50 Cent at the House of Blues, 2003

By Mark Guarino

50 Cent’s triumphant smile is for real. This year, he arrived from nowhere to score the number one album in the country for seven weeks in a row, 4 million albums sold to date and the financial backing of Eminem, the biggest pop culture icon of the last ten years.   

That said, the star sold his fans more than two quarters short when he walked off the stage at the House of Blues Saturday night, after an 11-song, 25-minute set. Fans booed and he didn’t return.   

Cher and Mariah Carey have been getting away with that kind of diva temperament for years. But these days, in the age of instant celebrity and reality television stardom, more first-time performers have been groomed to believe they’ve earned the right to flaunt bad attitudes and obnoxious temperaments to the peril of their public. Talent and perseverance may be an asset, but it pales in comparison to an aggressive marketing department or a celebrity benefactor whose job is to create the illusion that fame is a birthright.   

Indeed, 50 Cent’s sold-out show — the first of two Saturday night — had the feel of a quickie promotional appearance than a headlining performance. Backed by a DJ, a posse of several hype men and three backing rappers, 50 Cent played the dual roles of a baby-faced heartthrob (shirtless by the third song) and a gangster on the run. A former drug dealer from Queens who cleaned up his life to work on his music, he is routinely photographed wearing a bulletproof vest after a well-publicized near-death experience being shot nine times.   

The vests were regulation wear for everyone onstage, even though they looked more like costumes than actual necessities. Born as Curtis Jackson, the 26-year-old’s real life street struggles helped beef up his credibility as the mischievous thug he portrays in his music. Though on Saturday, the menace quotient was nonexistent. Like far too many hip-hop shows that forego the musical edge in the albums in favor of cheerleading, his set stuck to all the formulaic party cliches.   

50 Cent is a newcomer with a sizable discography (a major label debut plus many independent releases). He chose to stick just a few of his best-known radio hits like “Wanksta,” “P.I.M.P.,” and “What Up Gangsta.” He performed them with the commitment of someone who was thinking of the meter running high in their limo parked downstairs.

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