On the one hand, there's the mystique of 50 Cent: the "gangsta" rap, the rap sheet, the being shot nine times, the songs about partying and pimping and pushing drugs. His concerts are punctuated with gunshot sound effects and boisterous stage banter.
On the other hand, as we found out over two days in his world -- which includes the isolated, 50,000-square-foot Connecticut mansion where he lives alone -- there's the surprisingly subdued reality of 50 Cent.
His home has 18 bedrooms and special features such as walls by Gucci.
"That's when you get restless and you ain't got much to do," he said. "And, you say, I'm going to buy a Gucci wall."
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Despite the space, he doesn't have a big life outside his various businesses, he said.
"I really don't have very much" of a personal life, said 50 Cent, whose real name is Curtis James Jackson III. "I really don't utilize this home. You got 18 bedrooms, you still sleep on one bed."
His millions of fans might be surprised to learn that the man behind global party anthems like "In Da Club" almost never goes to clubs himself. He doesn't even drink. Instead, when he's not making music -- his latest album, "Before I Self Destruct," comes out Nov. 16 -- he works out. His home is equipped with a giant weight room that he uses every morning that he's not on the road.
He spends a lot of time with his trainer. But he said, he spends even more time with his driver.
It's a two-hour commute from suburban Connecticut to his office in New York City. He works on a giant computer screen, tending to his growing empire of investments.
He appears to be a deliberately solitary superstar.
"I mean, and I got trust issues," 50 Cent said. "I don't really trust people. In general. I kind of got to be around them long enough. I like to think I'm a good judge of character but I make mistakes.
"So I got to be around them long enough to kind of figure out who each individual is and then I develop a comfort being around them. I don't know what these people intentions are.
"I don't know if it was growing up or I don't know where, but I always had [trust issues]. In the lifestyle, when you're in the streets, you got to watch everybody too. So it's just, I guess it's a habit."
But that doesn't appear to put a crimp in his personal fulfillment.
"Well, my sex life is great," he said, laughing. "I don't have a problem with that area."
Indeed, he has stripper poles in his basement, although they're not many parties at 50 Cent's house. He said he doesn't have a girlfriend at the moment.
A Visit by the Police
As for his friendships, 50 Cent said, "They're pretty good, before they reach the point where people start to have the ...." the rapper said, trailing off. "I don't know how to explain this to you -- this is -- I've never been in this area -- we're in uncharted territory right now ... as far as the interview."
If 50 Cent developed trust problems growing up in the streets, it's perhaps understandable.
He said he was 12 or so when he started selling cocaine.
"Yeah, because when you don't got even enough money to keep decent shoes on, and everybody that you can make reference to that has the lifestyle that you actually aspire to, it's hustling," he said.
His criminal career came to a violent climax when a Brooklyn stick-up artist shot him nine times, as dramatized in the hit movie he made about his own life called "Get Rich or Die Tryin'."
"Sometimes, I feel tingles when it's starting to rain. Like my bones, because I broke a lot of bones in my body," he said.
When he goes back to his old neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens, he attracts a lot of attention; and not the kind he wants. He visited the park he used to go to when he was a kid, when he was still known as Curtis Jackson, or, to close friends only, as "Boo-Boo."
Multiple police cruisers appeared.
"Wow, the police," he said. "It make me don't even want to be around here."
His time in the streets has left 50 Cent with a robust skepticism about the police.
"Look, all the cops come when I come," he said. "They think I'm a terrorist."
Could it be the police are just worried that he would draw a crowd?
"Not for that, there are detectives in that car," the star said. "They got one, two, three, four ... 12 police officers for me to walk in the park."
His mother was 15 when she gave birth to him. She made a living selling drugs.
"I remember watching my mom, my mom with me and I asked her, there was a guy playing catch with his son right here in the baseball field," 50 Cent said. "She told me, 'That's his father throwing the ball back and forth.' I said, 'Why I don't have a father,' and she said, 'Because you're special,'" he said, laughing.
"'You were born in the immaculate conception like Jesus.'"
He said he has "no interest now in knowing who [his father] is."
"The part that he could've helped me with, the mistakes that I made early on, he could've been there to help create that guidance at that point so I didn't have to go through that," he said. "At this point, what could he ask? You see how I said that? Like what could he ask me for? Because I kind of, I can't think of anything I could want or need from him at this point."
Richest Black Entertainer ... Except for Winfrey
When he was 8, his mother was killed when someone spiked her drink, then turned the gas on in her apartment.
"When I lost my mom, I lost more than a parent. I lost everything that was good in my life," he said.
From those beginnings, Curtis Jackson has come a long, long way. Not only is he a monster rap star, garnering 13 Grammy nominations and winning several other awards along the way, he has also been in nine movies and owns businesses that sell clothing, sneakers and video games.
His reputation as a savvy businessman was cemented when he invested early in Vitamin Water and proceeded to make a reported $100 million when the company was bought by Coca-Cola.
Forbes ranked him as the second-richest black entertainer, after Oprah Winfrey. The magazine reported that he raked in $150 million between June 2007 and June 2008.
"I'd like to say yes," he said, smiling. "I do pretty good, man. I want to be able to do better."
The rapper said that no matter how much he had, he wanted more.
"I'm not sure," he said. "I think ambition is leading me through an endless tunnel. You know, I think there won't be a point that I'm completely satisfied. I meet people that are wealthy while I may be what they consider rich. ... Wealth is a lot more. I think I'm rich because I'm around people that have a few billion dollars. So it sends me back to a space where I'm ready to hustle and get it going and do more."
Along the way, he gives back to the community in which he was raised. He funded a community garden through Bette Midler's New York Restoration Project.
"Bette's got the greenest thumb in New York City," he said, leading a tour of the garden. A woman working there caught his eye. "Come give me my hug," he told her. "She looks after the garden."
He's focusing on new ventures, including cologne. And he co-wrote a new self-help book, "The 50th Law." The book is a primer on overcoming fear and flexing one's power.
He takes the show-no-fear ethos of the book seriously.
But he admits to having weaknesses, although he's not sharing.
"Why would I tell them?" he said.
He bought his mansion, he said, from the former wife of Mike Tyson, despite a tangled web of interpersonal connections.
It turns out that the gunman who shot 50 Cent nine times was Tyson's friend.
"He previously was friends with him," the rapper said. "Where I'm from, my friends kind of killed my friends before in different situations, so it doesn't feel like anything personal."
It's a stark reality for him. "Well, the world is cold, man," he said.
His view of the world is reflected in his love life. His former girlfriend, the mother of his only child -- a son named Marquise -- sued him for $50 million. When she lost the case, 50 Cent said, she started restricting his access to the child.
It was frustrating for him, he said, as someone who has struggled psychologically from not having a dad around to not being able to see his son.
"But he knows I love him," he said.
Despite the time he spends alone, 50 Cent said he's not lonely. "I'm content with where I'm at. I'm not trying to get your sympathy," he said. "The guy that sits there and says. 'I'm lonely' in the middle of being one of the most popular people around, it translates into he wants some sympathy in some way."
He doesn't mind rattling around in a huge house by himself.
"Yeah, it's fun like that," he said.
He talked about the prospect of settling down someday. "Maybe" he would get married, he said -- but only maybe.
"Well, you got 53 percent of people getting divorced in this climate," he said. "I think marriage and some of those things [are] turning into a business deal. When you got to go to your attorney and go to her attorney and negotiate what the prenup is and if you have three kids, you're going to get this much money, three more years going to pay you this much.
"Doesn't it sound like deal points?"