By Larry Nager
The Cincinnati Enquirer
This time it was a real concert. Rapper 50 Cent returned to Cincinnati Sunday night and put on an actual show. His February debut at downtown's Next Level was 40 minutes of half-hearted rapping to pre-recorded tracks, with no opening act and tickets as high as $100.
Sunday at Bogart's was a relative bargain - 50 minutes of 50 Cent for 40 bucks. He even brought an opening act, Virginia rap duo Clipse, with its special guests Rosco P. Coldchain. Xzibit, scheduled to perform, was a no-show.
The sellout crowd of 1,464 didn't complain. Predominantly white college kids, the crowd also included teen-aged Britney wannabes and a smattering of real gangstas. But unlike the Next Level show, in which there were dozens of fights, only one brawl broke out, quickly broken up by Bogart's security. There was a heavy police presence outside and Vine Street was peaceful both before and after the show.
50 Cent's first appearance here was primarily a promotion for his national CD, Get Rich or Die Tryin'. Powered by 50 Cent's highly publicized gangsta past (an ex-drug dealer, he survived being shot nine times in 2000), and with Eminem and Dr. Dre producing, the disc shot to No. 1, and has sold more than 4 million copies.
The crowd knew all the songs and chanted along, from his opener, "U No Like Me" (in which he brags about getting shot and being tougher than other rappers: "They ain't strong enough to take nine like me.") through his closer, "Green Lantern" (which continues that theme: "I write my life. You write what you seen in gangster movies.").
He opened his show in a Seattle Sonics jersey, stripping down to his trademark bulletproof vest (his four-man posse in matching Kevlar), then to a sleeveless T-shirt and finally to his bare chest. He was more of a showman this time out, even stage diving into the crowd.
Despite the crowd's enthusiastic participation, 50 Cent, like most old-school rappers, has a hard time making his act come alive onstage. Even at only 50 minutes, his set dragged and dozens left before it was over. He needs to pace himself better. He's still loading the front end of his set with his hits - "In Da Club," "Wanksta" and "P.I.M.P," leaving casual fans little reason to stick around.
But perhaps the problem goes deeper. This gangsta rapper is a much better gangsta than rapper. 50 Cent's delivery was hoarse and breathless, his words often unintelligible. The rappers of Clipse delivered far more imaginative rhymes with greater power and clarity.
Maybe that's why 50 Cent makes such a big deal about how real his raps are. But if that were all it took, Cops would be a better TV show than The Sopranos. There's more to art than just being real.
Especially now. At this moment there are thousands of young American men and women being a whole lot tougher than this pampered rap star. And I'd be willing to bet a lot of them can rap better than him, too.
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