Curtis Jackson III was born and raised in South Jamaica, a poverty-stricken urban neighborhood in Queens, New York City. He was raised solely by his mother, Sabrina, who gave birth to him at the age of fifteen. 50 Cent stated that his mother worked as a cocaine dealer and was a lesbian. The line "Coming up I was confused, my mommy kissing a girl" from Hate It or Love It featuring The Game also refers to his mother's sexuality. In 1983, she became unconscious after having consumed a drugged drink and eventually died as a result of the gas in her apartment turned on amidst closed windows. Following her death, Jackson moved into his grandparents' house with his eight aunts and uncles.He recalls, "My grandmother told me, 'Your mother's not coming home. She's not gonna come back to pick you up. You're gonna stay with us now.' That's when I started adjusting to the streets a little bit".
At age eleven, Jackson started boxing. The following year, Jackson started working with narcotics but informed his grandparents he attended school programs.During this time, he began bringing guns and drug money to school. When Jackson was fourteen years old, a neighbor opened a boxing gym for local youth. He recalled: "When I wasn't killing time in school, I was sparring in the gym or selling crack on the strip." In the mid-1980s, Jackson competed in the Junior Olympics as an amateur boxer. He later stated: "I was competitive in the ring and hip-hop is competitive too... I think rappers condition themselves like boxers, so they all kind of feel like they're the champ". At the age of sixteen, he was caught by metal detectors at Andrew Jackson High School. He later explained that he was embarrassed by his subsequent arrest and confessed to his grandmother that he was selling drugs.
Afterwards, Jackson was sent to correctional boot camp. Following his release, he adopted the nickname "50 Cent" as a metaphor for "change". The name was derived from Kelvin Martin, a Brooklyn robber known as "50 Cent". Jackson chose the name "because it says everything I want it to say. I'm the same kind of person 50 Cent was. I provide for myself by any means".
1996–99: Early career
In 1996, when he was 21 years old, Jackson started rapping in a friend's basement. He used turntables to record over instrumentals. Another friend introduced him to Jam Master Jay of Run-DMC who was organizing his label Jam Master Jay Records. Jay taught Jackson how to count bars, write choruses, structure songs, and create a record. Jackson's first official appearance was on a song titled "React" with the group Onyx on their 1998 album Shut 'Em Down. He credited Jam Master Jay as an influence who helped him improve his ability to write hooks. Jay produced Jackson's first album. The album was shelved and never released.
In 1999, after leaving Jam Master Jay, the platinum-selling producers Trackmasters took notice of Jackson and signed him to Columbia Records. They sent him to a studio in Upstate New York where he produced thirty-six songs in two weeks. Eighteen were included on his unofficially released album, Power of the Dollar in 2000.He also started the now-defunct Hollow Point Entertainment with former G-Unit affiliate Bang 'Em Smurf.
Jackson's popularity increased after the controversial underground single, "How to Rob", whh he wrote in thirty minutes while in a car on the way to his studio The track comically explains how he would rob famous artists. He explained the reasoning behind song's content as, "There's a hundred artists on that label, you gotta separate yourself from that group and make yourself relevant". Rappers Jay-Z, Kurupt, Sticky Fingaz, Big Pun, DMX, Wyclef Jean and the Wu-Tang Clan replied to the song and Nas, who received the track positively, invited Jackson to travel on a promotional tour for his Nastradamus album. The song was intended to be released with "Thug Love" featuring Destiny's Child, but two days before he was scheduled to film the "Thug Love" music video, Jackson was shot and confined to a hospital due to his injuries
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