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In celebration of a decade past the recording of his monumental album, “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” rapper 50 Cent blundered his way through a tribute performance at the Austin Music Hall and several times through looked to consider ending the whole show early. With regularity, the 36-year-old Curtis Jackson forgot lines and cut songs short, showing signs of frustration with himself and the crowd’s staggering excitement towards seeing the multi-platinum selling album performed in its entirety, live, for the first time ever. Often he and his hype men would have to remind the packed theater of the album’s importance and of the sort of applause 50 Cent deserves for it -— points that should have been self-apparent.
As part of Shady Records’ South by Southwest showcase, the show’s most exciting moments were when Eminem joined his former protégé onstage, to the audience’s delight. But, otherwise, there were no other truly notable guests and for such a first-time event the show felt miscalculated and poorly delivered.
“I guess it’s not what I have done for you, it’s what have I done for you lately,” 50 Cent said to the audience at one point, bitterly.
The performance highlights were the album’s singles, which were clearly the reason most came to the show — “In Da Club”, “P.I.M.P.”, “21 Questions” and “If I Can’t” among them — dancing harder and singing louder along to those. But with 50 Cent’s struggling delivery the tracks in between often lulled, and though plenty in the audience sang along to every song with a true fan’s proficiency, it was clear most were there to hear the hits and engage in the nostalgic spectacle. 50 Cent picked up on this too, sometimes looking out toward the 4,000-person sea of Austin locals and SXSW participants with an accomplished smile and sometimes with a desperate look of disappointment.
The show’s strangest moment came before the encore when 50 Cent left the stage with a simple and slight, “Thank you all for coming, have a good night.” The crowd’s response was lackluster and for a while it looked as if 50 Cent might not come back.
“Ya’ll are bullshit, do you even know what just happened?” asked one of 50 Cent’s hype-man MCs who stayed onstage with a DJ, trying to get the audience involved. But the more he talked, the less the crowd cheered and it began to look that there were problems. “I don’t know what’s going on,” he said after a few minutes when 50 Cent still hadn’t returned to the stage, “I’m getting paid to talk right now,” and joked that he and the DJ could lose their jobs.
Eventually 50 Cent did return with Eminem for a 10-minute encore that included Eminem’s 50 Cent featuring songs “Till I Collapse” and “Crack a Bottle.”
Afterwards, as the masses spilled onto the Austin streets, I asked a group of three men who’d been there to rate the show. They agreed on 6.5, out of 10, as a fair number. And surly some points were granted for what 50 Cent has done for them, not what he has done for them lately.
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