Before May 24, 2000, things were looking up for 50 Cent. He'd worked with hip-hop luminaries like Jam Master Jay of Run-DMC and Trackmasters, and Columbia Records was set to release his debut album Power of the Dollar that summer. (Lead single "How to Rob" was an underground hit the previous year.)
But on that night, everything changed: while outside his grandmother's home in Jamaica, Queens, 50 was attacked by a gunman who fired nine shots from a 9 millimeter handgun, striking him in the face, chest, arm and hip. (The shot to his cheek had a permanent effect on his tongue and voice, costing him a wisdom tooth in the process.)
"It happens so fast that you don't even get a chance to shoot back," the rapper (born Curtis Jackson) later told MTV. "I was scared the whole time...I was looking in the rear-view mirror like, 'Oh shit, somebody shot me in the face! It burns, burns, burns.'" It took him five months and the partial use of a walker to recover; it cost him his record deal, but gave him motivation, too - from an improved health regimen (resulting in a more sculpted appearance) to a general purpose in life.
"How much more damage could that shell have done?" he wrote in his memoirs in 2005. "Give me an inch in this direction or that one, and I'm gone."
The shooting helped add to his street legend, and by the time he re-emerged in 2003, he had a new deal courtesy of Dr. Dre and Eminem's Aftermath and Shady labels. The resulting debut, Get Rich or Die Tryin', featured the chart-toppers "In Da Club" and "21 Questions" and sold eight million copies in the United States.