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Southside Queens - 50 Cent's South Jamaica

Where Is 50 Cent From?

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Southside Queens is what 50 Cent (a.k.a. Curtis Jackson) calls his hometown neighborhood of South Jamaica in his autobiography From Pieces to Weight: Once Upon a Time in Southside Queens and in his film Get Rich or Die Tryin'.

Southside Queens? Where's That?

You won't find the name Southside on any map. To 50 Cent, Southside Queens means South Jamaica, a neighborhood in Queens, New York, which on the street is often called Southside, South Side, or Southside Jamaica. It's definitely not the official name.

South Jamaica is south of downtown Jamaica, south of the LIRR tracks and Liberty Avenue, all the way south to Baisley Boulevard. It's western side is the Van Wyck Expressway, and it runs east to Merrick Boulevard (and Saint Albans) (Map of Southside Queens via Google).

Southside literally refers to the south side of the train tracks. Step off the bus in downtown Jamaica, and the signs give you a choice: "South Side" or "North Side."

Northside and Southside

Northside would be Hollis, Queens, another neighborhood of hip-hop royalty (Russell Simmons, Run DMC, LL Cool J). It is a vibrant middle class neighborhood, mainly African American, with tree-lined streets of single- and two-family homes.

Southside Jamaica is also predominately African American, though more and more immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean have moved in since the 1970s. It is a working-class neighborhood mostly of one and two-family houses and small apartment buildings. There are large public housing projects that dominate two sections.

South Jamaica in the 1980s

In the 1980s Southside was an epicenter of the crack epidemic. Highly organized drug crews made huge profits selling to crack addicts, and they murdered anyone who stood in their way.

The cold-blooded slaying of rookie NYPD Officer Edward Byrnes was a watershed event in changing public and government reaction to the drug wars. The NYPD escalated arrests, and laws changed to increase prison time for drug arrests. During his 1988 election campaign, George H. W. Bush carried Byrnes' badge as a rallying symbol.

Southside Queens Today

The violence of that era has subsided dramatically in South Jamaica. Drugs and gangs continue to be a problem only in certain areas of Southside.

Overall, life has changed for the better since the 1980s. CUNY's York College relocated and expanded its campus in the 1980s and early 1990s, and now enrolls 6,000 students. The AirTrain terminal to JFK was built at Archer and Sutphin, where Southside meets downtown Jamaica. And like neighborhoods across New York City, families in South Jamaica have benefited from the real estate boom with rising property values.

Is 50 Cent For Real About Southside?

50 Cent's Southside is not the Southside of the majority of its residents.

However, 50 Cent's success as an entertainer rests heavily on the promotion of events in his own life that did occur in South Jamaica. He served time in prison for dealing drugs. He was not, however, a big-time dealer, but a street hustler, slinging crack. 50 Cent's arrest by an undercover officer was at 134-25 Guy Brewer Boulevard, outside the Rochdale Village Co-ops.

50 Cent was born and raised in South Jamaica by his grandparents. His mother was a drug dealer, murdered by an unknown assailant. 50 Cent currently lives in Connecticut, preferring to stay away from the neighborhood where he was shot in May 2000, outside his grandparents' home.

Are There Any Other Hip-Hop Connections to South Jamaica?

At the time of publication (November 2005), Irv and Chris Lorenzo, formerly of hip-hop record label Murder Inc., are at trial, accused of money laundering for the infamous drug dealer Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff.

In the 1980s McGriff ran the "Supreme Team," one of the deadliest and most feared drug gangs in South Jamaica. He claims his collaboration with the Lorenzo brothers was strictly legitimate, but the federal government paints a picture of crack money channeled through the recording studio.

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