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50 Cent Makes Mad Dollars: Queens rapper to headline Jones Beach Monday

That’s why, despite being blackballed by the industry, without a major-label recording contract, heads still gravitated to Jamaica, Queens’ realest son, 50 Cent, like the planets to the Sun.

50 Cent, born Curtis Jackson 26 years ago, is the real deal; the genuine article. He’s a man of the street, intimately familiar with its codes and its violence, but still an incredibly intelligent and deliberate man who holds himself with a regal air as if above the pettiness which surrounds him.

Couple his true-life hardship with his knack for addictive syrupy hooks, it’s clear that 50 Cent has exactly what it takes to ride down the road to the riches and diamond rings. He is real, so he does real things.

Born into a notorious Queens drug dynasty during the late ’70s, 50 Cent lost those closest to him at an early age. Raised without a father, his mother, whose name carried weight in the street, was found dead under mysterious circumstances before he could hit his teens. The orphaned youth was taken in by his grandparents, who provided for him. But his desire for material things would drive him to the block, which in his case was the infamous New York Avenue, now known as Guy R. Brewer Boulevard. There, 50 Cent stepped up to get his rep up, amassing a small fortune and a lengthy rap sheet.

But the birth of his son put things in perspective for the post adolescent, and 50 Cent began to pursue rap seriously. He signed with JMJ, the label of Run DMC DJ Jam Master Jay, and began learning his trade. JMJ would teach the young buck to count bars and structure songs.

Unfortunately, caught up in industry limbo, there wasn’t much JMJ could do for 50 Cent. The platinum hitmakers Trackmasters took notice of 50 Cent and signed him to Columbia Records in 1999. They shipped him to upstate New York where they locked him up in the studio for 2 1/2 weeks. He turned out 36 songs in this short period, which resulted in “Power of a Dollar,” an unreleased masterpiece that Blaze Magazine judged a classic.

50’s stick-up kid anthem “How to Rob” blew through the roof and playfully painted him as a deliriously hungry up-and-comer daydreaming of robbing famous rappers.

But 50 Cent and the fans were the only ones laughing. Unable to take a joke, Jay-Z, Big Pun, Sticky Fingaz, and Ghostface Killah all replied to the song.

“It wasn’t personal. It was comedy based on truth, which made it so funny,” said 50 Cent. In April 2000, 50 Cent was shot nine times, including a .9mm bullet to the face, in front of his grandmother’s house in Jamaica. He spent the next few months in recovery while Columbia Records dropped him from the label.

But being dropped from his label did not cause 50 Cent to fold. Instead, he banged out track after track, despite no income or backing, with his new business partner and friend Sha Money XL. The two recorded more than 30 songs, strictly for mix-tapes, with the sole purpose of building a buzz.

50 Cent’s street value rose, and by the end of the spring of 2001 he’d released the new material independently on the makeshift LP, “Guess Who’s Back?”

Beginning to attract interest, and now backed by his crew, G-Unit, 50 Cent stayed on his grind and made more songs. But it was different this time. Rather than create new songs as they had before, 50 Cent decided to showcase his hit-making ability by retouching first-class beats, which had already been used. He and his crew released the red, white and blue bootleg, “50 Cent Is the Future,” revisiting material by Jay-Z and even Rapheal Saadiq.

That’s when the unbelievable happened, and hip-hop history was written. The energetic CD caught Eminem’s ear, and within a week Em was on the radio saying, “50 Cent is my favorite rapper right now.” Em looked toward his mentor, Dr. Dre, to confirm his belief in the young hitmaker, and the good doctor co-signed.

Floored by the appreciation of the greats, 50 Cent didn’t hesitate in signing with the dream team. In the wake of his acquisition, 50 Cent has become the most sought after newcomer in almost a decade. Not since the summer of 1994 — when radio would play absolutely anything Notorious B.I.G. related — has hip-hop seen buzz like this.

Ever the clever businessman, 50 Cent didn’t let the opportunity escape him and quickly released another bootleg of borrowed beats, “No Mercy, No Fear.” The CD featured only one new track, “Wanksta,” which was certainly not intended for radio, but the streets couldn’t wait for the official single and within weeks “Wanksta” became New York’s most requested record. The stellar cut has found a home on the multi-platinum soundtrack to Eminem’s smash movie, “8 Mile.”

With several huge hits already under his belt, 50 Cent is poised to be the artist to beat next year, with more than 10 tracks stashed from last year, and newly recorded winners courtesy of Eminem and hip hop’s greatest, highest selling producer Dr. Dre.

“Creatively, what more could I ask for?” he asked jokingly. “You know if me and Em is in the same room, then it’s gonna be a friendly competition, neither of us wanna let the other one down. And Dre??? C’mon.”

Promising an LP of the caliber of rap classics like “Illmatic,” “Ready to Die,” and “Reasonable Doubt,” 50 Cent’s debut promises to set the pace for hip-hop in coming years. The product of his unrelenting drive and talent, 50 Cent’s official first album promises to do for him just what it says. With his infectious flow and viciously funny I-don’t-give-a-damn personality, there is no doubt that 50 Cent will get rich or die tryin’, which happens to be the title of his solo debut.

— Greg Miller, Universal Music Group

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