50 Cent shows his softer, more fragrant side

50 centCurtis Jackson ? better known as 50 Cent, the gangsta rapper who broke onto the scene wearing bulletproof vests and rapping about guns and drug deals ? had one question for me Monday when we met at Macy’s.

“Have you smelled this?” asked 50 as he held his new fragrance, Power by 50 Cent. “You have to smell it.”

And with that, the New York native who has rapped about spraying bullets on rivals sprayed my left wrist with cologne.

This, America, is the new 50 Cent.

He hangs out with Bette Midler, wrote a book with “The 48 Laws of Power” author Robert Greene called “The 50th Law,” and wears Giorgio Armani and Tom Ford suits.

“After 2003, my music took off, and I achieved financial success that allowed me to enter different circles,” 50 said about his transformation. “I was exposed to new information and turned onto different things.

“Suits are exciting to me. Tony Yayo (50’s friend and fellow rapper) thinks he shouldn’t have a suit on unless he’s going to a funeral. And we grew up three blocks from each other.”

50 isn’t worried about the hip-hop community questioning his “street cred.” He feels his past ? he was arrested for drug dealing and was shot nine times in 2000 ? speaks for itself.

“I think they’ve adjusted to me being successful in business,” 50 said of the hip-hop community. “And when people talk about ‘street cred,’ I’m probably one of the people they point to as having the most street cred because I had the hardest time. But all those things are situations I felt unfortunate to have to go through.”

On Monday, 50 will release his fourth studio album, “Before I Self Destruct.” Although his fashion sense has changed, his lyrics are just as raw as they were on past albums (the record includes a little ditty called “Death to My Enemies”).

The album comes with a DVD, which 50 wrote, directed and stars in.

In one scene, 50 fans will see what was once unimaginable: 50 Cent crying.

“You have to find the space emotionally to cry on cue,” 50 said. “Everybody has had something happen to them in the past that hurt. For me, I can utilize the loss of my mom. I went through a lot of confusion at that point. I was 8 years old, and there was nothing around me that would make me feel the comfort that she made me feel.”

50 played a loan shark in the recently released (in the U.K.) film “Dead Man Running,” and can be seen in “Twelve” with Kiefer Sutherland and “13” with Mickey Rourke (no connection to “Twelve”), both of which are due out in 2010.

Will we ever see 50 in a romantic comedy?

“When you’ve seen Ice Cube do ‘Are We There Yet?'” 50 said, “you can never say never.”

(c) 2009, Chicago Tribune. Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.