Prior to the release of his mixtape, Curtis Jackson was shot 9 times in Queens, New York. He managed to survive, but was dropped from his label, Columbia, and remained unsigned and in need of producing new music. In 2002, Eminem listened to a copy of 50 Cent's Guess Who's Back? mixtape album through Jackson's attorney, who was working with Eminem's manager Paul Rosenberg. After being impressed with the mixtape, Eminem invited 50 Cent to Los Angeles where he was introduced to producer Dr. Dre. 50 Cent signed a one million dollar record deal with Dr. Dre and released his next mixtape, No Mercy, No Fear. It featured the 8 Mile single, "Wanksta", which was later put on Get Rich or Die Tryin '. Both Eminem and Dr. Dre had started working-productions on his debut album with additional help from producers Mike Elizondo, Sha Money XL among others. The first single "In da Club" was the first of seven tracks he recorded in five days with Dr. Dre. Eminem was featured on a couple songs, such as "Patiently Waiting" and "Don't Push Me". His songs also featured rappers within G-Unit, such as Lloyd Banks ("Don't Push Me"), Tony Yayo ("Like My Style"), and Young Buck ("Blood Hound"). The next single "21 Questions" was not in line to be on the album to Dr. Dre, he stated that he did not want the song on the album. According to 50 Cent, "Dre was, like, 'How you goin' to be gangsta this and that and then put this sappy love song on?'" 50 Cent responded saying, "I'm two people. I've always had to be two people since I was a kid, to get by. To me that's not diversity, it's necessity." "Back Down" and "Heat" were instrumentals originally composed by Tommy Coster and Dr. Dre. They were both originally intended to be used on Rakim's debut Aftermath album, Oh My God, but due to creative differences was not released. Early pressings of Get Rich or Die Tryin' included a limited edition bonus DVD.
Its second single, "21 Questions", became 50 Cent's second chart topper on the Billboard Hot 100, where it remained for four non-consecutive weeks. It spent seven weeks on top of the BillboardHot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts. Outside the States, "21 Questions" reached number six in the United Kingdom. It was certified gold by the RIAA. The third single "P.I.M.P." was shipped with a remix featuring rapper Snoop Dogg and trio-group G-Unit. It was the third single that peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on "Hot Rap Tracks", becoming the third single from the album to peak in the top then on the "Hot 100" chart. It also reached number one in Canada. It was certified Gold by RIAA. The album's final single, "If I Can't", peaked at number seventy-six on the Billboard Hot 100 and thirty-four on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts.
Get Rich or Die Tryin' debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 872,000 copies in its first week. It was the best-selling album of 2003, selling 12 million copies worldwide by the end of the year. It remains 50 Cent's best-selling album, with sales of 8.27 million copies in the United States, and the tenth highest-selling rap album of all time in the country. The album was certified 6× platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipping six million copies in the US.
Get Rich or Die Tryin ' has been called the most hyped rap debut in over a decade and was hailed as a classic by critics when it was released. At Metacritic, it holds an aggregate score of 73 out of 100, based on 19 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
In his review for USA Today, Steve Jones believed that the album is worthy of the hype 50 Cent had attracted because of how he "delivers, in vivid detail, stories of the violent life he led as a crack dealer and speaks with the swagger of one who has been shot nine times and lived to tell about it."Allmusic's Jason Birchmeier described it as "impressive" and "incredibly calculated", and identified it as "ushering in 50 as one of the truly eminent rappers of his era".Rolling Stone magazine's Christian Hoard praised the album's production and 50 Cent's "thug persona" and rapping ability. Brett Berliner of Stylus Magazine felt that he is versatile as a rapper and wrote that, "while not even close to perfection, [the album] is one of the freshest to come out in years." It is one of only 19 rap albums to receive a perfect rating from XXL magazine.
Robert Christgau was less enthusiastic in his consumer guide for The Village Voice and gave it a two-star honorable mention, indicating a "likable effort consumers attuned to its overriding aesthetic or individual vision may well enjoy." He cited "What Up Gangsta" and "Patiently Waiting" as highlights and said that 50 Cent "gets no cuter as his character unfolds" on the album. Kelefa Sanneh of The New York Times wrote that 50 Cent is "an appealing, mischievous character" whose talent for threatening raps aimed toward rivals is also limiting thematically.
In December 2009, Billboard magazine ranked Get Rich or Die Tryin' at number 12 on its list of the Top 200 Albums of the Decade. In 2012, Complex named the album one of the classic releases of the last decade. The single, "In da Club", earned the number-one spot on Billboard 2003's single and album of the year, the first since Ace of Base had both in the same year. "Back Down" was listed on XXL's list of the greatest diss tracks of all time.