Like the Bible, or Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo, there are countless versions of the American Dream, hollowly reduced to a combination of overused colloquialisms: rags-to-riches stories, where anyone from anywhere can come to the melting pot, pull themselves up by their bootstraps and capture their own slice of the pie. Novels have been penned as odes to it; movies filmed as homages; songs sung to express the ineffable joy of becoming a functioning cog in our great capitalist machine. But the best version of the American Dream did not come unspooled from the minds of our greatest writers, or artists, or thinkers—no, no. The best version of the American Dream is much less sophisticated than all that. The best version of the American Dream is 50 Cent forgetting he's accidentally a Bitcoin millionaire.
50 Cent, né Curtis James Jackson III, is the 42-year-old Queens-born rapper, actor, producer and entrepreneur, most famous for his debut album Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2003) and the semi-autobiographical film of the same name. His mother died in a fire when he was 8; his father had disappeared before then. Raised by his grandmother in South Jamaica, he began dealing crack at the age of 12. On May 24th, 2000, an assailant shot Jackson nine times at close range with a 9mm handgun. Amazingly, he fully recovered after just five months, and soon built a name for himself with a mixtape, aptly called Guess Who’s Back?.
The mixtape found its way into the hands of rapper Eminem—and the rest is (sort of) history. His debut album sold over 800,000 albums in its first four days on the market. He subsequently got his own imprint at Interscope records, started two film production companies, a book imprint and, after becoming a minority shareholder in Glacéau, which makes Vitamin Water, made a reported $100 million from its sale to Coca-Cola, in 2007. His investments have varied from apps (like Hang, a video broadcasting app), to liquor (he’s a minority shareholder in Effen Vodka), to luxury underwear (FRIGO Revolution Wear), to mining—Jackson was apparently in talks to purchase equity in a palladium and iridium mine shaft in South Africa. Like Jay-Z and Sean Combs before him, 50 Cent is a rapper with a hustler’s restless drive and a mogul’s mentality. Suffice it to say, he will get rich, or die trying.
The difference between 50 Cent and his forbearers, however, is that he’s failed magnificently and, through what appears like dumb luck, succeeded again. In 2015, Jackson filed for bankruptcy, with a reported debt of over $32 million. (The filing came days after a judge ordered him to pay $5 million in damages to Rick Ross’s ex-girlfriend for posting a sex tape of her and another man online, which is as American as apple pie.) It’s unclear just how broke he really was; as NPR reported in 2016, “he says he’s broke, but he posted Instagram photos showing piles of cash in a refrigerator”—an act of such brazen “I can’t help but brag about my wealth” Americana it defies all logic.
That was all before this week’s news: according to TMZ, 50 Cent has been sitting on millions of dollars worth of Bitcoin—and he didn’t even know it. In 2014, the article says, 50 Cent randomly decided to let people buy his album, Animal Ambition, with Bitcoin. At the time, the cryptocurrency was still finding its footing in the mainstream, and was hardy accepted anywhere. In 2014, his Bitcoin profits amounted to a couple hundred thousand dollars; today, that same amount is worth approximately $7.7 million.
In an Instagram post referring to the TMZ article, since taken down, Jackson wrote, “Not bad for a kid from the South Side, I’m so proud of me,” and, in a subsequent comment: “I’m a keep it real. I forgot I did that shit.” (Emphasis mine, because it’s necessary to read that statement with emphasis.)
Let’s recap: 50 Cent climbed out of a life of poverty and drugs—not to mention, recovered from a deadly shooting—to find success, wealth and renown as a rapper. He then segued that success into various, highly profitable business ventures and investments—until his mounting debts, one of which involved a sex tape, forced him to file for bankruptcy. Then a business decision he flippantly made years prior bore fruit—as realized not by him, but by the popular tabloid TMZ. How, I ask you, can the American dream get any dreamier than that?
Because here’s the thing most people forget about the American Dream: like any dream, it doesn’t always make sense. Ours is just as much about dumb luck as it is hard work, just as much about failing up as it is legitimately succeeding (exhibit A: our current president). 50 Cent forgetting he accidentally made a smart investment only to have that investment pay off years later is the modern day of equivalent of striking gold on a casual tip you heard from a mustached bartender in a 19th century Nevadan saloon, and then falling ass-backwards into a puddle of oil on your way to the mine.
50 Cent, incidental Bitcoin millionaire, whose chosen moniker pays homage to an altogether different currency, is living the American Dream. He is the American Dream. Long live 50 Cent.