How 50 Cent joined the bankruptcy club

Curtis Jackson, more commonly known as 50 Cent, has been documenting his relationship with money since the dawn of social media.

Picture Jackson reclining on a bed, covered in wads of dollar bills. Or a fridge full of 50 Cent-endorsed vodka, cheese slices and… piles of dollar bills. Or Jackson sitting in front of a huge stack of dollar bills, with another wedge of dollar bills in his hand. This was the kind of post that the rapper had become infamous for. The man loved money, and money, it seemed, loved him.

50 Cent’s millions of Twitter and Instagram followers were subjected to endless boasts about his lavish lifestyle. Think money, extravagant cars, designer shoes and bling. But the rapper’s relationship with money was, in reality, on the rocks.

Facing a series of legal bills that had sent his finances spiralling out of control, Jackson filed for bankruptcy last year. His largest creditor was Sleek Audio, to which he owed $17m (£13m). The rapper and the electronics company were working on a joint headphones venture, but the deal fell through and Jackson created his own headphones under the SMS Audio brand. Sleek Audio claimed that he stole their designs, sued him in 2013, and won. He also owed Lastonia Leviston $7m (£5.3m), after purchasing her sex tape from a vengeful ex and leaking it online.

He did this because Leviston is the mother of fellow rapper Rick Ross’ child, and Jackson has a longstanding beef with Ross. Leviston sued Jackson for invading her privacy and causing her emotional distress. These court cases, coupled with his monthly expenses of more than $108,000 (£82,000), left Jackson $32m (£24m) in debt, according to his bankruptcy claim. The rapper basically shrugged it all off in the press. Bankruptcy was a strategic move, he said: “Walt Disney has filed bankruptcy. Donald Trump has filed bankruptcy… It means you’re reorganising your finances.”

During his bankruptcy hearing, Jackson continued his lavish displays of wealth. One picture showed him sitting on the floor with the word ‘broke’ written in stacks of $100 bills. As a result, his bankruptcy claim was called into question by Judge Ann Nevins, forcing Jackson to admit that the wads of cash were fake: “Just because I am photographed in or next to a certain vehicle, wearing an article of clothing, holding a product, sitting next to what appears to be large sums of money or modelling expensive pieces of jewellery does not meant that I own everything in those photos. Since the explosion of social media, I have maintained a strong social-media presence that is consistent with the public persona of ’50 Cent’.”

Arguably, this “strong social-media presence” has contributed to Jackson’s downfall. In a decade, he went from one of the world’s richest rappers to a figure of fun, after a succession of shockingly bad investments and PR disasters. The public persona of 50 Cent had become toxic. In May, Jackson posted a video on his Instagram account in which he mocked a young man working at Cincinnati/ Northern Kentucky International Airport. The young man was autistic. The video caused such outrage that Jackson was forced to apologise and donate $100,000 (£76,000) to an autism charity. Jackson may have now settled his bankruptcy case, but his publicity and financial woes may not be over.

Mark Rowland is a journalist and former editor of Accounting Technician and 20 magazine.

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