"Which way is the concert?" I asked, as our taxi parked outside Ziggo Dome Arena in Amsterdam.
"Just follow that herd of people," the Uber driver laughed.
I looked in the direction the driver was suggesting and chuckled to myself. There were hundreds, maybe thousands of people walking ahead. We've all come here for one reason tonight. A spectacle, something more than a show, a core memory! This is 50 Cent's Final Lap!!
Like most of the world, I'm a huge 50 fan. My first concert experience was the 50 Cent & G Unit Concert in Birmingham when I was just 11 years old, and I even wore the Concert T-shirt in P.E Class proudly. I listened to the mixtapes, the albums, played the video game, studied his book, and went to see him for a second time with the Unit in Manchester when I was 24 years old. I'm a real fan!
So this time, I had to do it big, right!? And what's better than seeing him in Amsterdam.
Let's get the obvious question out of the way first.... Can you smoke in the Arena?? My answer is, it's Amsterdam, and it's a Hip Hop Concert… do the math! I'm not saying it's advertised or encouraged to smoke in the arena, but it definitely smelled like Snoop Dogg had sponsored the event personally! To be honest, it added to the atmosphere. I've seen 50 a couple of times but never high!
The infamous Busta Rhymes took the stage first, in tremendous style. His vocal command, magnetic energy, and microphone control are to be studied. Busta really showcased what it means to be a seasoned artist. He's a master of his craft, with a legacy of hit records that have kept our heads bopping for over three decades now. Of course, he was accompanied by Spliffstar; their loyalty to each other is inspiration in itself. I liked the idea of Busta supporting 50; it was a respectable nod to a living legend but also showed the audience how far Hip Hop music can go. I feel like 50 is inspired by Busta, in a little brother big brother way. If Busta can still do it at this level, at this stage in his life and career - 50 has no excuse. We know 50 thrives off this kind of competitive energy, and it has probably helped fuel this monster worldwide tour. Busta Rhymes has also announced he has an album ready for release, ‘BlockBusta,’ executively produced by Pharrell, Timbaland, and Swiss Beats - CRAZY! This performance and that lineup are enough to have me excited.
Now, let's get to the main man himself, 50 aka Ferrari. From the first note, it was clear to hear the quality put into this production. The live band was absolutely incredible, the audio sonics were crystal clear, and the stage setup looked the part. 50 is a professional. Accompanied by Tony Yayo and Uncle Murda, he took to the stage and delivered his first hit, with a smile. The crowd roared with excitement, and 50 sung and rapped even harder, in appreciation. The show had begun! For the next 30 minutes straight, 50 brought his amazing catalog to life. Back to back, energetic performances, with dancers and without, but all the while holding the audience's attention in his hand. Everybody was singing along, everybody was dancing - there’s just too many hit singles in this man's arsenal!
There was a brief dance interval where 50 did a full costume change, and returned with a tracklist of some of his deeper cuts. A standout was his performance of ‘I'm The Man.’ I feel like it's the first time I've been able to tap into the drama of this song; the laser show and contemporary dancing in this performance really brought that to the surface. 50 is an artist. There were no backing vocals on his tracks - I don’t think Busta would let him use those. But 50 sounded strong enough without them. He continued to dominate the stage with hits, and his show came to an end. Of course, the crowd demanded an encore, and Yayo & Uncle Murda did a good job at turning the arena into a Pantomime, to get 50 back on stage. When he did return, he did so in great fashion, running through a ton of his lesser-known, raw mixtape cuts. The crowd went crazy! I was in the right place; this was the super 50 Cent fan club. I have never seen 50 perform these songs, not even on his debut tour, and this was a real treat.
It goes without saying I had the time of my life. It will go down as one of my favorite concerts of all time, maybe tied with the Watch The Throne Concert. After 20 years, 50 Cent is still able to bottle up magic and put on a stellar show. He takes his craft seriously, and it shows. I have no idea how he has managed this incredible run of back-to-back international shows, to such a level. The man is a machine. If he dropped an album right now, the world would accept it with gratitude. However, 50 Cent is smart! He won't make a move that isn't part of a larger strategy. The fact that no album has been announced suggests he's not happy with the music he has just yet and tweaks need to be made. Or perhaps he doesn't have the rollout strategy or distribution partner he wants. Whatever the reason, we can rest knowing that it is for a good reason. I am happy basking in the nostalgia that 50 Cent brings on this tour. It really did activate core memories for me, and I saw that it did the same for others in the audience. We don't need another 50 album just yet, and he doesn't need the money or the clout. 50 has teased the ‘Street King Immortal’ album for the best part of a decade, and I do believe we will get that album when he's ready to move that chess piece.
As the beats and the echoes of the crowd's cheers faded away, there was a lingering sense of gratitude in the air. 50 Cent, the hip-hop maestro, didn't just give us a concert; he handed us a ticket to a nostalgic ride through his iconic hits. Exiting the Ziggodome Arena, surrounded by the huge buzz of excited fans, I couldn't shake off the feeling that we'd all just shared something special. It was a natural high. In a world constantly changing, 50 Cent stands tall as a symbol of authenticity.