10 years ago, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson got America to get down "In Da Club," and shorties never celebrated their birthdays in the same way again. Now in 2013, the rapper is urging his fans to skip the club for school.
What has happened in these last 10 years? 50 Cent transformed himself from a chart-topping rapper to an incredibly successful entrepreneur. From clothing and shoe lines to being an actor and author, Curtis has quite the resume. Hell, he's even distributed Magic Stick condoms.
Now that 50 has found success, he's looking to pay it forward. He founded his own educational nonprofit, The G-Unit Foundation, and is combating poverty through purchases of his energy drink, Street King, and headphones, SMS Audio. And his latest do-good project to date? 50 Cent is executive producer of a powerful new reality TV series, "Dream School," airing on The Sundance Channel.
The show centers around 15 high school dropouts who are "receiving a last chance to get back into the education system." Some of the students dropped out because they were bullied, had substance abuse problems or became a teen parents. One student left school to take care of his dying mother. They come from different backgrounds and circumstances, but they all have one common goal: to graduate high school.
Enter the actual "Dream School." The facility resembles a mansion and has an in-ground pool and a greenhouse. Oh and NBD, teachers include 50 Cent as a mentor, David Arquette as a homeroom teacher, Swizz Beatz teaching music to the kids, Reverend Jesse Jackson schooling them on civil rights and Soledad O'Brien explaining the magnificent world of journalism (clearly I'm biased on that last subject).
Photo: 50 Cent sharing LOLs with fellow teachers David Arquette and Swizz Beatz. (Getty)
What happens when you mix at-risk students with celebs? It's an array of emotions, from frustration and fear to hope and happiness. The show is absolutely fascinating, and it makes you reflect on America's school system and how we need to give ALL students a second chance.
We sat down with 50 Cent to talk about his show, his money (He totes was the one who brought it up — not me!) and why his teenage son is fearful of him.
Photo: 50 Cent has a dream. (Getty)
MTV ACT: One of the things you said in the first episode was that you realized you have a big legacy and you want that legacy to be important. What made you realize that?
50 CENT: The class of people that you're with, the circles that you enter. When you see people that are really well-accomplished — take these billionaires, you see that they have a strong sense of philanthropy; their connection to giving back is a strength. So to me — I ain't in that actual space yet financially, but I’m still a billion dollars from where I came from, I'm a billionaire from that perspective, so I've already taken on some of these things.
MTV ACT: When you go into a project like “Dream School,” you come in thinking you’re going to have a certain experience, and you leave having a whole different experience. Can you talk about that?
50 CENT: I thought that, initially, I went into executive producing not actually being in the show, and then I wanted to be a part of it [Editor's note: He's a mentor on the show], because of what it is. The consistent thing to register about hip-hop and music is that if it ain't about money then it ain't really about much, and I used the same thought process to communicate with the kids. Like I had to prove it was about the money. And they were all ready to hear it, because you don’t wanna be not about that.
MTV ACT: It’s not cool to be poor?
50 CENT: They’re all gonna agree with you there. And then when you tell them that they’ll have a million dollars less than a person who has a diploma, that provides a little motivation.
MTV ACT: Staying in school means dollar signs down the road.
50 CENT: The students think: I can’t not get out and not succeed and graduate and be worth a million dollars less than someone else.
MTV ACT: What have you learned from the students? You talked about how some of these kids are the same age as your son.
50 CENT: Like my son, a lot of times you gotta read into what is actually going on.
MTV ACT: How old is your son now?
50 CENT: 17. He has, I don’t know if you should call it, a fear of me.
MTV ACT: He has a fear of you?
50 CENT: Yeah. Cause it’s like, his mother will traditionally say, “You wait till your father finds out.”
MTV ACT: You don’t seem like a strict dad.
50 CENT: Well, you know what, in certain areas, I feel like I've always made him feel like he’s the man when I’m not around, so it’s his job to make sure everything’s alright, to take care of your mother, to not give her a hard time.
MTV ACT: So what did you learn from the kids?
50 CENT: They all have their own individual obstacles. There are huge distractions in different ways, for completely different reasons, but it happens simultaneously. This is happening in the same room, and you can be involved close enough to understand it.
Photo: 50 Cent with one of his Dream School students, Alan. (Getty)