Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson didn’t actually feel the first round of bullets hit his legs. He was too consumed with dealing with the shock of it all.
Even in his volatile neighborhood of South Jamaica, Queens, the May 2000 shooting that nearly took his life was brazen.
At 11:22 a.m., in front of his grandmother’s home, the future rap superstar was greeted by a hail of gunfire while his young son was just steps away inside the house.
Nine bullets connected, slicing through Jackson’s left cheek, his arms, legs, chest, hands and hip. The Queens native and his associate Curtis Brown — who was hit in the hand — didn’t wait around for the police or EMT, instead driving directly to Jamaica Hospital.
“I was supposed to get shot,” 50 Cent told this reporter back in 2007. He credited the experience with jump-starting his drive for success — from former crack dealer to one of hip-hop’s most bankable acts, selling nearly 30 million albums worldwide.
“I lost something in life that I didn’t find until after I was shot. Initially, I was conditioned to believe in God. My grandparents took me to church every Sunday…I lost that…along the way, but after taking nine it was like, ‘How was that possible?’ ”
While plenty of rappers put up a tough front, 50 Cent walks the walk. Besides that myth-making shooting, his history is littered with vindictive actions against enemies — and even the occasional bystander.
Things may have come to a head in July, when he filed for bankruptcy in Connecticut.
Eyebrows were raised: How could a man whose wealth was estimated by the Washington Post at half a billion dollars now be out of money?
Blame it on living large — and brazenly reckless behavior. The bankruptcy filing comes on the heels of a court decision ordering him to pay $7 million to a woman whose sex tape he posted online without her consent. The impetus? She dated his enemy.
With 50, there’s always drama, even if it’s manufactured.
According to the DVD “The Infamous Times — Volume I: The Original 50 Cent,” the rapper took his name from notorious Brooklyn thief Kelvin “50 Cent” Martin. Vibe Editor-in-Chief Datwon Thomas — who featured the rapper on that magazine’s August cover — points out that, “[Jackson] knew what he was doing when he took on that name.”
“The original 50 Cent was a gangster from Fort Greene, Brooklyn,” says Thomas. “If you lived in Brooklyn [in the 1980s] you heard the name. He was…a powerful presence in the streets.”
Jackson borrowed not just Martin’s name (the latter died in 1987), but also his tough-guy swagger. In fact, Jackson’s shooting was related to the fearless lyrics of his 2000 song “Ghetto Qu’ran,” which called out a local drug boss’s criminal exploits.
Investigators believe the drug boss hired Darryl “Hommo” Baum to assassinate 50 in retaliation for the song. 50 declined to press charges following the shooting, and Baum himself was killed three weeks later. But that didn’t stop 50’s braggadocio.
On his first big hit, 2003’s “In da Club,” 50 boasted about “my crib, my cars, my pools, my jewels” as well as being “hit with a few shells but I don’t walk with a limp.”
Warning: Graphic language
Fans loved it, buying some 25 million copies of his albums between 2003 and 2009. Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am says that, at that time, there were not many stars shining brighter than 50.
“In America, the only rap artists that had 50 Cent’s international reach were the Black Eyed Peas,” will.i.am, who recruited 50 for the remix of BEP’s No. 1 single “Boom Boom Pow,” tells The Post. “He and I would always bump into each other in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Germany. I don’t think people understand how huge 50 was [internationally].”
But while the original 50 Cent robbed people, the rapper got rich thanks to sharp business acumen. He invested early in Vitaminwater, then made a reported $60 to $100 million after the company sold to Coca-Cola in 2007.
His once sizable fortune boasted endorsement deals for such products as Reebok, Right Guard and the aforementioned Vitaminwater, as well as his own G-Unit Records and G-Unit Clothing Company.
“50 Cent made around $300 million in two years,” says Zack O’Malley Greenburg, Forbes senior editor, who has frequently covered the rapper for Forbes’ annual Hip-Hop Cash Kings list. “He has always been really good at profiting off whatever his situation is. He even marketed getting shot nine times!”
Being shot didn’t turn 50 into an anti-gun advocate. He appeared on the cover of his 2002 mixtape “Guess Who’s Back?” menacingly pointing a pistol. The image fed into the public perception of him as a take-no-prisoners badass.
“50 is an aggressive rapper,” explains Vanessa Satten, editor-in-chief at XXL magazine. “You have this guy walking around in a bulletproof vest, backed by his crew and remaking other artists’ tracks. 50 basically said, ‘I can take your song and make it better than you [did].’ ”
Among his public beefs have been verbal and physical altercations with rappers Jadakiss and the Game. A spat with Ja Rule led to 50 being stabbed in March 2000 by Ja’s label mate Black Child.
But it’s his feud with rapper Rick Ross that’s about to do damage to 50’s bank account.
The two have traded jabs for years, with 50 singing, “I’m a f–k your life up for fun,” and Ross rapping that 50 is cheap: “Curtis Jackson baby-mama ain’t asking for a cent.” Now Ross’s baby-mama has taken 50 to court — and won.
50 Cent was ordered to pay Lastonia Leviston $7 million this past July for posting a sex tape online without Leviston’s consent. The rapper bought the tape from the man in the video, Maurice Murray, and added his own voice-over narration — referring to Leviston as a “slut” and mocking her physical appearance.
Seemingly, the only connection 50 has to the woman is that she has a child with Ross, his rival.
50 claimed that he had nothing to do with the video hitting the web. In late August, 50’s legal counsel alleged in a Connecticut court that the rapper was the victim of a shakedown.
“Ms. Leviston wants her pound of flesh,” his lawyer, James Berman, said in filings. “It is not enough that she obtained a jury verdict and assessment of punitive damages…She wants to punish [Jackson] by continuing to litigate against him in this bankruptcy case.”
“I hope he learned a lesson,” an emotional Leviston told the press after she won her case.
The sum is in addition to the $17 million a federal judge ordered 50 to hand over to headphone manufacturer Sleek Audio after an arbitration hearing ruled that the G-Unit Records head copied the design of Sleek Audio’s product.
As a result, 50 promptly filed for bankruptcy. Per Forbes, his assets total $24,823,899.18. The court rulings pushed his debt to $32,509,549.91.
Papers from US Bankruptcy Court show that 50 takes in over $185,000 a month from marketing and promotional deals, but spends $72,000 on his 18-bedroom Farmington, Conn., mansion — which he is reportedly looking to lease — in addition to $108,000 in other expenses.
In a surprising twist, though, 50 has claimed that the luxe trappings — Bentleys and Ferraris, private jets, flashy jewelry — he plays up on social media aren’t all they appear to be, and that he actually borrows or rents many of them.
Though he admitted to buying a Rolls-Royce in July, he noted that he “took two others back.”
Court filings requested that details of an endorsement deal with Effen Vodka remain
“No entertainer wants the terms of its endorsement contracts made public because…that disclosure would be disastrous by giving competitors an unfair advantage,” the file stated.
Asked about album earnings, 50 said he made only 10 cents a record. Recent roles in movies “Spy” and “Southpaw” netted him $100,000 — not even enough for his monthly expenses.
The court, however, wasn’t buying it. 50 was promptly told to pay Sleek Audio and Leviston.
The rapper’s latest studio album, 2014’s “Animal Ambition,” has sold just under 200,000 copies. 50 moved five times that in his first week of release during his commercial peak.
But after cheating death and sparking a million-dollar label bidding war just when he seemed destined to become a mere hip-hop footnote, surviving bankruptcy and a few embarrassing headlines seems like a walk in the park.
Back in 2000, as his bullet-riddled body lay in a hospital bed, 50 was dropped by Columbia Records. He spent five months in physical therapy, relearning how to rhyme with his new bullet-inflected speech impediment.
“I think people that haven’t been in those environments, they might ask you to go to counseling,” he told XXL in August 2003 when asked how he got through those trying times. “But that s–t is not really necessary for me. When I got out of the hospital, I was out of town for a little bit. I wouldn’t let people come see me in the hospital because I was bent up a little bit. I can’t let them see me in a compromising space.”
“The [reason] that Eminem and Dr. Dre signed him was based on the fact that 50 got up off his butt, released those mixtapes and made the industry take notice,” Vibe editor Thomas says. “He didn’t have any cosigns after he was shot. Everyone had left him. That alone should tell you you should never bet against 50.”