50 Cent, Hip-Hop’s Greatest Showman, On The Legacy He’s Leaving Behind For His Son

50 Cent
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SHOES: Stefano Ricci
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LOVE HIM OR HATE HIM, 50 CENT DOESN’T CARE.

AS LONG AS YOU’RE THINKING ABOUT HIM, HIS JOB IS DONE HERE.

BY LAURA SCHREFFLER
PHOTOGRAPHY FREDERIC AUERBACH
STYLING ERIN MCSHERRY
STYLING ASSISTANT KARINA BOYLAN
GROOMING JUANITA LOPEZ

50 Cent
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SHOES: Louis Vuitton
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Photo Credit: Frederic Auerbach

2020 WAS ALWAYS GOING TO GO DOWN IN HISTORY FOR CURTIS “50 CENT” JACKSON, COVID-19 ASIDE. AFTER ALL, THIS WAS   the year his career was finally acknowledged in the way he knew it could and should be – with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Surrounded by a crowd of his friends and family, mentors and peers, including Eminem and Dr. Dre, on Jan. 30, who could blame the guy for getting emotional during his acceptance speech? It was seemingly a moment of rare vulnerability from the tough-as-nails rapper, with ensuing headlines proclaiming how he “choked up” and “broke down,” showing off his “vulnerable side” during such an “emotional moment.”

Except, well… it actually wasn’t.

“Look, start of the year, I get the star,” he admits. “I’m not excited about it until I get there. I didn’t prepare a speech. I decided to go ahead and wing it. It feels like, ‘Oh shit, maybe I should have written something down.’ Once I got there, I got a call from Mary J. Blige to congratulate me, and I [told her], ‘I’m nervous, and I’m never nervous!’ She said, ‘Just get it, man, it’ll be cool.’ So I figured it out. I took a piece of paper and said, ‘I know what I’m going to do.’ I folded it up, and put it in my suit jacket and said to myself, ‘If I start feeling like I don’t know what to say, I’m going to [pretend to cry to buy myself some time]. They’ll say I’m getting emotional.’”

Like so many strategic gambles he’s taken throughout his career, this paid off in spades. So he may have crafted the moment out of smoke and mirrors, but what else is new? 50’s particular brand of showmanship has been driving his career since he first came on the scene like a hurricane in 2003 with his Grammy-nominated album, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, propelling him from a felon to the award-winning success story he is today.

Now, over Zoom, the rapper-turned-entrepreneur reenacts his ceremonial crocodile tears with a wink and a smile. He’s a modern-day P.T. Barnum in a New York Mets cap with considerably less flair, but twice as much charm. His over-the-top blubbering elicits a definite laugh, which was his intention. He is a man who lives to entertain, after all. He makes provocative statements, causes controversy with his lyrics and creates beef sometimes seemingly without reason, making sure it’s a rare week when someone isn’t talking about 50 Cent. Which, in his opinion, is the way it should always be. To him, there’s nothing worse than indifference.

“Love me or hate me, care enough to feel some sort of way,” he declares. “If there’s no [feeling at all], I’m not entertaining you.”

50 Cent will hardly have to worry about that: The number of projects attached to his name in the last six months – and in the year to come – is mind-boggling. He truly has earned the right to call himself a hustler., Aside from his Walk of Fame star, In the first half of 2020 he also has won the NAACP Image Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series award for his directorial debut (on Power); released the New York Times best-selling self-help book Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter; and most recently, joined forces with Roddy Rich on their late collaborator Pop Smoke’s “The Woo” music video.

Within the next year, he plans to release new music, appear in the sequel to 2018’s heist thriller, Den of Thieves, and produce a whopping eight shows through his G Unit Film & Television company. These include the just-renewed ABC legal series, For Life, and — as part of his extended Starz/Lionsgate deal — the drama Black Family Mafia, A Moment in Time, a scripted docu-series chronicling moments that shaped global pop culture, multiple extensions of the Power universe starting with Power Book II: Ghost, which drops this September, animated superhero series Trill League at Quibi, and multiple yet-to-be-announced projects at Starz, Netflix and CBS All Access.

But first and foremost, there’s 50 Cent’s rapidly expanding Power universe. The crime drama, which premiered in 2014 and wrapped its sixth season earlier this year, revolved around James “Ghost” St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick), a smart and savvy drug dealer yearning to leave his life of crime behind to run a legitimate nightlife business (and if this sounds familiar, it should: The show is loosely based on 50’s own experiences in that arena). The series was such an overwhelming success — becoming the most-watched original series on Starz and fourth-most-watched scripted series on TV full-stop — that it has now prompted four spin-offs: Power Book II: Ghost, which follows Tariq St. Patrick (Michael Rainey Jr.) just days after the Power series finale as he navigates his new life and tries to shed his father’s legacy; Power Book III: Raising Kanan, a prequel focusing on 50’s character, drug-dealer Kanan Stark; Power Book IV: Influence, Rashad Tate’s (Larenz Tate) pursuit of political power, and Power Book V: Force, a look at Tommy Egan’s (Joseph Sikora) life when he bids farewell to the Big Apple.

50 Cent
SUIT, TIE & POCKET SQUARE: Stefano Ricci
SHIRT: Eton
SHOES: Taft
WATCH: Hublot

Photo Credit: Frederic Auerbach

While many fans are excited for the Sept. 6 premiere of Power Book II: Ghost — which will see Mary J. Blige and Cliff “Method Man” Smith joining the substantial cast — there are some who wonder why Ghost’s son was deemed the focus of the first reincarnation.

“I thought we [should do] Force first,” confides 50, who not only stars but also executive produces the series. “I’m the source where she gets the authenticity, but Courtney [Kemp] is the [creator and] writer and I’m fine with it being the next one, because no one understands Power more than her.”

To the creators, choosing who among the sizeable cast should have his or her own spin-off was pre-determined, even if the selected characters weren’t all the most obvious choices. “There were whole shows in the characters,” 50 explains. “Like with Raising Kanan, [we’re doing it] because people really like the character on the show. He is the person who turned Ghost and Tommy on to [a life of crime] in the beginning, so to show him from the instance of who he was to seeing the worst part of him, that will happen. You’ll also see Ghost and Tommy in the very beginning, when they’re afraid to [murder] still, but they’re with someone who’s damaged enough, who does it in front of them and not only likes it, but gets away with it. If they didn’t see it go wrong so often, they wouldn’t be so conscious of the repercussions of their actions.”

While it remains to be seen how many of the spin-offs 50 will actually appear in — Raising Kanan is meant to be a look at his character’s life as a youth — the 15-time Grammy nominee confirms he’ll be producing the theme songs for all his upcoming shows. “Making sure the theme songs are musically good is important to me,” he boasts. “Power’s [“Big Rich Town”] was one of the best theme songs I’ve ever heard. Of course, I didn’t get nominated for it, but it sold a million copies. Show me another theme song that people actually want to buy. My career has been that way. [There’s a discrepancy between my] achievements and the accolades connected to them. I got to achieve what I wanted to achieve, but I didn’t get the trophies to go with it, and they’re not giving me trophies because then kids would actually want to be 50 Cent.” (His Best New Artist loss to Evanescence at the 2003 Grammys is still a sore spot: “Where the f**k is Evanescence now?”)

Still, his success has guaranteed he now has the power, so to speak, to do whatever the heck he wants, and so he does it all. His portfolio is vast and diverse, a venerable cornucopia of interests including artist and talent management, video games, mobile apps, clothing, health drinks, electronics, fragrances, headphones, apparel, footwear and boxing promotion. It’s like he wakes up each day and thinks, ‘Hm, I’d like to try this today’… and then starts a company to immerse himself in his interest du jour, which isn’t actually far from the truth. Currently, he’s responsible for G-Unit Records, G-Unit Brands, G-Unit Clothing Company, G-Unity Foundations Inc., SMS Promotions, Power hand sanitizer, and, his current baby, Sire Spirits, named in honor of his youngest son, 7-year-old Sire.

50 is the sole owner of Sire Spirits, which currently offers Le Chemin du Roi (“The King’s Path”) champagne and Branson cognac. To create these brands, made several trips to France to source champagne and cognac to his high standards. Once his French supply deals were in place, he personally designed the distinctive look and style of each and every bottle. For Le Chemin du Roi, he created all signature custom gold, rose gold and silver chess-inspired pieces. To set each apart, he painted the $160 Brut bottle silver, left the $325 Rose clear and kept the $1,000 Blanc de Blancs in its traditional green form. The next cuvée’s release is still six years away, but 50 isn’t sitting back and resting on his victory laurels. He’s currently designing a custom champagne bottle that will first become available in 2027.

With respect to Branson, his unique, genie-like bottle design was the result of months of sketches, renderings and hand-blown glass samples. Once a final prototype was available, he found a manufacturer in Italy to produce the bottles to his standards. A clear bottle hosts his $69 Grand Champagne V.S.O.P., red displays the $59 Branson V.S.O.P. Royal and the $49 Branson Phantom V.S. is showcased in black. The $249 Branson X.O. has a more intricate, circular presentation.

Of all that he’s created, Sire Spirits is the most important. This is what he plans on leaving behind for the brand’s namesake. This is to be his legacy.

“I intend to keep that company for my son,” says 50. “I’ll be giving it to him when he’s old enough. You have to start thinking of these things in advance. I don’t know if I’ll always be around, so this information needs to be passed to him now.” Laughing, he adds: “He needs to know what’s going on from the very beginning and be all like, ‘I’ve been running this company since I was six!’”

It sounds like little Sire is a chip off the old block. “I accepted early on that I was a hustler,” 50 admits. “It’s like saying, ‘I’m fit.’ You commit to doing it and you do it, and in the process, you learn that you actually like hurting yourself, because you’re hurting yourself for your muscles to grow again. By accepting hustling, it means that I’m continuously trying something new and going after something,” he explains, noting, “I find the biggest personal pleasure in it. I’m already billions away from where I come from. So it’s like, ‘What are you chasing? A marker? A specific dollar amount?’ Even if I cleared a billion dollars, I’d go, ‘OK, I think I’m going to invest in this.’ It’s putting the money back into something else that I think was cool. For me, it’s the whistle while you work concept: I don’t involve myself in things that I’m not really passionate about. Plus, I have an end goal; I’m trying to achieve generational wealth for my little guy.”

50 Cent
SHORTS: Slowear Incotex
SHIRT: 7 for Mankind
SHOES: Stefano Ricci
WATCH: Hublot

Photo Credit: Frederic Auerbach

ON JULY 6, JAMIRA “CUBAN LINK” HAINES MYSTERIOUSLY TOLD 50 CENT TO PUT ON ALL BLACK AND GET IN THE CAR. HE WAS n  baffled, but intrigued, by his girlfriend of a year’s request. “I was like, ‘Where the f**k are we going?,” he recalls. “We were in some industrial area [in Brooklyn]. It still wasn’t registering to me that we were going to a party until I walked in and it was like, ‘Boom! Surprise!’”

It turns out that even the unflappable 50 Cent still can be rendered speechless. At 45, in the midst of a pandemic, the rapper-turned-entrepreneur was the recipient of his first-ever surprise party (where, obviously, there was a lot of “Go shorty, it’s your birthday” going on).
“Everybody [who matters to me] was there,” he admits. “My close relationships are pretty limited. I have no interest in having [superficial] friendships. I have a lot of associates, not a lot of really close friends, so I was really excited to have so many family and friends there instead of so many associates. It was really cool. I enjoyed myself for once.”

Despite the times, it may have been his best birthday to date, too. Given that his birthday typically falls over July 4th weekend, he’d usually be hopping from one city to another, one club to the next, all hot spots, all interchangeable. And he’d smile and he’d hang, but inside, he’d be bored as hell.

“There are always a bunch of different parties for me to go to, but it always feels like work after the first. That’s just the way it’s been,” he laments, noting that this year was a refreshing change. “This time, because of Covid, there was no reason for me to draw people out. They came to me.”

Believe it or not, for someone so very much in the public eye, 50 claims he doesn’t really enjoy it. “I’m a homebody,” he acknowledges. “ So if I could, I would skip all this s**t, all these events, if I didn’t have to f**king go. I’m like, ‘Whatever.’ I’d much rather stay home.”

These days, he’s getting his wish. Life has come to a virtual standstill outside the walls of his luxury townhouse, thanks to the ever-evolving Covid-19 situation. It allows him time to reflect on more than just his career and personal happiness, but all that’s happening in the world around him. “After being at home for almost three months during [the New York Covid quarantine], I sat there wondering if the cure for corona was racism and police brutality, because I saw everybody going outside to march,” he says. “Seas of people out there, and I’m going, ‘Yo. If everybody got sick in a couple of weeks, this s**t wasn’t even real to me. It feels crazy, like what are we even going outside for?’ But this has been happening in America all along, and the only reason why we’re seeing it so much now is that people are recording it. Nothing has changed.”

He himself is a different story.

50 Cent
JACKET, SHIRT & SHORTS: Stefano Ricci
SNEAKERS: Hermès
WATCH: Hublot

Photo Credit: Frederic Auerbach

“My life has definitely changed [in the last year] just in that I’m in the house so much, but I can’t complain,” he continues. “This is the first time I’ve been in one place since I was a child, but I don’t mind. I’m not in a hurry to run out of the house right now. I’m already programmed to be on the move all the time, so it doesn’t sway me away from being able to get work. Here, I’m never really tired. It’s a lot less work getting things done from the house versus going out. I don’t know if I want to go back to the way it was before.”

50 swears he’s not slowing down. He’s hustling just as hard as before, and maybe even harder. He’s just doing it with all of his creature comforts around. Making what he refers to as “quarantine adjustments,” he turned his garage into a private home gym with every bell and whistle imaginable(including a boxing corner, a favored way to let off steam since he was a kid). He has a custom-made Branson Cognac slushie machine that makes piña coladas and strawberry daiquiris. He also has a sauna. Really, there’s no incentive to leave.

“I like my spaces to be as lavish as possible, because I think the most expensive thing we spend is time,” he explains. “If you’re going to be in that space, then that should be what you actually invest in, because it’s going to reflect back on you and help you with your energy.”
While he loves expensive things, he also maintains he doesn’t need them. “Money can’t buy happiness,” he notes. “It can create comfort, and it can buy you freedom, but it doesn’t cost money for you to be happy. When there’s no money around, you can still have so many joyful moments.”

His life always has been a happy mix of good and bad, high and low, black and white. There never seems to be a grey area. He says what he means, means what he says, and stands by it all, even if his truth is unpopular. Unprompted, he starts to speak about a comment he made while appearing as a guest on Lil Wayne’s Weezy’s Young Money radio show, and used the phrase “angry black women.” He explains, “What I said exactly was… ‘When the person is from somewhere other than what you’ve experienced, the communication is a little different because they come from different walks of life.’ And when I said that, [there was a lot of anger and women saying], ‘You don’t think black girls are exotic.’ And I said, ‘They be angry when they see a black man with someone else other than African-American women in general.’”

50 doesn’t regret making the comment, or any others, for that matter. There isn’t that much that can phase a man who had to fend for himself early in life in the working class neighborhood of Jamaica, Queens; who started selling drugs at 12; who received a jail sentence by 20; and who almost died by 25 after he was shot nine times at point-blank range. But everything he is, everything he stands for, is the ability to change his situation and turn it around on a dime… or, rather, on a 50 cent piece, ‘50 cent’ being a metaphor for change.

“I have feelings like everybody else, and I go through those feelings,” he maintains. “But it doesn’t make me feel like I can’t do what I want to do. Everyone’s pain is tailor fit. Our culture, hip-hop culture, loves things that are damaged. They like people who come from a background, whose experiences have been so rough that they can’t help but be who they are. Some people are suffering from PTSD. Me, I’m more about PTG – post-traumatic growth.

“I was in a pitch for a television show and heard the term for the first time then, and it rings so much like my experience,” he explains. “It’s an actual clinical term: Growth from traumatic experiences.” [We looked it up: this time, no theatrics — he’s right.]

He acknowledges that, even at his age, he’s still having growing pains. Sometimes that means he’s saying the wrong thing, or making the wrong judgment call. But that’s who he is, and he owns it. He certainly won’t apologize for being who he is.

“A lot of the guys I grew up with are gone,” he shares. “They’ve already passed away. They don’t have a life expectancy of 45. So regardless of what happens in my life, I’m content with where I’m at, with the things I’ve already accomplished.” He pauses to think , but not for too long — it’s not his style — then adds, “But being who I am, I’ll always be after something… and I’ll always be competing with people, too. You don’t have to notify them that they’re in competition: It helps me identify with qualities in other people; I have to see that the other person is good to make them the opponent. When I get in competitive situations when I’m exhausted, I find energy. It puts me back in the [zone] where I go after what I need to go after.”

Even when no one is aware, 50 Cent is pulling the strings, bending situations to his will, creating the conflict and chaos he needs to get ahead. But no one ever made a difference by being like everyone else, right ringmaster?

50 Cent
SUIT, TIE & POCKET SQUARE: Stefano Ricci
SHIRT: Eton
SHOES: Taft
WATCH: Hublot

 

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