50 Cent‘s fame has afforded him plenty of opportunities that the average person just doesn’t get. But beyond all the money and acclaim, the star rapper got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in 2008: to meet former South African president and anti-apartheid champion Nelson Mandela in his home.
It’s a profound memory that changed the G-Unit juggernaut’s perspective on the world around him. “For me, that was a wonderful experience,” Fif told MTV News of his 2008 meeting with Mandela, who died at age 95 on Thursday (December 5) after battling health issues in recent months, most notably a recurring lung infection that landed the human rights hero in the hospital on a number of occasions.
Back in 2008, Fif toured Africa with his G-Unit crew and MTV News, and during a stop in South Africa, he was invited into Mandela’s Johannesburg home for a brief but impactful meeting. “When I met him, he was real quiet. I don’t know what I expected,” 50 said back in June when Mandela was hospitalized in critical condition. “I was excited.”
In addition to meeting the freedom fighter and global peace activist, 50 toured different museums so he could better understand South Africa’s tumultuous history of racial segregation and political unrest, which Mandela helped to eradicate. During his trip, the rapper visited the Apartheid Museum and the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum.
He also took a helicopter over to Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years due to his political ideologies. “We went through museums and got the chance to go step-by-step back through history with different people that were around that first-hand experienced things in that time period,” the rapper recalled.
It was during the trip to Robben Island where 50 really learned the content of Mandela’s character. He saw the tiny six feet by six feet cell where the world figure was imprisoned for nearly three decades and was told stories of abuse that Mandela had to endure. “It’s a horror film,” 50 said, describing it all.
Despite all of Mandela’s struggles in prison, he emerged an advocate for peace and human rights. During his own life, 50 has had to overcome hardships: his mother was killed when he just a boy, he too had trouble with law enforcement and he was infamously shot nine times. Still, learning of Mandela’s fight changed 50′s whole perspective.
“It makes you look at your choices like maybe you made them under the wrong thoughts, because it felt like we didn’t have anything and was in the worst scenario ever and then you see something that’s more intense than that,” he said sympathetically. “[My struggle] compared to that is nothing.”
50 just marvels at Nelson Mandela’s fortitude. “He has a different aura under those circumstances when I couldn’t think of anything that would hurt more,” the rapper said. “He was at peace.”