Concert review: 50 Cent at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg

Last night, 50 Cent gave the 1,000-plus fans at Jannus Live a crash course in vapid consumerism; or at least, that’s all I got out of it.

It was 8:45 p.m. as I waded into the sea of chesty silicon, bulging muscle tissue, and bleached designer jeans that swarmed around Jannus Live, 50 Cent promo posters strewn over the bare walls, 50 Cent’s big-ass noggin stamped across the stage banner, and a photographer set up in the back taking pictures for you and all your friends in front of ... wait for it ... a giant 50 Cent banner;  it was hard to tell the difference between the sweat and bulbous drops of Fiddy’s ego raining down on the place.  Even so, it’s a hip-hop concert. Rampant egos have, and probably always will, come with the territory of big name rap artists, so I understand. Kind of.

Actually, you know what? No, I don’t understand. I was really just trying to give this concert the benefit of the doubt; be the awkward white dude writing his little fish-out-of-water story for a few ha-has. And really, who am I to judge when my first live hip-hop experience, ever, consisted of watching three Jay-Z songs at Bonnaroo less than a week ago?

Some things just can’t be ignored, however. It’s hard to believe50 and his team had any motive behind all these promo shenanigans other than drinking from a diamond-speckled revenue stream; as if one of the biggest names in modern rap really needs any more cash in his pockets. If I’m led to believe in the validity of Get Rich or Die Tryin’, 50 came from nothing and struggled long and hard, like many in the game do, to get to the top.

So much for empathizing with anyone who’s living that reality now. A $48 concert ticket is a chunk of change to go and see your idol, someone you might have thought was like you, or, I guess, like you at one point in his life. Economic alienation, that’s some real O.G. shit….

Maybe the show, the real meat of the whole thing, would make up for it, I thought to myself.

After a whole five seconds of introductory crowd-pumping from Fiddy and the rest of G-Unit crew (Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo), I feared it wouldn't. Posse rap has a reputation for being notoriously bad in a live setting and this show was no exception. Any hopes of hearing the same smooth, bouncy cadence of 50 in the studio were drowned out by loud, muddled bass and the incessant barking of, like, every other word in the song by Banks and Yayo. We get it; you guys know the words to 50 cent songs. So do we. That’s why we’re here. Could you chill out for a minute so we can hear the dude we came to see?

I don’t know — maybe if I was hammered drunk (I wasn’t) and snuggled amidst a warm crowd of cute chicks (negative on that one, too), my story might've been a little different, but it just wasn’t good. I’d be more creative with  my criticism, but I feel my response equaled the utterly uninspiring, play-it-safe schtick G-Unit was barfing up all over us that night.

A redeeming moment came in the middle of the set when some unnamed R&B guy (who sang backup on a previous song) did a little ditty of “Let’s Get it On” with the back-up band. It was fresh, soulful, and good, for the whole two minutes he did it.  Hallelujah! But, it was gone as fast as it started and we were back to the mongoloid, gunshot-riddled rap that continued for another hour.

50 played all his most popular hits, including “P.I.M.P,” which actually verged on being lyrically decipherable, “Candy Shop,” “In Da Club,” and “Wanksta.” A few head nods and questionable booty-grinds were spotted, but not nearly as much as I expected at a concert like this. A big shout out to the sole little person and all the old, cigar-chomping white dudes breaking it down, though. That was … interesting.

Overall, 50 Cent’s show was a complete and utter let down. Stage banter was almost nonexistent, save a weird, contrived rant that involved dissing Diddy (“His new shit is wack” or something like that) and Drake (“I can never tell if he’s singing or rapping”), one of the best up-and-coming rap artists today. Reading through the blogosphere, it’s been noted that he’s dissed these rappers, in nearly the exact same fashion, at previous shows. Picking on Diddy = ok, pretty funny. Picking on the new guy, the same dude who was in your shoes 7 or 8 years ago, trying to break into the game = cheap. Doing it at every show?  What are you, like 12? You could always just pass us a folded note under the desk saying who you like, too…

50’s got the whole tough guy thing down, no doubt (you try getting shot nine times), but last night’s dull, tedious show just solidified the fact that he’s the living, breathing version of the phrase “If you’re gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough.”

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