When he burst onto the hip-hop scene in the early 2000s, the former Curtis James Jackson III was heralded for his crossover appeal and obvious talent. And his personal story was captivating, to say the least. Raised in crime-ridden New York City neighborhoods at the height of the crack epidemic, he sold drugs as a teenager and allegedly took nine bullets (though the true count is more likely five or six, per BET) in a 2000 shooting that nearly killed him.
Over the course of his career, which continues despite diminishing returns, 50 Cent has sold more than 30 million albums and earned dozens of music awards, including a Grammy and 13 Billboard awards. At one point, he was the second-wealthiest hip hop artist in America, behind only Jay-Z.
Soon after the 2003 release of “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” his first major-label album and most successful to date, Cent expanded into non-musical business ventures. In 2005, he headlined a successful, semi-autobiographical film named after his breakout album. He became an early investor in Glacéau, the maker of Vitaminwater, and reportedly (per Forbes) earned $100 million when Coca-Cola bought the company in 2007.
His investment in G-Unit Films, a production company, was less successful, as was his founding investment in SMS Audio, which later faced accusations of copyright infringement for the design of its Street by 50 headphones. He was also briefly the subject of an SEC insider trading investigation and participated in a bizarre scheme to launch a line of 50 Cent-branded palladium in partnership with a South African precious metals mine.
50 Cent’s music sales steadily declined after peaking in the mid-2000s, along with his income. Despite scattered business successes, notably his Glacéau investment, Cent spent heavily on a lavish lifestyle featuring Rolls-Royce automobiles and the same Connecticut mansion that Mike Tyson lost a few years earlier. Like many wealthy celebrities from impoverished backgrounds, he generously supported a small army of friends and family members, including his grandfather and a former long-time girlfriend. He also gave freely to worthy charitable causes, such as HIV treatment and prevention in Africa.
Cent suffered from self-inflicted wounds as well, according to HotNewHipHop. In an act of personal retribution, he publicly shared a sex tape featuring a rival rapper’s ex-girlfriend, and was eventually forced to pay $5 million to resolve the resultant lawsuit. He also lost more than $2 million on Sleek by 50, another headphone venture, and was then hit with a judgment totaling more than $18 million for allegedly stealing the design for that product. Though the exact extent of his losses and subsequent recoveries are unclear, he has publicly stated that he lost millions in the stock market during the 2008 financial crisis.
All told, Cent racked up more than $20 million in liabilities against assets of less than $15 million. In 2015, he declared bankruptcy in an effort to restructure and slim down these obligations, losing much of his fortune in the process. Notably, Cent was forced to part with his Farmington estate, following in Tyson’s illustrious footsteps.
The jury is still out on 50 Cent’s post-bankruptcy activities. As his musical career declined, Cent devoted more attention to film work, a trend that appears likely to continue. His most recent musical project, a greatest hits compilation from Interscope Records, hit the market in March 2017.
What We Can Learn
Going broke wasn’t the low point of 50 Cent’s life. Nearly dying in a hail of gunfire probably was. Still, Cent’s post-stardom life followed a familiar path as the rapper struggled to keep up appearances and living standards amid declining income, questionable business ventures (like nearly sinking millions into an ill-advised branded platinum venture), and poor personal decisions.
His experience offers two lessons for anyone following in his footsteps: Have a plan to support yourself and your family comfortably when the spotlight fades, and look before you leap into sketchy business dealings or retributive acts.
Also, that house in Connecticut probably carries some sort of financial curse. If you strike it rich and settle in Farmington, buy the place next door instead.