Once snubbed of his breakthrough opportunity, Queens rapper 50 Cent retreated to the mix-tape circuit for a brief moment before a major-label bidding war ensued in 2002. The grimy, street-level rapper's career underwent many ups and downs over the years. In the late '90s, after he united with the Trackmasters and Sony/Columbia Records, his breakthrough seemed ensured. But on the eve of his release date in 1999, he was shot. Even worse, Columbia pulled his album, Power of the Dollar, claiming that it had been too heavily bootlegged for release. Rather than sulk, 50 Cent began recording dozens of tracks for release in the underground. A buzz ensued, and Eminem offered him a million dollar-plus contract in 2002. Once again, three years after his first breakthrough opportunity, 50 Cent's breakthrough seemed ensured.
Born Curtis Jackson, the one-time boxer first stood on the brink of national success in the late '90s. Columbia -- or, more specifically, Columbia-affiliated rap production team the Trackmasters -- hooked up with 50 Cent in 1999. The young and mostly unknown Queens rapper recorded the song "How to Rob" with the accomplished production duo. Throughout "How to Rob," 50 Cent detailed how he would rob famous rap artists like Master P and Timbaland. The song became a kind of novelty hit, and the Trackmasters teamed with 50 Cent to record a debut album for Columbia, Power of the Dollar, and a prospective breakthrough single with Destiny's Child, "Thug Love." An unfortunate string of events then ruined 50 Cent's chance to break through: heavy bootlegging soured Columbia's attitude toward the album and, then, on May 24, 2000, the rapper suffered from multiple gunshots, one to the jaw and several in the legs. Though Columbia had already released "Thug Love" as a single along with promos of the album to the press, it pulled Power of the Dollar from the market and dropped the injured rapper from his contract.
In the years following his fallout with Columbia, 50 Cent made dozens of underground tracks with producer Money XL. These recordings circulated quickly through New York on mix tapes and were compiled on black-market CDs. The rapper created quite a street-level buzz for himself and his G-Unit clique. The buzz eventually became so pervasive that a major-label bidding war ensued between such labels as J, Universal, and Jive, according to rumors. Eminem ended up signing 50 Cent to his Shady/Aftermath label, reportedly offering over a million dollars. But it was the track record of Eminem and Dr. Dre that swooned the Queens rapper, not money. Following the signing, 50 Cent entered the studio with Eminem and Dre to record songs for his upcoming release.