Fri, Feb 24, 2006 - Page 13 News List

Welcome to the 'hood'

50 Cent is the biggest name in hip hop and will be hustling in Taipei tonight

By Jules Quartly  /  STAFF REPORTER

50 Cent is an evil genius who sells more sweet hooks and sour lyrics than anyone else and that's the main reason why around 30,000 people are expected to turn up for the rapper's show tonight at Zhongshan Football Stadium.

They will also attracted by the 30-year-old's fascinating story: his rise from the wreckage of a horribly scarred New York ghetto childhood to become the planet's hottest hip-hop artist and a celluloid hero in last year's semi-autobiographical movie Get Rich Or Die Tryin'.

It's an almost mythological tale of tragedy, violence, cunning and transcendence that begins in Queens, where Curtis James Jackson III was born. He never knew his dad and his drug-dealing mother was murdered when he was eight. He sold drugs in his teens and did seven months in a "shock incarceration" boot camp for committing various felonies, taking the name 50 Cent from a gangster of the same name when he was killed.

The wheel of fortune turned when he met up with Run DMC's master rapper Jam Master J, who taught him how to deliver lyrics and match beats. It turned again when 50 Cent was shot nine times in front of his grandparents' house.

The record company Columbia dropped 50 Cent as a result of the shooting, but destiny was looking after him and he was picked up by Eminem and Dr. Dre, who helped produce his first single Wanksta. The following album in 2003, Get Rich Or Die Tryin, was massive and since then he has been producing songs which are as addictive as the crack he used to push.

A street-educated man but a smart player, 50 Cent has made the most of his opportunities and now has his own company, supported by the G Unit crew. He has had Reebok sneakers named after him and a video game 50 Cent: Bulletproof. He now pimps records, movies, his own clothing line and even bottled water.

50 Cent is the latest in a picaresque line of black US artists -- stretching back to the blues legends of the early 20th century -- who have revealed the dark side of the American dream with a simple melody and a telling story.

It's all there in song titles like Thug Life, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Gun Runners, This Is a Stickup and Hustler's Ambition. He lays it on the line with lyrics like, "I'm so gutter, so ghetto, so hood/So gully, so grimy, what's good?" -- Disco Inferno.

Everyone knows 50 Cent's the real deal -- it ain't Milli Vanilli -- so when he raps about the street you're forced to listen because he's been there and done it. It's the antidote to bubble gum pop and apple pie in the land of plenty.

The strange thing, on first glance, is why this message resonates around the world. Ximending in Taipei is not Queens, but the hip-hop stores there are doing brisk business selling rap CDs, baggy, ghetto clothing, thug life chains and accessories.

Ah-han (阿漢) sells Karl Kani gear at a typical Ximending hip-hop outlet. He lays out on the counter his collection of 50 Cent albums, including the bootlegs and live videos, and says In Da Club and P.I.M.P are not only the cuts of choice for his clients, but they are practically anthems for many young Taiwanese.

"Many people don't understand the lyrics, but you don't always have to because you can understand the feeling, the heaviness. We don't have to live a New York gangster's life to understand it," Ah-han said.

"The other thing is that parents and the government don't like this kind of music, so it's logical that kids who are rebelling against control will like it."

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