50 Cent stripped off his shirt, and cut back to rap basics, when he played London this weekend.
Armed with not much more than a DJ and two backing MCs, the star who was born Curtis James Jackson III fired up a proper old-school hip hop party.
This is 50 Cent’s “Before I Self Destruct” tour, promoting his new album of the same name. Initially, it seemed that “Before I Peter Out” was more apt. The CD had mixed reviews. Wembley Arena was at best two-thirds full for the show. The sound system ballooned the bass and rendered much of his rapping an indistinct mush.
Jackson, 34, worked hard and well, tearing through 40 tracks in two hours. He wore a succession of baseball caps and T-shirts. These kept on falling off and getting flung into the crowd, leaving Jackson displaying a musculature even Da Vinci would have been hard pressed to improve. The beats too were mean and lean; fat free and pumped up for a party.
The show was a testament to the acumen and determination that have seen Jackson rise from poverty in Queens, New York, to being, according to Forbes, the second-richest man in hip hop -- second only to Jay-Z. His current tour will visit Belfast and Manchester, taking in Sicily, Serbia and Macedonia before winding up in Pasching, Austria, on April 8.
The rapping, what could be heard of it, was not the best. Jackson’s basic rhymes lack Eminem’s deviant narratives and the rhythmic curlicues of Jay-Z. His rhymes are straight to the point. The gangster posturing was villainous and comic on stage, an impression assisted by a backdrop illustration of Jackson as The Terminator suffering an apocalyptic migraine.
The saving grace was his determination to have a party. “P.I.M.P.” and “In Da Club” were packed with energy. 50 Cent bounced around, doing the classic hip hop dance: microphone in his left hand, right arm outstretched patting an imaginary Great Dane. In no time at all, the whole crowd had invisible mega-pooches too. If 50 Cent is on his way out, he did not show it. His hip hop party went off with a bang.
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(Robert Heller is a freelance music critic who also writes for Bloomberg. The opinions expressed are his own.)