and began promoting the drink company in hopes of attracting a younger demographic to the brand. To seal his connection, he helped create his own drink, grape-flavored Formula 50, and has since deemed himself the "Air Jordan of VitaminWater."

In a smart business move described in his book "Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter," he requested equity over a traditional endorsement deal (via AdAge): "Instead of focusing on how big my initial payday is going to be, I try to evaluate all the ways in which the situation will benefit me." The benefits in this case were huge. When Coca-Cola bought VitaminWater for $4.1 billion, 50 Cent had an enormous payday, reportedly raking in $100 million from the deal, and significantly boosting his net worth until he filed for bankruptcy in 2015.

He shed over 50 lbs for a film

50 Cent made his first foray into TV and film in 2005 with a cameo on "The Simpsons." He's since built a career in the entertainment industry, acting alongside heavyweights like Robert De Niro in movies and starring in series like "Power" and "For Life." But one role was particularly demanding of the rapper-turned-actor. In the 2011 Mario Van Peebles film "All Things Fall Apart," 50 Cent played Deon, a college football player with cancer. The character was based on his childhood friend, and 50 Cent helped pen the "passion project," he told AP (via HuffPost).

To prepare for the role, 50 Cent went on a strict regimen in order to lose weight, running for three hours per day while only consuming liquids. The results were staggering. He went from 214 pounds to 160 pounds in just nine weeks. At one point, his manager asked him to see a doctor out of concern. "Towards the end it was really difficult," he told Parade (via HuffPost). "It was like, if I don't get close enough to what my best friend looked like to me at that point before he passed, then I'm not doing the story any justice." 

The rapper said that he'd hit that weight once before, only under different circumstances. After getting shot, 50 Cent had to go on a liquid diet due to the bullet wound in his jaw and dropped to 157 pounds, though he said losing weight for the movie was "tougher."

He once had beef with Taco Bell

50 Cent is not one to shy away from a public feud. He's picked fights with everyone from Wendy Williams to his first son, Marquise, often using social media to throw jabs or writing entire diss tracks about his enemies. But one particular feud came to his doorstep when Taco Bell unceremoniously used his name in an open letter without his permission in their 2008 "Why Pay More?" campaign. "We made a good faith, charitable offer to 50 Cent to change his name to either 79, 89 or 99 Cent for one day by rapping his order at a Taco Bell, and we would have been very pleased to make the $10,000 donation to the charity of his choice," a Taco Bell spokesperson said, as reported by Billboard.

50 Cent responded by suing them, seeking $4 million in damages for unauthorized use of his name, persona, and trademark (via New York Daily News). The company responded in kind, stating, "Jackson has used his colorful past to cultivate a public image of belligerence and arrogance and has a well-publicized track record of making threats, starting feuds and filing lawsuits." In the end, the two parties settled for an undisclosed amount outside of court, and it's safe to say 50 Cent has not been seen rapping his order at Taco Bell since.

50 Cent was once arrested for cursing

50 Cent has had run ins with the law in the past, but his most bizarre one has to be during a 2016 performance in St. Kitts, where he was arrested for cursing onstage. In the middle of performing his song "P.I.M.P." to a crowd of 40,000, the rapper could be heard rapping the lyrics in earnest, including dropping a "motherf***er" or two, as reported by TMZ. Police took him into custody after the show and booked him for using explicit language in public, a minor, but still punishable, offense on the Caribbean island.

A representative for the rapper said all was good once 50 Cent paid the $1,100 fine for his offense: "We just want people to know we ain't mad about this, we all had a good time. 50 enjoyed it so much he decided to stay longer ... and we would come back and perform in St. Kitts again anytime they would like to have us back" (via Rolling Stone).