Interview: 50 Cent Talks SundanceTV Show ‘Dream School,’ Losing His Grandma & Ciara

Keeping tabs on 50 Cent’s track record (off wax) is dizzying. With his Starz show Power renewed for season 2 and his rap clique G-Unit dropping their The Beast Is G-Unit EP next month, he’s also heading back to class for the second go-round of his other TV baby Dream School: NYC. The non-scripted series (which launched in Los Angeles last year) doesn’t follow VH1’s syndicated regimen. Fif, along with other elite professionals—including civil rights lawyer Gloria Allred, Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir and Madonna’s trainer Nicole Winhoffer—give 15 NYC high school dropouts a crash course on life and success. In between nibbles of couscous and pasta during an intimate lunch at New York City’s The Lamb Clubs, the Queens-bred rap mogul discussed his inspirational SundanceTV reality show, the final moments with his grandma Beulah Jackson, and rumors that he and Ciara are rekindling their romance.—Adelle Platon (@adelleplaton) VIBE: What are some of the life lessons from Queens that you took to Dream School? 50 Cent: You gotta pay attention to your surroundings. When we get into Dream School, you watch those kids make those adjustments right there in front of you. These kids would be out of school but it’s one of those scenarios where they’re receiving the opportunity they wouldn’t under any other circumstances. You see this television show when it’s a different, full life opportunity for everyone on it. Reality television doesn’t stand for that. It’s a huge relevance that’s obvious to the show with 3,030,000 kids in America dropping out [of high school] a year. Every 26 seconds, someone drops out. Every day, 8,300 people drop out. G-Unity, as a foundation, we focus on providing academically for low-income people since 2005 so I’ve been in the same area as [SundanceTV] ’cause I make those donations and offer scholarships at different points to people. When the opportunity for me to be a part of this showed up, I said yeah, it makes perfect sense for me to do it. Then the young lady at the show (student Raya) from the Ukraine confirmed for me that [what I do] does matter and is effective. Everyone needs that. Were there any students on the show that resonated more with who you were as a child? (Whispers) I wasn’t really bad in school… (Whispers) Is that a secret? Yeah, it’s top secret. (Laughs) I had to be two people growing up. I had to be aggressive enough to get by in the environment and then be my grandma’s baby at home. So when I say I was hustling since I was 12, I was between 3 and 6pm when they thought I was in the after school program. See, my grandmama would go out of her way for me. She would make sure I at least had the new shoes to go back to school with and there was like nine kids in the house. It was pretty rough. You’re used to taking something after somebody done with it and the problem is the shoes were Kangaroos. (Snickers) and I could never tell her those ain’t the right shoes, ‘Ma, after you knew what she went through to get ‘em for you and she would go out of her way to make sure you had ‘em first. How’d you find out about your grandmother’s death? Were you in the middle of work? I had to go to Power to rehearse the action sequences and I was on the treadmill, working with the stunt coordinators, when my aunt called me and told me I needed to come to the hospital. I had the chance to talk to her a little bit before she passed. My grandmama was coherent the whole time. I’ve seen a lot of people die around me but I saw them die on the corner that we were standing on. Outside is a different danger. It’s like you go to the hospital, [my grandma’s] up, she’s there, she’s alert. She responded to my voice and then after I see her, her blood pressure starts to drop and then she’s gone. With new seasons of Power and Dream School coming down the pipeline, what will you and Marlon Wayans be cooking up? The Wayans have such a successful portfolio and I’m interested in the comedy era. We’re developing something now and it’ll be exciting. Movie? Television show? Sometimes the idea starts out for television and then it’s a better movie so it may shift in time. I don’t wanna pigeonhole it till we see it in the right place but Marlon is dope. When we met, we talked about actual things away from the project. I like him as a person. He’s somebody I could hang out with away from the business. Given your success financially beyond rap, who would you say is your business mentor? I don’t have a business mentor but I do admire moves from guys at different points. Even though I give him shit at points, Puff is talented. Jay too. Staying power in a culture that shifts and moves as fast as hip hop does is hard. There’s a significance in being able to stay in it without actually making hit music. It’s amazing that Puff is still in it because he doesn’t make it. If I told you what to say and you said it, you and me would be eligible to be Puff. Everything else, he’s operating correctly so it keeps him around. There’s speculation on the Internet that you and Ciara are back together. Ciara is a really good friend of mine and she came to show me support when I lost my grandmother because she had her relationship with my grandmother. People don’t know but we have been friends for about four years so that’s why [people] are surprised to come and see her support. It’s unfortunate that somebody would take a picture [of her at my grandmother’s funeral]. You got people out there that are supposed to just follow and not have any significance at all. At the end, they look for any opportunity to take a photograph to get their followers up. Some things are supposed to be entertainment and some things are supposed to be part of your life. When your personal life become business, it gets interesting.

Dream School: NYC premieres Wednesday, Oct. 1 at 10/9c on SundanceTV.