THE BEGINNING

Can you believe that 50 Cent’s cinematic masterpiece has been in our lives for 11 years?! Andrew Anderson outlines what you’ve been missing all this time.

50cent

GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN’ (2005)
Finest rapper of his decade, misogynist, survivor of a poor and violent childhood, slurring idiot, brilliant businessman, bullet receptacle, gangster. All of these labels and many more have been used to describe 50 Cent, but who is the real Curtis James Jackson III? Luckily for us, back in 2005, he had the Curtis-y (geddit?) to tell all in the semi-autobiographical film Get Rich or Die Tryin’.

Like all the greatest films ever made (Citizen Kane, Sunset Boulevard, Mission Impossible III) GRDT begins with the ending (well, near the ending). We see 50 Cent and his gang robbing a local shop. The shop isn’t the only thing being robbed, as 50 Cent’s sidekick Bama (played by Terrence Howard) steals the scene too with an atrocious piece of overacting. “I kill motherfuckers,” he says, “but I love you – I’ll do anything for you!” etc. Fiddy is not impressed, and tells him to calm down and stop shooting innocent people. This makes you think the film is going to portray Jackson as a good guy who happens to be a gangster, but, to be fair to him, he doesn’t try to pass off that shit with us – in fact, this is the only time you will see him acting with anything other than relish about the prospect of someone getting shot.

Anyway, they balls up the burglary and Fiddy gets shot himself – yep, you guessed it – nine times. As he lays dying on the pavement we hear him in voiceover: “I’d been looking for my father my whole life…” Cue a flashback through Fiddy’s entire life and, let’s be honest, it’s a tough one: his mother is killed while selling drugs, he has no idea who his father is and his entire community gets torn apart by crack cocaine (the fact that he sells crack himself is conveniently ignored). The kid they get to play young 50 Cent looks convincingly like him and plays the part perfectly – half innocent, half tough.

Kid fiddy starts to rap at this point, and comes up with a song called ‘Best Friend’ which he uses to seduce a local girl. It features the lyric: “I see something special when I look in your eyes / With your legs way back I see this pussy is mine.”

The girl is about 10 at this point, so her parents are understandably a bit upset. The result is she gets sent away to live with some distant relative while Fiddy gets in no trouble whatsoever. He seems to just accept this injustice, and has little to say about the female shame/blame culture, possibly because he is too busy harping on about how many times he’s been shot (yeah, yeah – nine).

At this point I should reveal a few things about myself. I am a white male from a privileged middle class background. I play guitar in a garage rock band and know almost nothing about hip-hop beyond a few records by Public Enemy, De La Soul and the Beastie Boys. In other words, I am in no way qualified to discuss the talent – or lack thereof – on display in 50 Cent’s rapping. However, I am going to do that anyway because that’s what privileged white people do.

One of the unfortunate side effects of 50 Cent being shot nine times (other than the fact he won’t shut up about it) is that it gives him a slight speech impediment. Being the driven man that he is, he turned this trouble into a trademark and his slightly slurry style made him millions, but the truth is that 50 Cent isn’t a very good rapper, which this film (accidentally) makes evident. Strip away the beats and you’re left with a man who sounds like he is learning to read. He is slow, hesitant and monotonous, with laughable rapping in several scenes.

What he can do, though, is write a hook. Sure, Eminem and Dr Dre have played their part, but even so it is clear that Jackson has an innate ability to come up with something catchy. ‘Candy Shop’, ‘In Da Club’ and even the aforementioned ‘Best Friend’ all begin to loop in your head after just a few listens.

Where were we – oh yeah… so when Fiddy grows up he decides to become a gangster. This means selling drugs, shooting people and having sex with women. Eventually he gets sent to jail where he realises his true ambition is to become a rapper – a quest aided by his newfound prison pal Bama (the scene-stealer from earlier). When he eventually gets released he decides he is going straight – no more crack. He is still up for robbing, though, so off they go to rob a shop, where the shooting happens, and now we’re back to the beginning of the film. Phew.

But wait, that’s not the end, because while he does get shot somewhere between eight and ten times, Fiddy survives. He hooks up with his girlfriend (forgot to mention this: remember that girl he drove into exile earlier? They now have a baby together) and becomes a rap superstar, shooting most of his enemies and symbolically removing a bullet proof vest on stage to show he is no longer afraid and he is just going to be true to himself. Hooray!

It’s similar to Eminem’s Eight Mile – hardly surprising – but while GRDT has an equally compelling story it is hard to look past this one central fact: 50 Cent can’t rap. Given his affinity for getting shot he’s not much of a gangster either.

Promoting yourself as a musician based on the fact you got shot nine times is like being a flower arranger whose brand is that he once got a light bulb stuck up his arse: interesting maybe, but irrelevant to the craft. You’d only wonder, ‘why doesn’t he talk more about the flowers and less about the lightbulb?’

This film succeeds because it unintentionally gives us an accurate portrait of Curtis James Jackson III: a crap rapper who openly promotes violence, misogyny and homophobia – but boy can he write a hook or two.

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