There comes a time in every journalist’s career when he has to decide between the story and personal interests. Sometimes we get lucky and the story has a bit of both worlds. Other times, there’s more of a pull from the opposite direction. Things like safety, family, friendship, nourishment, sex and happiness tend to complicate our already jumbled list of priorities.
50 Cent’s debut performance in South America, on October 30 in Santiago’s Movistar Arena, was my first time faced with such a decision.
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The second I stepped off the metro, I could tell it was going to be a different kind of show. The short walk from the station to the arena was lined with vendors selling everything from completos and sopapillas to 50 Cent flags, G-Unit bandanas and hats of every color in the urban rainbow. People were drinking, smoking and partaking in other various recreational activities on the lawn surrounding the arena. The bar by the stadium was full, and the liquor store just down the street was crowded with a not quite threatening, but somewhat flaite scene.
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Inside, the arena was about three-quarters full and unimpressively decorated. Tickets were clearly still available and the stage's only real embellishment was the huge 50-Cent/G-Unit backdrop with screens on either side.
Concert-goers dressed in US east coast fashion, topped with an outdated, slightly stolen charm that was dirty, dark and deliberate. The fellas rocked camouflage, bruises and bandages, gold and silver chains, jewelry, Yankees hats, baggy jeans and throwback jerseys ranging from Barry Sanders to my personal favorite: Tom Chambers.
The ladies' apparel, while not as colorful as the guys’ get-ups, was just as remarkable: low-cut, tight fitting “look-at-me” outfits that aroused double-takes from the gents in attendance and likely stirred disapproval from the girls' fathers as they left the house that night.
Surprisingly, there was no opening act. All of a sudden the lights went dark, and 50 Cent rolled out with his crew, Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo.
The crowd went wild and I got goose bumps. Santiago was ready for 50.
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The rap superstar performed hits like “I Get Money,” “P.I.M.P,” “Shake that Ass Girl” and “In Da Club,” shaking the arena and igniting the crowd into chants of, “Ole, ole, ole, ole…fifty…fifty.”
In addition to promoting the release of his fourth album, Before I Self Destruct, 50 dipped into a few cover songs like parts of Dr. Dre’s “Still D.R.E.” and booming versions of Bob Marley songs that everyone identified with.
Though they were ecstatic to have 50 in Santiago, some in the audience were disappointed with the lack of decoration and props on stage.
“There was nothing,” one girl said. “We hoped for dancers and cars on hydraulics like we’ve seen in videos from his other performances.”
On the other hand, another fan said the show was better than Snoop Dogg's visit to Santiago a few years ago, which seems to be the measuring stick for big-name hip-hop shows down here.
During the show I’d gotten to know an attractive female attendee who was a huge 50 Cent fan. When the show was over, we went to the front of the stage and tried talking our way in with security guards manning the gates. They told me “no” in a variety of expressions, languages and dialects.
After 10 minutes of waiting, one of 50’s crew members pointed at the girl I was with, who was dressed in somewhat revealing apparel, and invited her backstage. I perked up, said I was with her and flashed my press pass.
“Ok, those two can come back,” he said.
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Hallelujah! We rushed to the curtain which led to the tunnel backstage. As we were about to enter, I turned back and saw Jason, a Revolver photographer, on the other side of the railing. Thinking how sweet it would be to get exclusive photos with 50 backstage, I stopped and tried to get Jason in.
We argued with various levels of the security force until the head honcho came by to put the kibosh on the whole thing. “Nobody can enter. Everyone has to leave,” Boss Man yelled, and herded us towards the exit.
We pleaded and cried for the guards to let us go. Right when I thought it was over, Boss Man finally gave in. Though he let me through because I had credentials, she had to leave.
So there I was, with the girl on one side of the gate and 50 on the other.
Decision time: No hesitation. “Chao!” I yelled and got under the stage as fast as I could.
The next thing I knew, I was in a posh, red-lit room with bruising dudes, beautiful girls, champagne and God knows what else behind the closed doors. I tried to get a question in while our man was posing for photos, but hit yet another roadblock when one of the security guards, who had denied me earlier, recognized me and once again gave me the heave-ho.
I was bumming in the tunnel just outside the VIP room when I heard some rumbling. Then 50 Cent came sauntering by--like one of those things in life that are just meant to be.
I had just enough time to ask him, “Hey 50, how was Chile, man?”
"It was great, man," 50 Cent replied. "I enjoyed myself." Then he was off in a black SUV with six girls in tow.
The smile on my face spread from ear to ear. I did a quick dance (that hopefully went unnoticed) and hustled out to celebrate the conquest.
I'm not sure where the girl from the show ended up that night, or if she'll ever call me. What I do know is that I got my quote, got my story and got my priorities into one hell of an order.