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Monday, 23 December, 2002, 00:52 GMT
50 Cent: The $1m rapper
50 Cent
50 Cent: Signed to Eminem's label for a reported $1m

US rapper 50 Cent has come top of a BBC News Online poll of music experts to find the stars of 2003.

BBC News Online spoke to him about his chequered past and bright future.

On the streets of Queens, New York, the name of the game for Curtis Jackson has been survival.

His parents were killed when he was young and he has been shot, stabbed and involved in high-profile rap feuds.

But now he is on the verge of stardom, are there still people who would like to see him dead?

"Yeah, absolutely", he says before letting out a deep laugh. "Absolutely."

If you're a working class person and you say 'get rich or die trying' then it means that you're determined

50 Cent
Jackson, 26 - now known as 50 Cent - is hip-hop's next superstar, following a string of gangsta rappers who have moved from the crime and violence of the city streets to the big time.

He prides himself on being the real deal, someone who talks tough because he is tough, not because he is putting on an act.

He has accused a number of other rappers of being fakers - which has got him into big trouble in the past.

When asked what he has got that other rappers don't, he says it is "the trouble".

Run-DMC DJ Jam Master Jay
Jam Master Jay signed 50 Cent in the late 1990s
And fans have picked up on his music because he knows what he is talking about, he says.

"They'd rather hear it from someone who's experienced it than someone who's just making it up," he says.

There are "a few people in my hood" who would like to see him dead, he says.

"If you come from it, you're going to have people who don't like you."

His new album, the first to be released on Eminem's record label, Shady, has the starkly honest title of Get Rich or Die Trying.

"When you listen to that title, it might feel a little negative, right?" he says.

"But if you're a working class person and you say 'get rich or die trying' then it means that you're determined."

'Not afraid'

He had a close brush with death when he was shot nine times in 2000 ("only nine"), but his philosophy is that "when your time comes, you go".

"I think that comes from God," he says.

Fame may make 50 Cent a bigger target for jealousy and trouble - but that is not something that worries him, he says.

"That would be like saying you're afraid of success," he says.

Eminem
Eminem is so talented it becomes annoying

50 Cent
50 Cent learnt his trade after being taken under the wing of Jam Master Jay, the DJ with seminal rap group Run-DMC, who was shot dead in October.

"Jay was cool, he taught me a lot," 50 Cent says.

"That was the first time I ever went in a studio. I learned how to count bars, write choruses, song structure."

50 Cent has his suspicions about who murdered his former mentor - but does not want to reveal them.

His next break came when his CD was passed to the biggest rapper in the world, and possibly the only person able to take a risk on such a controversial character - Eminem.

"I remember him saying something about being bored with the entire state of hip-hop, that it was just the same old names. He thought I was something fresh," 50 Cent says.

Eminem consulted star producer Dr Dre, and the pair signed him with a reported $1m (625,000) joint deal to their record labels.

'Healthy competition'

Eminem and 50 Cent are now good friends who "kick it all the time", and two 50 Cent tracks were included on the soundtrack to Eminem's film, 8 Mile.

Eminem is "so talented it becomes annoying", 50 Cent says - and that led to a healthy competition when Eminem and Dr Dre were producing Get Rich or Die Trying.

"When I'm being creative and doing what I want to do, they don't interrupt me. But at the end of the day, they say what goes and what doesn't go."

With such big name backers and a buzz of excitement in the music industry, it is easy to see how 50 Cent could go all the way to the top.

That is if he does not die trying.


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