LOS ANGELES — Curtis James Jackson III, better known by his rap moniker, 50 Cent, has never been one to tread lightly with his words. In 2007, the multi-platinum selling artist infamously incited a feud with Kanye West before both of their third major studio albums were to be released on the same day. 50 Cent, with typical bravado, publicly announced his intent to retire from the music industry, should West’s album sales exceed his. Although he would later renege when West’s album sold nearly 300,000 copies more than his, Jackson would go on to make an even more momentous commitment to the public in 2011.
Rather than initiating a shameless publicity stunt, 50 Cent demonstrated his willingness to turn over a new leaf when he shared his plan to donate 1 billion meals to the World Food Program (WFP) through sales of his energy drink, Street King, which has since been rebranded as SK Energy. For every drink sold, 10 cents — which amounts to one meal — will go toward the WFP. To understand the reverberating implications of Jackson’s promise necessitates a brief dive into how the WFP is traditionally funded.
Thus far, entire countries comprise the organization’s pool of top donors, with the United States sitting at the top of the totem pole with approximately $6 billion contributed to the cause. If 50 Cent’s scheme pans out, he will have conferred $100 million upon the WFP, landing him within the ranks of its top 20 donors.
Why the sudden shift of focus from music to entrepreneurial philanthropy? Having grown up in Queens, New York, 50 Cent is no stranger to the societal ills of chronic poverty. At age eight, he lost his mother — who raised him on her own and dealt cocaine to support her family — to a ruthless murder. He was taken in by his grandparents thereafter, and dreaming of a way to escape from his destitute environment, began selling narcotics in middle school.
In 2011 and 2012, 50 Cent also worked with famine victims in the Horn of Africa, bringing back painful reminders of his past. Moved by his experiences, Jackson stated on Facebook, “Children [are]going hungry every day, even dying every day from hunger. I am going to keep sending images from out here. I need you to take these photos and re-post to your friends. The world needs to see what is going on.”
In just two years, the savvy businessman has made gargantuan strides toward reaching his goal. SK Energy is now available in over 40 thousand stores — from GNC to Walgreens — nationwide and sits at number two in its market, trailing only behind the ubiquitous 5-Hour Energy drink.
For SK Energy’s first million Facebook fans, 50 Cent donated one meal per “like” on the drink’s official Facebook page. To further speed up the process, the rapper has also enlisted a plethora of public figures — from Deepak Chopra to NFL star and current Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker — to sponsor SK Energy.
To boot, Jackson has even partnered with LifeStyles Condoms to release his personal line of “Magic Stick Condoms,” whose proceeds will go toward raising HIV awareness.
With his highly diversified business and philanthropic ventures, 50 Cent demonstrates that where there is a struggle, there is a hustle. And in the realm of the global poverty struggle, he is capable of rising to the occasion.
– Melrose Huang