There is no such thing as gut-check time for Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson. He has to be a trooper at all times.
Along with the normal artist concerns like squabbles with his label (his 1999 debut, Power of the Dollar, was heavily bootlegged and Trackmasters/Columbia never released it), producers and other rappers (he and Ja Rule have fought on and off wax), 50's been stabbed, shot in the mouth and had to move away from his hometown to ensure his safety.
But the Queens, New York, native says things could not be better.
"I'm not bitter at all," the 25-year-old rapper said. "I'm prepared to actually win. The things you go through make you who you are. I'm a different person right now than if I was to release Power of the Dollar."
50 said he believes in letting go of grudges and moving past the past. He has to keep it moving because he has no time to dwell. The MC recently signed with hip-hop management juggernaut Violator, and he said he's in a bidding war with labels like J, Universal and Jive to release his album Get Rich or Die Trying via his own imprint, Rotten Apple.
"[The offers] keep going up," he said. "It looks like the kid is going to be real comfortable after this."
50 said the Trackmasters weren't comfortable with him being caught up in the streets and getting shot three days before he was supposed to do a video for Power of the Dollar's first single, "Thug Love," with Destiny's Child. That led to him falling out with the duo and negotiating his release from their imprint.
"They're from good scenarios people only get shot on TV to them," he said. "So when I got shot, they weren't prepared for that kind of situation. It fell apart. I'm from South Jamaica, Queens, [where] if you decide you're gonna go out to the local club, you could get shot without being a part of the situation. They don't understand that because they come from different environments.
"I was in the hospital for 13 days, and when I got out I was like, 'Let's go full-speed ahead. I'm all right," he remembered. "They weren't really ready to rock at that point. Things shifted."
The animosity has subsided, though. 50 rhymes on the Trackmasters-produced remix of "I'm Gonna Be Alright" on Jennifer Lopez's latest album, and the beat-making duo also worked on 50's new LP.
"My album is tremendous," he said. "Musically, I think that I'm three times better than when I was released from Columbia. My focus is a lot different. My album has a lot to do with life and death. I'm going through life-threatening situations during the process of writing the music.
"Everything I was writing was real violent because your state of mind when going through different situations, you're gonna write that. A lot of my records were coming out violent, but I loosened up and start coming up with concepts I can interest the world in."
And while he waits to finalize his record deal, 50's gonna keep the streets' interest piqued by continuing to flood the mixtape circuit with songs. He said none of the records he's dropped over the past couple of years will be on his album. "I made those records for the streets," he explained. He's dropped so many gems, DJs have taken it upon themselves to release two Best of 50 Cent mix CDs.
"My reason for putting out songs instead of freestyles is because I'm not gonna let them classify me with artists who haven't been established," he said. "You start off freestyling.
"I have full access to the streets through mixtapes that's my forum. I take full advantage of it. I don't have it where I can say, 'Put this on [the radio program] "Top Eight at 8,"' " he continued. "When it gets to that point, it's gonna be terrible for them because the artists that are out there don't control the street. They skipped over that and went to mainstream radio once they came out."