50 Cent: Turning notoriety into opportunity

Rapper and businessman 50 Cent, a.k.a. Curtis Jackson.
CBS News

(CBS News) Rap musician and actor 50 Cent also happens to be a millionaire businessman. He talks with our Tracy Smith:

He's right at home rapping "In da Club" . . . ("We gon' sip Bacardi like it's your birthday!"). But these days 50 Cent is just as comfortable on QVC, where he says he sold $300,000 worth of headphones in less than 10 minutes.

50 Cent is a study in contradictions. He's a former drug dealer who has sold more than 32 million albums. But he made his first serious money investing in water.

50 Cent saw the "energy water" wave coming, and laid it out to his business partner.

"I said, 'Look, this is what I want to do.' Boom! Put 'em on the table. 'I want to sell water.' And he was like, 'To who?'

"Like, 'To everybody!'" he laughed.

In 2004, he invested in Glaceau Vitamin Water, and when Coca-Cola bought the brand a few years later, it's estimated 50 Cent made $60 million off the deal.

"I've heard so many numbers," he demurred. But was it a good deal? "It was great."

50 Cent's early life was not so great.

He was born Curtis Jackson, in Queens, N.Y., to a single mom who made a living selling drugs. She died when Curtis was only eight, and he moved in with his grandparents.

"My grandparents were a representation of doing it the right way, but we were completely struggling," he said, while his mom's friends, the drug dealers, had what he described as "financial freedom." "I was trying to figure out how to do it myself. This is why so early I got involved."

Curtis started dealing drugs when he was 12 years old.

He saw music as his ticket out, and by the spring of 2000, he had a record deal, and a new rap name: 50 Cent.

Still, street life wasn't so easy to escape. In front of the house where his grandma was tending the garden, 50 Cent was shot nine times. There are still bullet fragments in his body, including in his tongue. "Yeah, my voice is different from what it was like prior to that event."

"So you have a reminder, every time you open your mouth?" asked Smith.

"Yeah. Or I look in the mirror, I see a little crease in the side."

Rapper 50 Cent in his studio with Tracy Smith. He is working on his first CD in three years. CBS News

But 50 turned his notoriety into best-selling albums -- and business opportunities, from clothing to books to movies, where he's written, produced and starred alongside actors like Robert De Niro.

And now he's getting into the boxing ring, as a promoter. He's signed five fighters, hoping to bring a younger audience to the sport.

"Is your investment in boxing an emotional thing, or is there money to be made here?" asked Smith.

"Well, I mean, it's both," he replied. "I mean, I'm invested financially, but it's more. I get a chance to live vicariously through them."

But he hasn't left music behind. He's been in the studio, working on his first album in three years.

"It feels like magic," he said. "Feels like magic to create something that is just my idea."

"Despite everything that you've accomplished, you know that there are still people out there who are going to see you as a thug," Smith said.

"Right. And I don't mind that," 50 Cent said.

"You don't? Why not?"

"They don't matter. Those are the people, they didn't support me to begin with."

Still, at 37 years old, 50 Cent is thinking about his legacy. He traveled to East Africa last year with the United Nations World Food Program, and now he donates a meal for every bottle he sells of his new energy drink.

"We're almost at four million meals," he said.

And if the thug image helps make the sale -- that's just fine with 50.

WEB EXTRA VIDEO: During a tour of his office, rapper Curtis Jackson, a.k.a., 50 Cent, introduces Tracy Smith to his "girlfriend," but explains why he might have to get a divorce.

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