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Business lessons from rapper 50 Cent’s playbook

Curtis Jackson III wears a lot of hats. He's a musician. He's an actor. He's the owner of G-Unit Clothing, owner and CEO of SMS Audio and founder of SK Energy.

But ask him what he considers to be his job and he doesn't list any of these. Instead, the serial entrepreneur sees himself as the CEO of the 50 Cent brand. In that alternate universe, Jackson, better known by his music nom de plum, says he sees all of his ventures—both past and present—as revolving around his alter ego.

"It's one brand," he said in an interview with "When it's an artist, it's all connected to that person's lifestyle."

50 Cent has an impressive track record as a businessman. SMS Audio headphones are among the most successful in the category (competing, ironically, against the Beats line founded by his friend Dr. Dre.) In 2010 his film production company, Cheetah Vision, secured $200 million in funding. And his latest venture—a boxing promotion firm called SMS Promotions—has roped in Andre Dirrell, who won the middleweight bronze medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics, and junior middleweight James Kirkland.

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In some ways, the 50 Cent brand is not unlike many of today's start-ups. While it's diversified, it all revolves around one central theme: The music tells the story, and the businesses support that story.

The lyrics in his business playbook are a bit different than those in his songs, though. Here are strategies he's used to "Get Rich or Die Tryin'.''

Lesson No. 1: The power of partnerships

I envision SMS being to the audio space what Lucasfilm is to the film technology business.50 Centrapper and business mogul

SMS draws a lot of strength from the street cred of 50 Cent, but in the past year, it has begun to use other big names, including music producer Timbaland and Knicks point guard Carmelo Anthony, to draw in customers.

This year the company is adding a somewhat unexpected third license to the brand: a line of Star Wars–themed headsets.

"I'm gonna go away from the trends of things," Jackson said. "The Star Wars collaboration was a surprise for people, but I envision SMS being to the audio space what Lucasfilm is to the film technology business."

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The strength of deals like the one with Anthony or the one with Disney for Star Wars is that it exposes SMS to an audience that normally might not consider it, which could in turn make consumers more aware of Jackson's other business ventures. That keeps the brand growing and the money flowing.

Lesson No. 2: Defy brand expectations


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