At Age 15, Watching 50 Cent Upstage Jay Z In Houston
50 Cent at the Austin Music Hall during SXSW 2012
Photo by Marco Torres
When I went back to Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion last month, escorting two women to see Kid Rock, nostalgia had begun to set in. I work as a chauffeur, and have driven plenty of driving people to concerts over the years; taking kids to see Ke$ha felt like I was committing a sin. On the way to One Direction, the pre-teen girls in the car fawned over Harry Styles and begged me, "Do you have any hip-hop?"
Pre-teen girls are the worst at that.
But my first-ever visit to CWMP occurred ten years ago this month. You see, long before Jay Z married Beyonce, he had to be wed to 50 Cent for about three months. Not in the literal sense, but the two were then co-headlining their own tour, were both bedfellows with Reebok and had a mini-Cold War going on stemming from 50's inclusion of Jay on 1999's "How To Rob" and Jay's retort, "I'm about a dollar, what the fuck is 50 Cent?" at Summer Jam later that year. It made for one interesting night.
Not to be left out, it was also the night I lost my concert virginity. And this was 2003, so names like Sean Paul and Fabolous mattered. Elaborate New York-themed backdrops for 50 Cent to assert that he was the king of the city mattered. Busta Rhymes doing his best to outshine everybody positioned ahead of him mattered.
Online, very little exists that constitutes press for the concert, the biggest rap show ever held at the Pavilion at the time. A May 2003 article from the Houston Chronicle gave a small hint of Jay Z's then-nascent relationship with Beyoncé. Everybody who was there, including the 15-year-old me who had became a Jay Z fan for good after 2001's The Blueprint, remembers a sort of flawless live show, including Beyonce appearing for 2002's "'03 Bonnie & Clyde."
Even then they played like the cutest sort-of couple in existence. Despite Hov's being the headliner, the crowd had to pull itself together after the three-man onslaught that was G-Unit. To date, it's the only time I can think that Jay seemed overshadowed, outpositioned and out-muscled by somebody, and that guy was 50 Cent.
The second half of my freshman year of high school, all signs pointed towards 50 Cent being a thing. Like, wifebeaters and muscles literally became a thing in high school. Dudes wanted to wear their doo-rags and let the tail get tucked in and try to punch people. You know how lame it is now to ask a chick "21 Questions"? In 2003, that got you ALL THE WOMEN.
Couldn't tell a dude nothing if he asked a girl, "Would you cheat on a test for me," in that part-New York, part-down South accent 50 had mastered following getting shot.
Let that sink in for a minute: he got better after being shot.
I didn't have a date to the concert, so I went with a childhood friend and his homeboy, who looked like he put out blunts with the ends of his shaggy black hair. I think he's in jail now; who knows?
In other words, no girl was getting my "21 Questions" approach that night, to the dismay of many. But it was clearly a learning experience, one that a decade past almost seems like a distant world -- one where 50 Cent was clearly the most intimidating presence in music.
And a hero to every short man who loved wearing brassiere-like wifebeaters in public.
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