50 Cent is one of the biggest names in rap but how did he get that name? After all, “Curtis Jackson” — the rapper-turned-mogul’s real name — is a far cry from “50 Cent.” Lots of rappers have entertaining stories behind their rap names, so what is his?
How Did 50 Cent Get His Name?
Like many rappers who got their starts in the ’90s, 50 Cent was inspired by a personal hero. However, while stars like Wu-Tang Clan took their inspirations from kung-fu movies and comic books, and others, like Nas and Tupac, used versions of their real names, 50 Cent split the difference, creating his persona from a hero that was a little more grounded and close-to-home.
Kelvin Martin was a drug dealer and stick-up kid from Brooklyn, New York, which shares a phone area code with Queens, where Curtis Jackson grew up. While growing up, he heard stories about the exploits of Martin, who was nicknamed 50 Cent. There are conflicting accounts of how the original 50 Cent, Martin, got the title, from his readiness to rob anyone, no matter how much (or little) money they had on them at the time, to a supposed win in a dice game that started with 50 cents and ended with Martin $500 richer.
Unfortunately, Martin, who inspired Jackson’s eventual stage name, was shot to death at the age of just 23 years old. His greatest claim to fame outside of the neighborhoods he once terrorized is inspiring the rapper who went on to sell 11 million copies of his debut album. In past interviews, 50, who was also short early in his career but survived unlike Martin, explained, “I took the name 50 Cent because it says everything I want it to say. I’m the same kind of person 50 Cent was. I provide for myself by any means.”