50 cent

Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson is standing shirtless in a fighting stance, wearing a pair of rare gold boxing gloves signed by the late boxing icon Muhammad Ali. The image does more than demonstrate 50’s love of the sweet science— it symbolizes the fight he put forth to escape poverty and crime to become a power player in both music and media.

50’s against-all-odds success story has inspired countless youths who previously thought of themselves as boxed in by disadvantage to strive for more: Jackson grew up in Queens, NY. His mother was a drug dealer who was murdered when he was 8. In his teens, he began rapping and, like his mom, selling drugs. In 2000 Jackson was shot nine times—in the face, chest, hand, arm, hip, and both legs. Investigators believe a New York drug lord orchestrated the attack after taking offense to lyrics in 50’s song “Ghetto Qu’ran.” The physical recovery took months but would give 50 a renewed focus on fitness and health as he continued to create music. In 2003, his first studio album, Get Rich or Die Tryin’—produced by Eminem and Dr. Dre—sold 872,000 copies in the first week.

Now 41, Jackson still raps—he’s also an entrepreneur, investor, and actor and producer in both TV and film. Work on the fourth season of the Starz original series Power, on which 50 has a reoccurring role and is an executive producer, has kept him busy lately, but so have other greenlit projects: a variety show titled 50 Cent Presents and a scripted superhero-themed series, Tomorrow Today.

“My schedule is crazy,” 50 says. “When I film something, I have to sit still. I feel like I’m on vacation when I’m filming.”

While we had 50 sitting still we talked about training, Power’s “invisibility,” and why he turned down a role in The Expendables.

How do your gunshot wounds impede your training?

My right hip is real tight. I had to really focus on stretching it. And doctors had to put a pin in my [right] leg from hip to knee, so my left leg is almost an inch longer than my right leg. When I run on the treadmill, my right leg kind of kicks out because my balance is off. Other than that, I don’t have any restraints.

What’s your training schedule?

Usually [trainer Jay Cardiello and I] train for about an hour and a half, five days a week. I don’t feel good if I don’t train. I think when a guy stops training, things start hurting. When I’m training I don’t feel the tightness or lower-back pain from sitting in a chair or from flying long [distances]. I think those things would show up and be an issue if I didn’t work out as often.

Do you ever skip the gym for other physical activities?

I might go play basketball or run. When you get to the point when [fitness] becomes part of your lifestyle and it’s about your health, you try different platforms. You get comfortable, and then you switch it up. I’ve been to hot-yoga class and I really fell into it. The experience was new, and I was pouring water in there. You’d see [the amount of sweat] and ask, “What the fuck’s going on?”

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Do you get tired of hearing and performing your older music?

I think every [artist] gets tired of it, creatively. There is a point when a new idea is exciting. [But] when your first impression is the largest-selling hip-hop album, then people want to hear that music. It’s the right balance and combination—the new song or energy is what I want to perform at that point. I’ll do that and blend in the hits.

So it’s not like your credo is, “I’ll play what I want, like it or not.”

It sounds like you’re talking about Prince’s career. He played what he wanted, and then he’d make you guess what he was going to do. But it would be sold out and have the same turnout. I mean, I could just play the first record. People love the material so much that it marks the time period. People tell me, “Yo, you are my college years.” Those people don’t move.

Power is the highest-rated original series on Starz. Do you compulsively monitor how many people watch it, record it, etc.?

I do. I’m only interested in the numbers because the numbers are my trophy. It’s the highest-rated original series, and it’s still invisible. It hasn’t even been nominated [for an Emmy]. It’s the way my career has gone. I had the largest-selling debut album and I got no Best New Artist trophy [either].

Why the disrespect from critics?

I’ve gained respect from the public. But I think some people were afraid of me from the very beginning [of my music career]. The trophy would mean that maybe the kids would want to be 50 Cent. But kids bought [Get Rich or Die Tryin’] or it wouldn’t have been so successful. But they didn’t want to give trophies to it.

Is that partly why you’re so down on Empire? It’s on a major network, gets critical praise, and has more visibility.

Empire just borrows marketing ideas [from Power] because they have the same target audience. I’ve said it over and over: I don’t have a problem with the cast, I think that they’re going to be great in some of my new projects. It’s not like I don’t see myself working with them. But I don’t see Empire sustaining itself. This season has lost viewership every episode. The people look at it and go, “Oh, he’s bad-talking the show.” Nah, check the ratings.

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Have you been cast in the Predator remake?

I’ve met with the writer and director. [Shane Black’s] one of the guys who’s really sought after in Hollywood. But it’s a Hollywood thing— hurry up and wait. It’s why I took a different approach in my involvement with film and television. In this case, it’s just scheduling and moving around the film.

Any role you regret turning down?

I could’ve done The Expendables, but the time period that they wanted to shoot it was too long. We talked about the project, explained it—I was playing the role Terry Crews played—but I couldn’t actually do it when it came time to go shoot.

Scheduling conflict?

I had a new album, a new fragrance, and I had three new brand-extension opportunities happening that were probably going to spin off into about $38 million. You don’t not do what allows you to make $38 million to go film a project that may change things. Common sense would say that I have to go and do what Ido.

Have you worked with any actors who intimidated you?

Following my performance in Freelancers with Robert De Niro and Forest Whitaker, I haven’t been on set with anyone who made me feel like I should question my choice. I didn’t go to school for acting, [and] on Freelancers, I got two Academy Award winners. And I wasn’t nervous or questioning anything that I was doing at that point. When I was put on Power, at that point, no one on the show was an Academy Award–winning talent or even worked on that level.

The release of your Street King Immortal album has been delayed since 2011. What’s the holdup?

I want to finish with that project. I don’t want to write another record after that. You know how some artists got to have confirmation that they’re right. I have that confirmation in fucking 35, 40 million [albums] that I already sold.