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Behind the scenes of 50 Cent vs. Rick Ross: How a lucrative rap beef may end up costing Fiddy

Rapper Rick Ross, left, performs in Las Vegas in 2014; 50 Cent arrives at the premiere of “Real Steel” in California in 2011. (Reuters/Steve Marcus; Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Does anyone have real rap beefs anymore these days, or are they just orchestrated to the mutual benefit of both parties involved?

The one between Rick Ross and 50 Cent is definitely real now. And the feud, as well as 50’s own inability to curb his spiteful misogyny, might end up costing Fiddy millions of dollars.

Fiddy filed for bankruptcy Monday, just three days after a jury ruled that he had to pay Ross’s former girlfriend and co-parent, Lastonia Leviston, $5 million in damages for narrating and posting a sex tape of her on the Internet.

[Our burning questions about 50 Cent’s bankruptcy]

But how did things get to this point? 50 and Ross have been harboring a distaste for one another for years, but it’s worth remembering that in 2009, at the height of their feuding, they were both signed to labels — Island Def Jam and Interscope — owned by the same corporation, Universal Music Group.

In 2009, Ross released a song called “Mafia Music” which referenced 50 by his given name, Curtis Jackson. The track alluded to an incident the previous year when Jackson and the mother of his son, Shaniqua Tompkins, were battling during a deposition for a $50 million lawsuit she filed against him. Tompkins, who dated Jackson for 13 years, lived in a house owned by him in a tony Long Island neighborhood. After they split, he wanted her to pay rent. While 50 was on set filming a movie in Louisiana, the house suspiciously burned down while Tompkins and 50’s son were inside. They both survived. Tomkins told the New York Post someone threw a Molotov cocktail into the house.

So Ross rapped about it:

We steppin’ on your crew til them motherf—— crush
And makin’ sweet love to every woman dat ya lust
I love to pay ya bills, can’t wait to pay ya rent
Curtis Jackson baby mama, I ain’t askin’ for a cent
Burn the house down n—-, you gotta buy another
Don’t forget the gas can, jealous stupid motherf—–

50 answered with the diss track “Officer Ricky (Go Head, Try Me)” in which he threatened to “put a razor through ya face.” He made fun of the fact that Ross’s drug kingpin persona was fraudulent, and that Ross actually used to work as a corrections officer before he found success as a rapper.

The two went back and forth on the Internet with cartoons, memes, and more diss tracks. Their camps clashed at the 2012 BET Hip-Hop Awards.

And then there was the video uploaded to 50’s Web site. In it, 50, as a character named Pimpin’ Curly, narrated a sex tape featuring Leviston and another man — who is not Ross. For good measure, 50 superimposed his own face on top of the man’s, who was Leviston’s then-boyfriend.

It was humiliation by proxy, and Leviston was little more than collateral damage.

Look, Ricky Rozay is no saint either. In 2013, he lost a Reebok endorsement deal and was forced to apologize for lyrics on “U.O.E.N.O” in which he appeared to be co-signing drugging and raping a woman. “Put Molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it/I took her home and enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it,” he rapped.

In June, Ross was arrested on kidnapping and assault charges for allegedly pistol-whipping a construction worker in his Georgia home and holding him against his will. He’s out now after posting a $2 million bond July 1. 50 joked about the arrest on Instagram, but later deleted the video.

But Leviston’s lawsuit, filed in New York state court in 2010, was no laughing matter. She may prove more difficult for 50 to shake than Tompkins was, despite the fact that 50 has tried every way possible to evade a payout.

On May 21, 50 filed a lawsuit claiming Ross was responsible for leaking Leviston’s sex tape and therefore he should be responsible for any damages stemming from Leviston’s lawsuit. Ross reponded with an answer to the complaint, denying everything 50 alleged.

When it appeared that 50’s attempt to place blame for the tape on Ross would fail, 50’s boxing company SMS Promotions filed for bankruptcy in federal court May 26 and asked the federal court to remove Leviston’s case from state court. It was the same day that lawyers from both sides were supposed to begin jury selection. One of Leviston’s lawyers told the New York Daily News the move was an “egregious case of sandbagging.”

“Jackson’s lawyers contend that since he is the primary owner of SMS, this means he, too, is protected from lawsuits by bankruptcy law and they moved to have Leviston’s case to federal jurisdiction,” the paper reported.

But a judge saw through 50’s legal machinations and ruled that the SMS bankruptcy filing would not preclude the rapper from the trial stemming from Leviston’s lawsuit.

Which brings us to Friday, when a jury awarded Leviston $5 million, and Monday, when 50 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. 50 was scheduled to testify about his finances Monday so the jury could deliberate punitive damages in the Leviston case. The judge in the Leviston case delayed the proceedings for a week so her lawyers can challenge 50’s bankruptcy application.

Here’s the thing 50 should keep in mind: courts really don’t like it when you file for bankruptcy and you’re not actually, well, bankrupt.

50 left Interscope last year, and told Canada’s Business News Network he took a $23 million payout when he did. In March, 50 posted a picture of a diamond-encrusted chess set to his Instagram account. “Nobody loves me like me this is a gift to my self,60 carats chess not checkers. I deserve everything I work for,” he wrote in the caption.

Monday night, or perhaps early Tuesday morning, he posted a picture of himself standing next to a Smart car. “Times are hard out here LMAO,” he wrote, suggesting that his financial insolvency is little more than farcical.

All this, just because a public feud would net both him and Ross better album sales.

“Since the dispute started in January, the sales of Ross’ two previous albums have increased by 62 percent, while sales of 50 Cent’s three catalog titles grew by 74 percent, according to Nielsen SoundScan,” Billboard reported in 2009.

Perhaps the ersatz rap wars of the modern era are better than the days when you could end up paying with your Lambo, your jewelry or your life. (Remember in 2005 when a bunch of guys shot Cam’ron, and he claimed it was a botched carjacking?)

Drake’s managed to turn both Rihanna and Serena Williams into music industry Helens of Troy. Puffy has such disdain for him that he punched Drake at a Miami nightclub. But Drake is no stranger to fake beef either. See: his “feudette” with Jay Z.

People like it when rappers are at odds with each other the same way Tamar Braxton and K. Michelle feuding makes for an entertaining distraction from our own ordinary, hum-drum woes.

If it sells more records and no one gets hurt, what’s the harm? Well, in this case, you might just find yourself embroiled in the litigation version of “When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong.”