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50 Cent’s headline show was a hip hop festival in itself

There’s an echelon of bona fide hip hop superstar throughout history who, for whatever reason, rarely pop up in conversations regarding who is the GOAT rapper.

50 Cent is in that category, perhaps for the reason he mentioned on stage, toward the close of his set, tonight: “I had two hit records, a few records with some hot songs… It’s 15 years since Get Rich Or Die Trying came out, and 15 years since I had a number one record,” before making a point that he was still standing on stage in front of a sprawling crowd of fans. Curtis Jackson bears a resonant honesty. He has the wit of a pugilist (that’s a compliment), minus the overbearing braggadocio.

Beginning proceedings at Melbourne Showgrounds was a rising star: Milingimbi rapper Baker Boy. His set varied slightly from his barnstorming run at Laneway Festival a week prior, with a crowd-pleasing dance-crew session given a standalone spotlight this evening. Working a sizable early-bird crowd is a challenge, with a slight waver with between-song banter the only hint of nerves. Baker Boy’s tracks stood tall, ‘Cloud9’ and ‘Marryuna’ especially – replete with freestyle didj breakdowns.

The fact that 15,000 odd people were here, and loving, an all-black lineup was pointed out by Briggs and Trials towards the end of A.B Original’s storming performance. The instrumental for ‘Firing Squad’ switched into Ice Cube’s ‘It Was A Good Day’ beat after the borrowed “Fucked around got a triple-double” line, the setlist closing with guest appearances from Caiti Baker and Dan Sultan, with a one-two punch of the ‘Dumb Things’ remix and ‘January 26’.

50’s touring DJ Chubby Chub copped a blast post-encore from the man himself for cueing up the wrong track (reminiscent of Biggies’ ’95 Summer Jam spray at DJ Kap), but Chubby Chub’s most questionable move came when he dropped UB40’s ‘Red Red Wine’ in the lead-up to 50’s set. Not a remix, just the smooth reggae, Gold FM staple between hip-hop bangers from Bobby Shmurda and A$AP Ferg. Without wallowing in nostalgia, it’s reminiscent of the Big Day Out main stage. Punters trying to vault the D-barrier between GA and premium, and consequentially being cleaned up by security. Even with three acts, it felt like a streamlined festival experience.

50 has hits. After a slightly corny start with LED sunglasses, we get down to business with ‘What Up Gangsta?’ and ‘P.I.M.P’. We’re reminded of 50 Cent’s successful (if not blockbuster) acting career with clips of TV show Power backdropping ‘Big Rich Town’. A self-awareness is present, but 50 doesn’t buy into his own myth. Dare I say it, but he’s a bit of an affable dork at times. Confetti cannons fire for ‘In Da Club’, a down-and-dirty club anthem that doesn’t require confetti cannons. The spectacle, and the quickly disposed-of LED glasses, are the only set dressing throughout the set. It speaks for 50’s ability to command a crowd of this magnitude, throughout the encore where tracks were rapidly fired from off the hip. “Y’all don’t have a curfew do you? I can do this forever.” We believe him.

Highlight: All killer no filler, from Baker Boy opening to 50’s send-off.

Lowlight: Still trying to wrap my head around ‘Red Red Wine’ going off.

Crowd Favourite: Being taken to the Candy Shop.