Once one of hip-hop’s biggest names, Curtis Jackson has bounced back from bankruptcy to create an expanded universe of glossy crime dramas. Just what is his secret?

If such a thing as a Lazarus-like figure exists in hip-hop, it’s Curtis James Jackson III – better known as 50 Cent. The 46-year-old Queens, New York native appeared poised to pull off a familiar progression from drug dealer to gangsta rapper after signing with Columbia Records in 2000. But just as his debut album was due to be released, Jackson was attacked outside his grandmother’s home and shot nine times at close range, the injuries to his face resulting in a swollen tongue and a slurred voice. Amazingly, Jackson walked out of hospital two weeks later, with a true sense of purpose and a mind set on packing muscle on to his 6ft frame – a physical transformation that laid a foundation for a machiavellian persona.

His immediate career prospects dipped after the shooting. Columbia dropped him, and other labels backed away, not wanting to entangle themselves with an artist whose lyrics rang so true. Undeterred, Jackson, a prolific writer and producer, gave his tracks away, inaugurating the era of the record industry-disrupting mixtape. The immensely popular giveaways caught the attention of Eminem, who introduced him to Dr Dre, who quickly signed him to his imprint, Interscope. In 2003, 50 Cent made his commercial debut with Get Rich or Die Tryin’; the lead single, In Da Club, smashed the Billboard record for the most listened-to radio song within a week.

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