50 Cent's real name is Curtis James Jackson III. He was born in 1975 in South Jamaica, Queens. At the time of his birth, his mother was 15-years-old. When Jackson turned 12 his mother, a known cocaine dealer, was murdered. Raised by his grandmother, Jackson's youth was spent selling drugs, getting arrested, and boxing at a local gym.
In 1996, Jackson was introduced to Jam Master Jay of Run-DMC. Jay taught Jackson the ends and outs of rap music and the recording business. Armed with this knowledge, Jackson signed a recording contract with Columbia Records.
In April of 2000, Jackson was shot nine times by Darryl "Hommo" Baum, a close friend and bodyguard of Mike Tyson. This brush with death was both a source of motivation and a life-altering experience for the rapper. It also forced Jackson to endure a long recovery and rehabilitation.
Later in 2000, Jackson, as 50 Cent, unofficially released The Power of the Dollar. The album featured the controversial track "How to Rob" which explained, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, how 50 Cent would steal from other rappers like Jay-Z, DMX, and Wyclef Jean. It was supposed to be his debut album with Columbia Records but they dropped him once they learned he had been shot.
After being released from the hospital, Jackson was discovered and signed by Eminem. In 2003, with production help from Dr. Dre, 50 Cent released his seminal effort, Get Rich or Die Tryin'. The work went on to sell more than 15 million copies worldwide and is noted as one of the greatest rap albums of all-time. 50 Cent followed that offering with The Massacre in 2005. Other 50 Cent albums include Curtis (2007), Before I Self Destruct (2009), and Black Magic (2010).
Apart from making music, Jackson has appeared in several films including Get Rich or Die Tryin', Home of the Brave, and Righteous Kill. He's also appeared in episodes of The Simpsons, 6teen, and Entourage. Other nonmusical projects include a reality show, a clothing line, video games, a vitamin water drink, a body spray, books, and a line of condoms. Jackson has also been involved in several high profile "feuds" with rappers Lil Wayne, Ja Rule, Fat Joe, Nas, Jadakiss, The Game, Cam'ron, and Rick Ross.
50 Cent's laid back flow and funky grooves have earned him numerous accolades and made him one of the premiere rappers of the first decade of the 21st century. The nom de plume "50 Cent" is both a metaphor for change and an homage to 1980's Brooklyn robber Kelvin Martin who also went by the name 50 Cent.