All it took was nine bullets to make 50 Cent a legend.

On May 24, 2000 up-and-coming rapper 50 Cent was sitting in a car outside his grandmother’s house in the Queens, New York neighborhood of Southside Jamaica when a gunman drove up and fired repeatedly. Initially the attempted murder wasn’t good for 50’s career: His label, Columbia, dropped him immediately. But the former drug dealer and boxer refused to abandon his music, putting out four albums’ worth of “street mix” CDs, sold for cheap on street corners.

In a genre that prizes authenticity, nothing says “keepin’ it real” like nine bullet holes. Eminem, the world’s biggest rapper, heard 50’s street mixes and signed him to a deal with Interscope, the industry’s hottest label, in 2002. “There’s a mystique about him,” Eminem declared.

50 Cent, who is now 27, always had plenty of mystique. Born Curtis Jackson III (he was named after his grandfather), he never met his father and was often left alone by his mother, Sabrina, a low-level drug dealer in Queens. When Jackson was eight, his mother was killed at home by someone who drugged her drink and turned on a gas oven, leaving her to die. The murder didn’t deter her criminal-minded son, who was first arrested for dealing in high school and then in 1994 was busted for possession of heroin, 10 ounces of crack and a starter pistol and sentenced to three to nine years.

Jackson loved rap, though, and saw it as his route to legit riches. Naming himself after a well-known New York street thug, he began working with Jam Master Jay, Run-DMC’s legendary DJ. On an audacious 1999 single, “How to Rob,” 50 threatened rap heavyweights with burglary, creating an image of himself as ruthless, fearless and calmly remorseless. When Jam Master Jay was murdered in 2002, police questioned 50, hoping he might know who’d killed his mentor.

In its first two weeks of release in February 2003, 50’s debut, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, sold a remarkable 1.6 million copies. With sales of 6.5 million in the U.S., it was the top-selling CD of the year. Although 50 Cent’s appeal began with his illegal exploits and contentious behavior–including feuds with rapper Ja Rule, his Murder Inc. label chief Irv Gotti and jailed drug dealer Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, whom the government suspects of having funded Murder Inc. to launder drug money–it spread through the bravado of his witty rhymes and magnetic hooks, which turned gangsta stories into pop smashes, including “In Da Club” and “P.I.M.P.” His album “seems to consist of nothing but hits,” The New York Times wrote. “But it’s a grim party: The casual jokes about death are his way of reminding us of the price he might have to pay for his success–and for our entertainment.” Playboy sent Rob Tannenbaum to meet with 50 at the Interscope offices in Manhattan. Tannenbaum arrived unarmed.

Playboy: Are you wearing a bulletproof vest right now?

50 Cent: Nah. I took it off as I came into the building.

Playboy: So you figure we’re not a lethal threat, huh?

50 Cent: Yeah. Plus, I don’t like to make everybody uncomfortable. Because I’m from the bottom, I have a different class of people who envy me. They have nothing to lose, so the situations can be a little extreme. That’s the reason I wear it–just preparing for the worst. Biggie and Tupac got shot, but if they wore the vest, it would have prevented them from dying.

Playboy: When you wear the vest, can you tell it makes people uncomfortable?

50 Cent: Absolutely. The majority of people who acquire the finances I have at this point, they come from something totally different. Even if they’re not intimidated by me, they’re intimidated by what they believe could happen while I’m there. When I was on Columbia Records I didn’t want them to be intimidated by my past, so I didn’t tell them who I was.

Playboy: You didn’t tell them you were a drug dealer.

50 Cent: But when I got shot, they became afraid of me because I responded the way that environment conditions you to respond: Get shot, get up, and if your fingers and toes still move, then you move forward. Getting shot is not a big deal where I’m from. Once they say “He’s gonna make it,” it’s all right. When somebody goes to jail, a new face takes his place to hustle on that strip. It doesn’t change. Because getting shot didn’t mean as much to me, that made Columbia even more afraid of me.

Playboy: But sitting here right now, you seem calm and friendly. A lot of gangstas glare and shout like they might kill someone any minute.

50 Cent: That’s a shield. If you put me in a situation where I feel like I have no choice but to do something to you, it’s gonna be done. It makes even law enforcement afraid, the influence I’ve got. In my neighborhood you can get somebody killed for $5,000–if I showed you my bank account, you’d know I could really create Vietnam there at $5,000 a body. [laughs] That’s what makes them pay so much attention to us.

Playboy: You’ve toured the U.S. Has all that travel changed you?

50 Cent: Your outlook changes a little bit, but all across the country I’ve been subjected to the same things I’ve been subjected to in my neighborhood. I walk through a metal detector, and even though it doesn’t go off, they still want to wand me. I’m 50 Cent. I got an aura around me that’s negative, and I don’t think it’s gonna leave. But I’m all right with it. Everything happens for a reason. Being shot in the face, I lost a tooth. [opens his mouth to show a missing tooth] Gums, too. And my voice changed. There’s a little hiss when I speak, because there’s more air in my mouth. And this is the voice that sells millions of records. [laughs] I was a felon; now I’m a superstar. I went from nothing to a hell of a lot. I just bought Mike Tyson’s old house in Connecticut–18 bedrooms. It’s the biggest residential home on the East Coast.

Playboy: You could say that getting shot was the best thing that ever happened to you.

50 Cent: Yeah, I’d still be on Columbia Records. Wow! They didn’t understand what I was doing like Eminem and Dr. Dre did. Lyrics that Columbia might have asked me to change, Dre was like, “That’s hot.”

Playboy: So getting shot made Columbia drop you, gave you a distinctive style and made you a legend.

50 Cent: Yeah, it made me special.

Playboy: We saw four very large guys with you in the hallway. Who are they?

50 Cent: Security guards. Two of them are armed.

Playboy: You’re a convicted felon, so if you were ever caught with a gun, you’d go back to jail.

50 Cent: Right. When Jam Master Jay got killed, they tied my name to that situation immediately. “Do you think somebody would kill him to send 50 a message?” A few years ago they thought I killed two girls. The guy who actually killed them had a Suzuki motorcycle, the same stock colors as mine. They chased me on my bike. I got away, but they got a perception of me in that precinct. They feel like I know exactly who tried to kill me, but they have no information on that from me.

Playboy: Since your jail term, have you carried a gun?

50 Cent: Yeah. Since my jail term I’ve been shot nine times. I’d rather get caught with a gun than get caught without one.

Playboy: Your life was like this even when you were young. Tell us about your mom.

50 Cent: My moms was real aggressive. My mom used to like women. I think she had a girlfriend when I was eight years old. She was really manly, really tough, and she had to be–she was hustling. I spent a lot of time with my grandmother even before my mother passed.

Playboy: She was murdered.

50 Cent: She was dead for days before they found her. When they found her, her body was fucked-up. Someone put something in her drink and turned the gas on. But in my neighborhood, if you had both parents, you were spoiled–“You got a mother and a father? Oh shit!”

Playboy: Did your grandmother tell you how your mom died?

50 Cent: I got what happened later. My grandmother was uncomfortable even saying that my mother liked girls.

Playboy: She didn’t like the word lesbian?

50 Cent: Well, not lesbian. I don’t know what you call it–bisexual? I’m here, so it had to be bi. [laughs] But I think that’s why I don’t pass judgment on people. I ain’t into faggots. I don’t like gay people around me, because I’m not comfortable with what their thoughts are. I’m not prejudiced. I just don’t go with gay people and kick it–we don’t have that much in common. I’d rather hang out with a straight dude. But women who like women, that’s cool. I could actually get into that, having a woman who likes women too. We might have more in common.

Playboy: You use the word faggot in your songs, too. Can you refer to gay men as faggots and also say that you’re not prejudiced?

50 Cent: It’s okay to write that I’m prejudiced. This is as honest as I could possibly be with you. When people become celebrities, they change the way they speak. But my conversation with you is exactly the way I would have a conversation on the street. We refer to gay people as faggots, as homos. It could be disrespectful, but that’s the facts.

Playboy: What was the enduring impact of losing your mother so young?

50 Cent: I never knew my father, so I used losing her as an excuse. Every time something was wrong I’d think, If my mother was here, it wouldn’t be like that. When I got shot, my son was in the house–so he heard me get shot. I’m sure it altered him. The average kid doesn’t go through that.

Playboy: You once said, “Emotionally I’m like 13.”

50 Cent: My most comfortable feeling is anger. If my feelings are hurt or if things don’t go my way, I get angry. People get killed around us, and instead of crying we get mad. I had four or five friends get killed in 2003, and I didn’t cry. If I’d stayed in the hood, I’d have been one of those five.

Playboy: Did you ever meet your dad?

50 Cent: No. I don’t even want to meet him. I already missed the part where your father would be helpful. I’m a grown-assed man.

Playboy: What did your mom tell you about him?

50 Cent: She told me I was born through immaculate conception: “You don’t have a father. You were born through immaculate conception, like Jesus.” It made me feel good not to have a father.

Playboy: Describe the area of Queens where you grew up.

50 Cent: You could be in that neighborhood and not get in trouble, but trouble’s there for you to get into. When you put people on top of people, it’s that crabs-in-a-barrel theory. Rats in a box. Eventually they starve and start eating each other. Somebody’s gonna take what you’ve got–unless you become the biggest problem. If you’re not the biggest problem, you’re in danger. When you’re the biggest problem, there’s nothing to fear, because everybody else is occupied with staying out of that zone. So the object is to be the biggest fucking problem in the neighborhood.

Playboy: When you started dealing, at 12, where did you get the drugs?

50 Cent: I was uncomfortable asking my grandparents for certain things. They raised their kids at a time when Pro-Keds cost $10. When I was a kid the new Jordans were more than $100. The people I met while I was with my mother, they had jewelry and nice cars. They gave me three and a half grams–an eight ball. That’s the truth. The same money I would’ve paid for those Jordans. Sometimes when you ask for fish, people give you a pole.

Playboy: Why would they give cocaine to a 12-year-old?

50 Cent: Because I was Sabrina’s little boy. No mother, no father–they didn’t see grandparents in my life.

Playboy: Did you sell it? Cut it? Cook it?

50 Cent: I didn’t know what to do with it. Kids from my neighborhood helped me the first couple of times. Then I did it myself because I was eager. I could hustle only after school. I told my grandparents I was in an after-school program.

Playboy: And in a way, you were.

50 Cent: I was in a special program. [laughs] Once you get one person comfortable dealing with you, that turns into two, three, four people. As I got into junior high school I started hustling often.

Playboy: Selling what?

50 Cent: Crack. A little heroin. My aunts and uncles would have a party, and like weed today, so many people used cocaine, it wasn’t looked at like a drug. They would say, “Go get some cocaine.” They didn’t know I already had it.

Playboy: You did buy-one-get-one-free promotions.

50 Cent: And I only called it “buy one, get one free” because they were calling it “two for $5” on the next block. I was trying to make it different. I was marketing! Fiends want something free, so use the word free. It’s better than “two for $5.”

Playboy: Did it work?

50 Cent: Hell yes, it worked. And I made the pieces bigger. Some guys made small pieces and figured they would make a huge profit. But it takes them longer to sell the pieces. I made the pieces huge, and they started coming from down the block. All the pieces would sell the same day, and I’d accumulate more money.

Playboy: You were arrested for bringing drugs to school.

50 Cent: After I got caught I had to tell my grandma. She asked me if the charges were true, and I don’t lie to my grandma. As crazy as it sounds, I felt like I got caught because I was hiding it from her. I told her I did it, and I told her I was going to keep doing it. She was upset. She was hurt. She said, “Don’t call here when you get in trouble.”

Playboy: That seems pretty heavy for a teenager.

50 Cent: Older dudes in our neighborhood were way worse. They were robbing banks; they would kidnap each other. They tried to rob me one night in front of my grandmother’s house. I was 19 and had bought a 400 SE Mercedes Benz. I got to the front door, and the sliding door of a cargo van opened. They had a shotgun. I jumped over the porch and ran for a gun in the backyard. Pow! I got away from them, though. There’s a strong possibility they would’ve killed me.

Playboy: Did you ever use the gun you hid in your grandmother’s yard?

50 Cent: The first time I ever shot somebody, I was in junior high school. I was coming out of a project building–I ain’t gonna tell you where. I was going to see this girl. I had my uncle’s jewelry on, and two kids decided to rob me. This kid was like, “Yo, c'mere, let me holler at you.” As I turned around they all started pouring out of the lobby. It had to be 15 people stepping to me to rob me. I had a little .380 six-shot pistol, and I didn’t even look. I just spun around bangin’. Pop-pop-pop-pop-pop! Shot and just kept runnin’.

Playboy: Did you hit anybody?

50 Cent: Yeah, I hit one of ‘em. And that encouraged the next situation. After that, you get comfortable shooting. The first time, you’re scared to death, as scared as the guy you’re shooting at. Then it grows easier for you. Everybody has a conscience. You say to yourself, Man, he was gonna do something to me. Then it’s like, I don’t give a fuck, whatever. After a while the idea of shooting someone doesn’t bother you.

Playboy: How many other times have you shot someone?

50 Cent: I don’t even wanna talk about shooting people. But I’ll tell you, there were a couple of other situations where there were exchanges back and forth.

Playboy: Did you get caught?

50 Cent: Ninety percent of the time the police ain’t that good. The only way they know is if they catch you on the scene. They’ve got people who are supposed to understand criminal thinking, but how do you understand a criminal’s thinking when the person who did it didn’t think?

Playboy: A few years ago, in the song “50 Shot Ya,” you hinted that you had killed two people. Have you ever killed anyone?

50 Cent: Nah. No.

Playboy: Are you telling the truth?

50 Cent: Honestly, I wouldn’t say if I had. Because the case doesn’t go away, no matter what year it was. If they get wind, you’re going away forever.

Playboy: You say everybody has a conscience. Does your conscience ever bother you?

50 Cent: Gangsta is something that happened to me. That’s not the way my grandmother raised me to be. That’s the way the hood made me. You see a kid who isn’t doing well in school and you tell him, “Yo, if you do good for eight more years, you could have a car.” Then he finds out he can get a car in six months by running in the streets, and it feels like the way to go.

Playboy: Did hustling make you more popular with girls?

50 Cent: Hell yeah. In the hood, your success is on wheels. It’s about your appearance. When you first start, everybody is hustling for clothes, a different pair of sneakers every day so you’re fresh all the time.

Playboy: How old were you when you lost your virginity?

50 Cent: Like 15. I ain’t shy. No means “try again.” No, means she’s in a relationship right now, but you try again when she’s upset with him. A lot of pimps think like that too.

Playboy: You boxed when you were a kid. What did you learn from that?

50 Cent: After you box a little bit, you’re conscious of your opponent’s actions. And you’re less emotional because you fight every day. So the fight doesn’t mean as much. You’re not fighting angry. You’re fighting to win the fight, even in the street. I don’t have to seem upset to react. If you say something and I feel like you should be punched in the face for it, my actions might not show you that I’m going to hit you. I’ll punch you, and then we’ll start fighting.

Playboy: When you were dealing, did you also do drugs?

50 Cent: No. I stayed away. My homeys used to buy weed, bag it up and smoke the profits. These niggas were stupid. They smoked the whole shit.

Playboy: “In Da Club” is about being drunk on champagne, and “High All the Time” is about love for weed. But you don’t really like drugs or booze.

50 Cent: It doesn’t bother me to be around people who smoke weed, but I don’t do it. I’ve been drunk only twice in my life–from champagne. That shit sneaks up on you! Those two times are what kept me away from it. I grew up in a house where my uncles and aunts, they had problems. They’d get drunk drunk. One time my uncle got drunk, and these old-timers said, “I bet you can’t move that block of ice from there to there.” He took the bet, picked up the ice, moved it. But it was dry ice. Burned the skin off his fucking hands.

Playboy: Do you believe drugs should be legalized?

50 Cent: Hell no, they shouldn’t legalize drugs. That won’t work here. Weed is the hustler’s drug to sell. You can have five pounds before it’s a felony. A onepound bag is still just a misdemeanor. Let them change the laws for weed to the same laws for cocaine, and people won’t smoke that shit no more.

Playboy: At the height of your hustling, how much were you making?

50 Cent: Like $5,000 a day. I had a crack house on 160th Street with buckets of acid, so if the cops came, you would just push everything off the table into the bucket and there’d be no evidence.

Playboy: In July 1994 you got caught with heroin and crack. Here’s a copy of the plea bargain you signed. What were you thinking when you signed it?

50 Cent: My lawyer said, “I’ll get you out in six months.” I said, “What? Give it here.” I copped out right away, because they found a lot of shit in the house, and I thought the sentence would be a lot worse. I got arrested with 500 grams of cocaine.

Playboy: Instead of going to prison, you were sentenced to a shock-incarceration facility. What’s that?

50 Cent: It’s boot camp, a lot of physical training starting at five in the morning. I had to accept a drill sergeant screaming in my face. You can not accept him screaming in your face and go do three to nine years in jail, or you can let them say what they gotta say and do six months. It’s an easy decision. I was sentenced to three to nine years in jail. Because it was a nonviolent charge, I turned it into something a little easier.

Playboy: Is that when you started rapping and first met up with your mentor, Jam Master Jay?

50 Cent: The whole time, I was like, Yo, I got to figure out something I can do. And I loved writing music. The whole object when I was hustling, when I was doing the wrong thing, was to generate enough finances to make legitimate investments. The object is to get money the way you know how, then move into legitimate business ventures. Everybody in that life should know there are two endings to it: You’re dead, or you go to jail. There are no exceptions to the rule.

Playboy: When you were signed to Columbia, you decided to quit dealing. Then what happened?

50 Cent: I got a $65,000 advance; $50,000 went to Jam Master Jay, and $10,000 went to the attorney to negotiate my contractual release from Jay and do my contract with Columbia. I had only $5,000 left. I had to be able to provide for myself, so I took the $5,000 and turned it into 250 grams.

Playboy: You went back to dealing.

50 Cent: I had no choice.

Playboy: Do you think Jam Master Jay ripped you off?

50 Cent: He didn’t. He took what he felt was his. I was never bitter at Jay, because what I learned from him is what allows me now to sell 10 million records. He groomed me. That’s worth $50,000.

Playboy: After Columbia dropped you, Eminem signed you to Interscope. Does that help Eminem’s credibility?

50 Cent: Do you think Em needs the money he generates from me? No way. He just loves hip-hop. If a record comes out, he has to have it, hear it, examine it. He’s a lab rat–if we called, he’d probably be in the studio right now in Detroit. He gave me my shot. I love Eminem.

Playboy: In the song “White America,” he says that if he were black, he’d sell half as many records. Would you be even bigger if you were white?

50 Cent: If I was white, I don’t think they would have believed me. The suburbs identify with him. Em has problems with his mother, and when you’re in the suburbs, your parents are your structure. Who do you get upset with when you can’t go to the mall? Your parents. My experiences are hood experiences. Even though it could be a white boy in my neighborhood going through those same situations, it would be harder to believe.

Playboy: Would you have sold as many records if you weren’t the guy who got shot nine times?

50 Cent: I know people who’ve been shot more than nine times. Some people realize the only thing that’s cool about that is how I bounced back from it. In a lot of ways I’m a role model–people from that environment feel like they do have a chance.

Playboy: When you were hustling, did you meet Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, who’s serving 37 months for possession of a handgun after a 10-year sentence for leading the Supreme Team, which dominated crack dealing in southern Queens?

50 Cent: Not back then. He’s older than me. Later, when we did meet, we were cool at first, then we had differences. One time I heard he got into a fight, and I was looking at his face. He was like, “Yo, what are you looking all up in my face for?” I said, “I heard niggas whupped you. I’m checking.” It ain’t that serious, but I don’t like the nigga.

Playboy: Some people think he might have had your mom killed.

50 Cent: I don’t believe that. He wasn’t even in that area where she was getting money. The cops thought he was responsible for me getting shot, too. We just don’t get along. Fuck him. I was saying that before he went to jail. He don’t like me, neither. He let niggas say shit about me that he was supposed to check at the gate. He was letting niggas call me a snitch. Where I’m from, you sentence a nigga to death by calling him a snitch.

Playboy: Ja Rule has a rhyme that goes, “So on ya grave it’s gonna read: Here lies 50, who snitched on many.” And Ja and Irv Gotti–the head of Ja’s label, Murder Inc.–are friends with McGriff.

50 Cent: Them niggas is bitches.

Playboy: Ja Rule’s latest record didn’t sell very well.

50 Cent: That’s what fucking happens! He makes a whole fucking album where he’s attacking me. You say something negative about me, people are not going to like you. I always looked at Ja like he’s a weak little nigga. He’s never been in any of the tough-guy scenarios he raps about. He grew up a Jehovah’s Witness, the nigga that knocks on your door on Saturday and tries to sell you a Watchtower. Meanwhile I was hustling to provide for myself. He’s not strong enough or smart enough to maintain anything.

Playboy: It’s been previously reported that Irv Gotti started Murder Inc. with drug money from McGriff.

50 Cent: I don’t even want to talk about that. Saying that is telling. I’m not going to discuss those situations. You know, I get in a fucked-up zone when I start talking about these people.

Playboy: Your vocabulary just changed. Your posture changed. You got angry.

50 Cent: I get right back into that mind frame where I’m in the neighborhood, talking about “Fuck this one, fuck that one.” I don’t want to carry myself like that. I feel like I should be doing positive things. I want to build a community center for kids. But that’s become part of my character. Before I take a timid position and be afraid, I say fuck it and jump out the window. I’ll be the nigga they remember for killing a few of these niggas.

Playboy: Let’s talk about what happened at the Hit Factory in March 2000.

50 Cent: That shit is so old.

Playboy: You got stabbed that night by Irv Gotti and a few of his associates.

50 Cent: A nick. I ended up getting three stitches.

Playboy: The newspapers said you had a punctured lung.

50 Cent: Not me! It was a scratch. It stopped bleeding on its own. I went home, and my grandmother said, “You should go to the hospital–you could get an infection.” It was no big deal. They expanded that shit to make it look good for them. I had already punched this boy Ja Rule in the eye, in Atlanta.

Playboy: How did they get the jump on you?

50 Cent: When they came to the Hit Factory, they were truly blessed. If they had come about 10 minutes before, one of them would have been killed. Because my jacket was in another room. You see what I’m saying?

Playboy: You had a gun in your jacket.

50 Cent: I would have tried to kill anybody that came in the room. In New York State you’re allowed to use the same force to protect yourself as a person is using against you. So I’d have just started firing. Fuck it.

Playboy: Did you–

50 Cent: Yo, I don’t even want to go down that road. People keep asking about it. If you didn’t ask about it, I wouldn’t mention it. But I don’t want to not answer the questions you’re asking. It’s over. The shit is dead. Homey don’t even sell records no more.

Playboy: One final detail. Murder Inc. says an order of protection was filed against them on your behalf. True?

50 Cent: To my knowledge it’s not true. They could’ve done that shit, to make themselves look hard. Me? I ain’t going to a fucking police precinct to file an order of protection on these niggas. Look at this guy–he’s a fucking idiot. Names himself Gotti. You know where the name Murder Inc. originates? This guy watches too many movies. When you write this, I hope you’ll minimize the portion that has anything to do with these guys.

Playboy: Do you think Murder Inc. is on its way out?

50 Cent: They’re hurting Ashanti by sticking their heads into her video. She’s got to be fucking Irv Gotti. You can write that! Her music is not the hottest shit in the world. She says “baby” on four different records. First it was “Baby, baby, baby, baby.” Then it was “Ooh, baby.”

Playboy: This feud’s been great for business, hasn’t it? It’s helped you sell records.

50 Cent: Yes, it’s effective. When I do radio, I’m doing radio. When they do radio, I’m doing radio. All they do is talk about me, and all I do is talk about me.

Playboy: Do you know who shot you in May 2000?

50 Cent: Yeah. I didn’t know him when he shot me, but I found out who he was on the street.

Playboy: What was his name?

50 Cent: His street name was Hommo– that’s short for “homicide.” I don’t know his real name.

Playboy: Do you know why he came after you?

50 Cent: It could’ve been a favor, or he could’ve been paid. The kid who shot me was a rider–he came to kill me. You understand? He wasn’t bullshitting. It just wasn’t my time to go.

Playboy: Do you believe that death is predestined?

50 Cent: I accept that death is going to come. So I don’t fear none of these niggas. Death is a part of the largest form of entertainment. Action films are all based on scenarios that, if we were doing them, we could possibly die. It’s hard to wake up ambitious tomorrow if you spend today thinking about dying.

Playboy: In the song “Fuck You,” you refer to the shooting and say that people on the street ask you if McGriff was behind it. Do you think he sent someone to kill you that day?

50 Cent: I don’t believe it. I don’t know for sure. But I hate to talk about this nigga now. If people ask me those questions, the police are going to feel, Well, we should bring him in and ask him some questions. And I don’t have anything to say to the police. For me, when the cops come, it’s to take me away. So what does that do to me? That puts me in contempt of court, and they got me in jail. McGriff is a fucking loser. He had a strong fucking crew that would do anything, kill anything. But everybody affiliated with him is in the penitentiary or dead. That’s the kind of leader he is.

Playboy: The police believe there’s still a contract out on your life.

50 Cent: See, what trips me up is that when the police come and say, “We know for a fact, from reliable sources, there’s a hit on your life,” the next thing is supposed to be, “We’re looking for the guy.” Unfortunately that is never what they say. They want me to tell them something.

Playboy: They want you to snitch.

50 Cent: But I’ve always had people who wanted to kill me, whether it’s because I was doing better than them in the hood or because we didn’t get along.

Playboy: Was the guy who shot you a professional killer?

50 Cent: Anyone you call professional would’ve gotten the job done.

Playboy: What happened to him?

50 Cent: He got killed two weeks later. I’m uncomfortable answering these questions because people will think I might’ve done it. That’s the kind of shit that could fuck me up. Everything is going so good for me right now. I just want to move forward.

Playboy: Do you feel as if you’re trying to change, to go straight, and people keep trying to pull you back into the hood?

50 Cent: People I grew up with, it bothers them to see me do this well. People say things openly now that they wouldn’t have dared to say about me, because they figure, “He’s doing too well to come down here and shoot me for saying this.”

Playboy: Let me ask this plainly: Did you have anything to do with the death of the guy who tried to kill you?

50 Cent: Nah. Not a thing.

Playboy: Is it possible that someone did it as a favor to you?

50 Cent: It’s not. It’s the karma–that’s what I believe. The shit you do comes right back to you. It may not be right away or two weeks later. You don’t know who else he did something to.

Playboy: Last year you bought a Lamborghini, an H2, a Mercedes SL500 and a BMW 745I.

50 Cent: I also got a Suburban. Bulletproof and bombproof. You could throw a stick of dynamite at that truck and it’d probably be all right.

Playboy: Did women throw themselves at you this year?

50 Cent: Absolutely. Groupie love. When we’re traveling, the young ladies come and you indulge. Everybody will in the beginning. If this shit had happened a few years ago, I’d be nuts right now. You start to feel like fucking everybody is an option. But I don’t anymore. I’ll go in a room and lock the door, because it’ll turn into Vanessa writing a book about it, you know what I’m saying? For them to be there, doing what they’re doing, says they’re sexually delinquent. I’m going to find somebody special.

Playboy: You dated the actress Vivica A. Fox. Was she special?

50 Cent: I still think Vivica is a special person. We did too much too fast.

Playboy: That sounds like PR talk. What do you mean?

50 Cent: If you meet somebody and are interested in her, you go out with her. That’s what I thought I was doing. The next day, as far as the general public felt, I was married to Vivica. No, we just went out on a date.

Playboy: But it’s not the general public who broke up with her by telling Howard Stern the relationship was over. So why’d you dump her?

50 Cent: I took photographs with her for King interviews, and some other photos from the same shoot ended up on the cover of Black Woman interviews, which I didn’t agree to. I guess her management and publicists were looking to use it for publicity for Vivica, even if it was at my expense. There were times when I wanted to go places and just hang out, and it would turn into a publicity event.

Playboy: Like when you won five trophies at the World Music Awards in Monaco last October?

50 Cent: Yeah. I said, “Come hang out” to her, and then her people made a call and it turned into a job for her as a host. That shit happened at the same time as the interviews covers. I said, “That’s it.” Her management and publicists were doing what was in their best interest.

Playboy: Vivica described you as sweet. That might surprise some people.

50 Cent: To a woman, that’s what you should be. I adjust to the situation. I had to be someone else when I was with my grandparents–I couldn’t be who I was in the street when I went indoors, because I didn’t want to disappoint them. I wouldn’t curse in front of them. That’s not acceptable. Even now that I’m grown I don’t cuss in front of my grandma.

Playboy: Do you think Vivica might be mad at you for not calling and breaking up with her?

50 Cent: Sometimes calling causes more confusion. So she can’t be upset.

Playboy: Do you listen only to hip-hop?

50 Cent: I listen to music people probably don’t believe I listen to. Nirvana’s “Teen Spirit”–I love that record. The melodies are ridiculous. I like Maroon5’s “Harder to Breathe.” That’s dope. I like the White Stripes’ single. [sings the opening riff to “Seven Nation Army”] There could be a hip-hop version of that. But the album is too rock for me.

Playboy: Are you religious?

50 Cent: I don’t go to church every Sunday, but I believe in God, and I pray. When I catch myself thinking negative things for no reason, I say a prayer so I’m forgiven for it.

Playboy: You don’t fear men, but do you fear God?

50 Cent: Absolutely. I fear that some of my actions won’t be understood.

Playboy: On Get Rich or Die Tryin’ you say, “I got to make it to heaven for going through hell.” If you died tonight, would you go to heaven?

50 Cent: Yeah. When I was doing wrong, I was in a different mind frame. I didn’t understand better. I believe I’ll be forgiven for those things.

Playboy: You sold drugs. You shot people. And you’re going to heaven?

50 Cent: Don’t expect me to evolve into a new person in eight months. People shot me. Where I grew up, you were selling drugs or you were starving. Even the people who had jobs came home and sold drugs. My goals are to become something good. It’s something positive that I’m supposed to do. I want to move into that space without losing the interest of the people who identify with me. The negative things I say about what I went through, people love that music because it’s the theme song to their lives right now. You don’t want to lose them. But when I die I want to be remembered as a good person.

Playboy: Do you think you’ll live to 40?

50 Cent: I ain’t going anywhere. I feel like I have the same chance of living to 40 as anybody else in New York City.

Playboy: You have a song that says, “Many men wish death upon me.” That might make it difficult to live to 40.

50 Cent: Like I said, they wish.

Playboy: So you sleep well at night?

50 Cent: Like a baby.

Playboy: Does it hurt to get shot?

50 Cent: It hurts. But it hurts more after the doc says you’re going to be okay and the medications wear off. The healing process hurts more than the actual shooting. I got shot in the right hand, too. The knuckle on my pinkie is gone.

Playboy: Even people who don’t know anything about rap know you’re the guy who got shot nine times, because it’s been written about so often.

50 Cent: Every time they wrote about me, they made me more exciting. They call me “the hunted man”–that’s an action film.

Playboy: So you’re like the bad guy in an action film.

50 Cent: Well, they got me down as the bad guy. I’ll accept that right now. When I watch movies, I root for the bad guys. I just turn the film off before the end, because they always die.