It was great fun to see 50 Cent at Xcel Energy Center on Friday night celebrate the 20th anniversary of his breakthrough album, “Get Rich or Die Tryin’.”
However, the nearly sold-out concert also could have been advertised under another title: “Get Rich and Retire.”
At a mere 48, the rapper born Curtis Jackson III billed his current concert run as the Final Lap Tour. He has talked about scaling way back as a live performer in interviews, too. The fact that he’s become a well-known TV actor and producer in the Starz series “Power” and other roles alternately makes his claims more believable (acting is probably more lucrative) and doubtable (he’s a pretty good actor, after all).
One thing for certain: The retirement claims helped him pack the St. Paul arena, with around 15,000 fans. It also added a good storyline and verve to Friday’s slick and entertaining 90-minute performance.
In the second of two opening sets, Busta Rhymes was far from slick. One of rap’s all-time most powerful and rapid rhymers, the New York vet, 51, showed off his breakneck skills in only a few short instances, including for “Break Ya Neck.” Instead, he cut tunes short and let his hype man, Spliff Star, handle more of the rapping — while the actual star talked a lot.
Busta repeatedly shouted out his youngest of six children, 15-year-old son Sicario, who lives in the Twin Cities. He also made a long plug for a new album out soon, playing a snippet of the new single, “Beach Ball,” and saying, “I am intendent on opening a fresh can of whoopass the rest of the year.”
No retirement claims in his case, anyway.
From an explosive walk-on for opening songs “The Invitation” and “What Up Gansta,” 50 Cent’s set boasted an impressive, going-for-broke stage production. It included: four giant video blocks that moved around the stage; moving lasers and hifi lighting rigs; steady blasts of pyro and confetti, and a troupe of 10 very hard-working, highly flexible female dancers.
The rap star (also a New Yorker) had a tight and potent live band in tow, too, which added darker undertones to some of the night’s heavier tunes such as “Many Men (Wish Death).” However, the audio mix in the arena sounded muddy off and on through the show, as the musicians and 50’s two hype men competed with pre-recorded tracks.
There was quite a mix of wardrobe changes, too. After coming out in all-black T-shirt and jeans for the opening song, the rap star — who owns his own clothing line — channeled his inner-Cher and changed looks every few songs.
Before “Magic Stick,” he came back out donning a baby blue tracksuit. For “Big Rich Town,” he wore a fancier-looking all-white jean suit with matching walking cane. And so on. He didn’t wear anything surprising or outrageous, though; the plainness actually made all the changes seem kind of silly.
The set list was obviously loaded with oldies from the “Get Rich” album, which chronicled Jackson’s rebirth from a real-life, gunshot-wounded gangster to becoming one of Dr. Dre’s and Eminem’s protégés on his way to the top of the Billboard charts.
He took to the B-stage at the end of the runway for “P.I.M.P.” early in the set, one of the best-received songs of the night. The megahit “In Da Club” came about three-quarters of the way through, accompanied by a birthday-worthy array of confetti and streamers.
From gangster to movie star, 50 flashed some of his film posters across the video screens before “Big Rich Town,” a mean, minor hit from 2014. Which was about as current as the show got. None of 50’s singles in recent years have gotten a lot traction — which could also be incentive for retirement. So he instead filled in the lengthy, 30-plus-song set list with tunes by his side group the G-Unit, including “Rider, Pt. 2” and “Grimy.”
In the end, he never mentioned the R-word (retirement) or said any ebullient goodbye. It was just a regular farewell at show’s end. The show itself, however, was irregularly grand in scale and had a last-hurrah energy to it. So maybe he does mean it.