Sales of 50 Cent's new album have been bested by those of his rap rival, Kanye West, but it's going to take more than marketing to kill this hip-hop king from Queens.
Tuesday, he hits town with his latest venture, an intimate, illustrated autobiography that traces his climb from the street to the top of the charts.
While his albums are packed with the bluster he says is "just the confidence necessary to exist in hip hop," this memoir sets Fitty apart. Starting with unrepentant tales of his early days in his first business, narcotics, the rapper, born Curtis Jackson, and a writer pal, Noah Callahan-Bever of Complex magazine, paint an unembellished picture of the years he spent pulling himself out of the troubled beginnings that gave him his material.
"50 x 50: 50 Cent in His Own Words" is structured as a personal scrapbook that tells his story in photographs - including some seriously cute shots of a chubby-cheeked tyke in Queens.
Page-long anecdotes follow the rapper through his mother's murder, his early drug deals, the shooting that left him fighting for his life, his recovery and rise to fame.
It was a rough road, but, says 50, it was his.
"I was just utilizing the things that were right in front of me," he says of his early drug dealing.
"If you're a kid having a hard time in school and they tell you, well you can do this for 12 years and then get a collegedegree, a kid with curiosity is able to find someone who acquired the finances to get the things that he wanted in six months. It seemed like the only option at that point."
The book doesn't downplay the financial success 50 Cent enjoyed as a teen-ager on the street, but it offers a vivid look at the sacrifices involved.
The first time he was busted by police, after accidentally carrying a stash of cocaine to school in the toe of one of his gym sneakers, provided a rude awakening. His business, he writes, had distanced him from his grandparents, who took him in after his mother's death.
Another bust sent him to drug rehab. The program couldn't change his reliance on drug dealing, but it made him face the people feeding his financial success.
"I'm in there with kids my age who are addicted to the same drugs I'm selling," he writes. "It's not hard to tell right from wrong when it's in front of you like that."
In the end, family was the force that pulled 50 Cent off the street. His son, Marquise Jackson, appears halfway through the book, flashing his daddy's assured smile.
With Marquise's birth in 1997, the future rap star had to choose a profession that didn't limit his life expectancy. It was a day he had known would come ever since he lost his mother.
"My mom didn't see welfare or [a job at] Burger King as an option, so she went in the wrong direction, hustling, but she acquired the finances that provided for me," he says. "Then the things that come with that lifestyle - like getting killed or going to jail - ended up coming."
His mother died when 50 Cent was 8 years old, after, as he puts it, "someone knocked her out in her apartment and let the gas run." 50 Cent wouldn't let his business catch up with him.
"When my son was on the way, I changed direction to write music," he says, "because I knew if I physically wasn't available to take care of him, no one else was."
50 Cent will sign copies of "50 x 50" Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, 4 Astor Place, (212) 420-1322.
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