November 13, 2007 2:00 am
Hoping to blend in with 50 Cent's fans, I wore a hoodie to the rapper's London gig. The ploy seemed to have paid off when I was asked to prove my age when buying a beer. But the concert began, and my spirits wilted as the youths around me went wild.
The show opened with a film showing scenes from Scarface and The Godfather . Gangsta rappers love to compare themselves with Hollywood gangsters, but you can't see much of Al Pacino or Marlon Brando in 50 Cent, aka Curtis Jackson. Constructed like a bodybuilder, as graceful as a Humvee, he is the Arnold Schwarzenegger of rap.
Ageing Arnie made the leap to politics before his movie career tanked. "Fiddy", as the rapper's fans call him, is also trying to diversify. There are 50 Cent-themed clothes and 50 Cent-branded condoms. Yet the public's appetite for his repetitively violent songs appears to be waning.
This autumn he threatened to quit if rival rapper Kanye West's new album outsold his. West duly triumphed. But Fiddy shows no sign of hanging up his baseball cap. On he ploughs, as incorrigible and toxic as an oil tanker.
The bludgeoning, unyielding side of his persona was accentuated live. Songs were reduced to a series of thudding beats, punctuated by the sound of gunshots. "I Get Money", the best track from his dire new album Curtis , lost its belligerent catchiness. "P.I.M.P", a steel drum-sampling ode to pandering, briefly leavened the musical mix but soon the sludge returned.
On record, 50 Cent's rapping has a certain drawly charm - the legacy of a bullet to the jaw when the New Yorker was shot in an attack in 2000. On stage, however, he and a sidekick sounded hoarse and crude. Perhaps that was just as well, because it made the murderous boasts and misogynist fantasies of his lyrics almost indecipherable. Unfortunately, their gist was illustrated by screens showing images of gunplay and soft porn from Fiddy's videos.
Ultra-macho men often have an inadvertently camp air about them. That's not really true of 50 Cent, in spite of the semi-strip he performed at the end of the show. His thuggish persona is leaden and monotonous. Three albums into his career, he has run out of steam.
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