Go shorty, it’s your birthday: 50 Cent hits Jiffy Lube Live to blow out 20 candles for ‘Get Rich or Die Tryin'”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 50 Cent at Jiffy Lube Live (Part 1)

Did you see Beyonce at FedEx Field in Maryland over the weekend? Are you headed to Pink at Nationals Park in D.C. on Monday night? Why not make it a DMV trifecta with a hip-hop show in Virginia on Tuesday night?

Rapper 50 Cent takes the stage at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Virginia, as his farewell jaunt “The Final Lap Tour” ceremoniously marks the 20th anniversary of his seminal hip-hop album “Get Rich or Die Tryin'” (2003).

Whoa, hold up, has it really been 20 years since 50 Cent exploded onto the scene back in ’03? It feels like yesterday that we were teenagers riding around with the windows down my senior year of high school blasting this hot new album by an unknown Curtis Jackson with the words: “Damn, homie. In high school you was the man, homie!”

As a Top 10 selling rap album of all time, it instantly “put the rap game in a chokehold” with a red album cover showing the native of Queens, New York, defiantly standing through the shattered glass of a bullet hole. In a 1999 incident, the rapper was shot nine times, giving him a dimple scar and canceling the release of what was supposed to be his debut album “Power of the Dollar” (2000), even after singles like “Thug Love” with Destiny’s Child.

Instead, “Get Rich or Die Tryin'” became his debut by Jimmy Iovine’s Interscope Records along with Eminem’s Shady Records, Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Records and 50 Cent’s own G-Unit Records. Its breakthrough hit, “In Da Club,” reached No. 1 as 50 Cent sang, “Go shorty, it’s your birthday” to Dre’s all-time banger of a beat. Dre also joined Eminem in the music video, wearing lab coats to create their protege on treadmills like a fresh hip-hop specimen.

Eminem hopped on the mic to join 50 Cent on the track “Patiently Waiting,” which opens with 50 saying, “Hey, Em, you know you my favorite white boy, right? I owe you for this one.” After 50 Cent’s methodical hook, Eminem’s verse is fire: “Take some Big and some Pac and you mix ’em up in a pot, sprinkle a little Big L on top, what the f*** do you got? You got the realest and illest killers tied up in a knot, the juggernauts of this rap sh**, like it or not.”

Eminem had previously worked with 50 Cent on the “8 Mile” (2002) soundtrack, which won Em an Oscar for “Lose Yourself.” It also featured 50’s “Wanksta,” which returned as a bonus track on “Get Rich or Die Tryin'” with the hook: “You say you a gangsta, but you never pop nothin’, we say you a wanksta and you need to stop frontin’.”

Indeed, 50 Cent oozed the proper street cred required for the “gangsta rap” era of the 1990s and 2000s, from joking references on the aforementioned “In Da Club” (“I’ve been hit with a few shells, but I don’t walk with a limp, I’m aight”) to serious declarations on the merciful track “Many Men” (“Many men wish death upon me, blood in my eye, dawg, and I can’t see, I’m tryin’ to be what I’m destined to be, but [people] trying to take my life away”).

Of course, the album wasn’t all ethos and pathos; other songs like “If I Can’t” were fun-as-hell toe tappers, thanks to another catchy Dr. Dre beat and 50 Cent’s flat-out confidence rapping the chorus, “If I can’t do it, homie, it can’t be done! Now I’ma let the champagne bottle pop, I’ma take it to the top, for sure I’m a make it hot, baby!”

The champagne corks continued to pop on the album’s other party anthems, namely “P.I.M.P.,” which reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. On the plus side, it featured a Caribbean reggae sound with the kind of steelpan drums that originated in Trinidad and Tobago. On the down side, such songs (and videos) from that era glorified a lifestyle of womanizing that today’s culture would frown upon as we move in a more feminist quest toward equality.

Thus, the album features a contradictory juxtaposition with the No. 1 hit “21 Questions” where 50 Cent sings sappy romantic verses like, “I like your smile, I don’t wanna see you cry,” and, “Are you my soulmate? ‘Cause if so, girl you a blessing.” It all builds to a smooth chorus where the “Regulator” himself Nate Dogg mounts up to croon, “Girl, it’s easy to love me now, would you love me if I was down and out? Would you still have love for me?”

It’s a fitting question as 50 Cent never quite recaptured the magic of that first album, though “The Massacre” (2005) delivered hits like “Candy Shop,” “Disco Inferno,” “Just a Lil Bit” and “Outta Control,” while “Curtis” (2007) delivered “I Get Money.” He was also featured on Lil Kim’s “Magic Stick,” The Game’s “How We Do” and Jeremih’s “Down on Me,” while his own group G-Unit launched the careers of Young Buck, Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo.

On screen, he followed in Eminem’s “8 Mile” footsteps to star in his own biopic “Get Rich or Die Tryin'” (2005), written by Terence Winter (“The Sopranos”) and directed by Jim Sheridan (“In the Name of the Father”). He’s since appeared in the HBO series “Entourage” (2009) and the Starz series “Power” (2014-2020), while playing Jake Gyllenhaal’s manager in the boxing flick “Southpaw” (2015), directed by Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”).

Most recently, he was a surprise performer at last year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show, joining Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar and Eminem to descend from the ceiling of a set and hang upside-down to sing “In Da Club” like he had famously done in the music video two decades earlier. The performance was the first halftime show to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety Special, a nice way to tee up his “Final Lap” tour in Virginia.

Tell us if you’re going to the show at Jiffy Lube Live by Tweeting me at @JFrayWTOP or @WTOP.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 50 Cent at Jiffy Lube Live (Part 2)
Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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