50 Cent has endured as one of the most dynamic musical artists of his generation. He emerged on the hip-hop landscape with 2003’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’, an album that decidedly changed his life forever. Known formally as Mr. Curtis James Jackson, III, 50 Cent became a hip-hop icon, and would go on to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the greatest artists in his genre, including Dr. Dre, Jay-Z and Eminem (the latter one of his mentors). He is lauded for his pithy cut-to-the bone lyric style, his versatility as a rapper and his dangerous persona. The energy 50 Cent brings to his compositions informs his musical endeavors, as well the worlds he has entered as an actor, author, television producer and entrepreneur.
The heart of this “hustle harder” survivor was born well before all this. Many are familiar with the brutal backstory from his youth. His high and low points have been well documented through his years as a public figure. He made his bones in a once notorious New York City neighborhood (South Jamaica, Queens), where he struggled to save his soul–as did many young men and women who hailed from that difficult area. Ultimately, 50 would get out—big time. He learned to navigate the violent and tragic waters of familial trauma, crime, drugs and urban decay during the darkest days of New York’s crack epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s. Deep down, he knew he had game. That New York Hustle–that edge–would help him rise, though not without experiencing missteps and pitfalls. His story resonates because it’s equal parts inspiration and cautionary tale. 50 Cent would ultimately overcome much of that early trauma, but not without experiencing both glory and misery in the process.
By Randy Mastronicola
Portraits by John Russo
You’re the owner and developer of Sire Spirits. Tell us about your brands, Branson cognac and Le Chemin du Roi champagne.
Cognac was always a presence for me, growing up. Hennessy, Rémy Martin. Those things were constantly around. I went toward cognac because its one of those things you would consistently see in nightlife. People would have that as a choice. Even outside of those venues, they would choose that. So I chose it because I knew that the demographic would be into it, and it’s worked out very well. You see cognac, you see champagne, you see tequila out there. It’s like you’re not having a good time out there if you’re not drinking any of three of those spirits.
The Branson cognac bottle art is quite regal. Le Chemin du Roi as well. Let’s get these into the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas.
Right. [laughs] We’re out there–a lot of the champagne companies just put really cool stickers on bottles. The champagne in our bottles is aged over four years. It goes through the fermentation process in the bottle. They cork it with the branded version of the cork, and put the cage and everything else on it. It was the idea of creating something that symbolized royalty again, the King chess piece.
“Just give me the best.” It’s great when you can say that.
It feels good. That’s what I was aiming for with the cognac and champagne. If you think of the higher level of things that we have around that represent lifestyle, like vehicles for instance–Lamborghini, Ferrari, Rolls Royce, Bentley—the companies don’t make car commercials because as soon as a person reaches a financial level where they can afford it comfortably, they just get it. My brands will be connected to that type of lifestyle. For music videos, the first thing they do to represent lifestyle is to get the car. It conveys a higher lifestyle than the artist is at maybe at that particular moment, but it conveys the lifestyle–like our brands.