50 Cent promises he really is bankrupt. (Ignore all those wads of cash on Instagram)

Get rich—or die tryin’ to prove you’re not.
Get rich—or die tryin’ to prove you’re not.
Image: Reuters/Brendan McDermid
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There is perhaps no celebrity tale of woe less believed than 50 Cent’s right now. Ever since the the rapper—real name Curtis James Jackson III—filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection following a strange $5-million sex-tape feud with fellow rapper Rick Ross last summer, the answering skepticism has been loud for a man whose first album sold more than 10 million copies: Could he really be broke?

Photos on 50 Cent’s Instagram would suggest he isn’t. In the last few months, the rapper has posted shots of himself flashing wads of cash—with one particularly memorable photo featuring the man sitting on the ground next to stacks of hundred-dollar bills that spell out “B-R-O-K-E”—to Instagram and other social media.

Called this week to explain the photos in front of a Connecticut court, 50 Cent and his lawyers declared the cash was prop money—and the photos simply meant to promote his new song—ironically titled, “Too Rich.”

The rapper further said: “Just because I am photographed in or next to a certain vehicle, wearing an article of clothing, holding a product, sitting next to what appears to be large sums of money or modeling expensive pieces of jewelry does not meant that I own everything in those photos.”

In addition, he clarified in court documents, he does not own any property in Africa, despite scribbling on Instagram some months ago that he was planning “the craziest housewarming party ever” at his new mansion in Africa.

Basically—50 Cent says he isn’t nearly as rich as he says he is (again ironic, as his first major album was called Get Rich or Die Tryin’).

Perhaps it’s a ploy: some suggest that, given fellow music mogul Kanye West’s recent declarations that he too is strapped for cash, flaunting one’s apparent poverty has become a new celebrity fashion. On the other hand, maybe 50 Cent’s lavish wealth truly is mostly for show. The aspirational culture of hip-hop and rap tends to demand a certain public persona—one that, the rapper and his lawyers argue, doesn’t accurately reflect the real finances of a private individual named Curtis James Jackson III.

In any case, 50 Cent didn’t leave the bankruptcy hearing happy. Shortly afterward, he posted a spate of photos with captions declaring “the system is so messed up” and “the law applies differently to people based on the personal perception of them.”

One of the images, of course, features thick wads of benjamins tucked in his belt.