ORIGINAL 50 CENT
Kelvin (50 Cent) Martin was famous for his short stature and his brazenness. He stood 5 feet, 2 inches tall and weighed 120 pounds. He carried two guns in his waistband — a .357 Magnum and a Colt .45. So armed, he openly paced Fort Greene’s Myrtle Avenue, sticking up anyone who crossed his path, from store clerks to rival crooks.
In 2005, Czar Entertainment, a music-production company in Manhattan, released a documentary about Martin’s life, “Infamous Times: The Original 50 Cent.” Jimmy Rosemond, Czar’s CEO, knew Martin from Rikers Island, where they were both imprisoned as juveniles. Rosemond says he made the film to caution watchers away from the perils of the gangster life.
Like a Wild West outlaw, Martin spawned numerous tall tales about his exploits that the film recounts: Martin shot at parking meters, passed out the change to children, and then had them toss coins in the air to show off his marksmanship. He went to a Rick James concert at The Meadowlands and “robbed the whole stadium, yo,” says The Homie, an alleged Martin associate.
According to legend, Martin also mugged rap stars. He allegedly caught LL Cool J outside a White Castle and stole his gold rope-chain. He snagged a gold medallion off Rakim, the MC of the 1980s hip-hop duo Eric B. & Rakim.
In fact, Eric Barrier, the DJ of Eric B. & Rakim, knew Martin. The pair included him in a photo with other Brooklyn hustlers on the back of their 1987 hit album, “Paid in Full.” Its title song recounts the stick-up life of 50 Cent that Rakim avoided by pursuing a hip-hop career.
The origin of the name 50 Cent is clouded in mystery. Most of Martin’s associates claim it reflected his short height. Others say that Martin would rob people even for 50 cents or that he invested 50 cents in a dice game and walked away with $500. Campbell had heard that he had an older brother named Dollar Bill. (He did have an older brother, but not with that nickname.)
Martin’s death also has inspired myths and conspiracy theories. Although some say he was shot 50 times in a phone booth, the documentary reports that Martin was shot several times by a former associate outside his girlfriend’s apartment. Martin died from hemorrhaging four days later, according to the autopsy, says Patricia Martin, his aunt. He was 23 years old.
Martin’s body was sent to Staten Island, because he ended his life penniless. During the 1980s, other boroughs commonly sent those who couldn’t afford local burial to the Island. During the AIDS epidemic, Silver Mount received 18 bodies daily on average, according to Dora Arslanian, the cemetery’s director.
Martin was interred without a tombstone, in a grave with four other people.
LIKE THE ORIGINAL
“I’m the same kind of person 50 Cent was,” says Curtis Jackson, the rapper 50 Cent, at the beginning of the “Infamous Times” documentary. “I provide for myself by any means.”
Jackson took Martin’s nickname, he says, because he wanted to honor a famous black gangster who would see him as an equal, rather than an Italian gangster like John Gotti or Al Capone — names adopted by others in hip-hop — who would not. On “How to Rob,” a song off his first record, the Queens-born rapper jokes about mugging other famous rap stars “Brooklyn style” — i.e. like 50 Cent Martin.
Jackson’s life followed a path similar to Martin’s: He was raised at first by a single mother, and then by his grandmother; he eventually got into drug dealing, was arrested and shot multiple times. But Jackson, unlike Martin, escaped a life of crime by pursuing music.
After Jackson became famous as 50 Cent, Martin’s family took offense. “I think he’s reaping all of the rewards of using the name and not sharing what he’s getting,” said Patricia Martin to the Daily News last year.
Jackson promised to pay for a new gravestone for Martin, according to the Martin family. “You’ll never be forgotten,” Jackson says about Martin towards the end of the documentary. “I be dead serious about it.” Viewers then watch the creation and placement of Martin’s new gravestone at Silver Mount.
But Jackson never paid for the $9,000 monument, according to Rosemond; Czar Entertainment did. The company invited Precious Golston, Martin’s girl friend and mother of one of his daughters, to select the design.
Golston wanted something that would stand out, says Joe D’Armetta, owner of Moravian Monuments in Grant City, which constructed the headstone. The family rejected an initial plan for installing a large 5 and 0, because the stones might fall over. They eventually settled for the current colors and shape.
A CULT ATTRACTION
50 Cent’s gravestone has become a cult attraction, says Campbell. Islanders who have seen the documentary visit and take pictures. People who come for other funerals stop to take a look. Campbell predicts the plot will become a “monument site” for younger generations.
Patricia Martin and her daughter, Nicole, also visit on holidays and whenever they’re “in the mood,” Patricia says. She helped raise her nephew, and he, in turn, became close to her daughter.
However, not everyone finds the gravestone a welcome attraction. On a recent afternoon, Ed McLendon came with his uncle, Tony Mattei, and cousin, Michael Mattei, to visit their family plot, 20 feet away from Martin’s grave.