In 2003, 50 Cent emerged as a tyrant in hip–hop with the release of Get Rich Or Die Tryin’. Already established as a rebel in his own right, the industry blacklisted him prior to its release. A deal with Columbia Records fell through. Meanwhile, songs like “How To Rob” and “Ghetto Quran” established 50 Cent as a forceful MC that wouldn’t hold his sharp tongue against heavyweights. Although his career hit a brick wall, his resilience and hunger caught the attention of Dr. Dre and Eminem. And maybe without those two, we wouldn’t be celebrating one of the greatest hip-hop albums 20 years later.
The Final Lap tour appears to be 50 Cent’s final full-fledged trek on the road. The past decade hasn’t seen him releasing much music but his television empire has grown exponentially. Marking the 20th anniversary of Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ and coinciding with the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, The Final Lap tour has been nothing short of a spectacle; a time capsule that revisits 20 years of heat, from defining singles found on his chart-topping debut and sophomore releases to deep cuts that only his day-one fans can appreciate. With opening acts Pressa, Jeremih, and Busta Rhymes, 50 Cent celebrates his own contributions to the culture.
The opening acts all hold a place in 50 Cent’s heart to some capacity. The connection to Pressa seems to have developed more recently. Pressa’s appearance on stage, alongside WhyG and Bundog, suggests that 50 Cent’s cooking up something in the 6ix. Tony Yayo hasn’t shied away from expressing his appreciation for BunDog and Pressa in recent times, either. However, it strongly indicates that 50 Cent and Tony Yayo have taken the budding Toronto star under his wing. It’s an impeccable feat for Pressa, who has the bragging rights of touring with 50 Cent and Drake.
There might not be another R&B artist whose influence is as understated as Jeremih. The Chicago-born’s catalog speaks for itself but in the past few years, his presence hasn’t been as consistent. A serious and highly publicized bout with COVID-19 left him re-learning how to walk. Three years later, he made his triumphant comeback to the stage. His set brought fans through a decade-plus-worth of hits that sent a wave of nostalgia through the crowd.
Backed by a DJ and two scantily-dressed pole dancers, Jeremih’s strain of futuristic stripper-friendly R&B anthems received its proper visual accompaniment. Jeremih’s sheer presence took command of the Bell Centre. Through each song, the crowd’s enthusiasm grew, eventually building up to songs like “Oui,” “Planez,” and of course, “Birthday Sex.” After not being on the road for a few years, Jeremih’s catalog shines from night to night. He’s opening up in front of an audience of hardcore hip-hop fans. Even so, his sultry and airy vocals take control of the room.
With a career spanning 30 years, Busta Rhymes’ is the definition of a timeless act. When he accepted his Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2023 BET Awards, he admitted that he never had a desire to be a solo artist while a member of Leaders Of The New School. It’s ironic, considering that his star power shone brighter than any one of his group mates. Busta Rhymes and Spliff Starr’s live performance remains one of hip-hop’s greatest acts by a landslide. Without gimmicks, the strength of Busta’s hits, bolstered by his chemistry and synchronicity with Spliff Starr, make for a dynamic performance. Busta said it best: “We don’t need no special effects. We are the special effects.”
Busta’s dramatic intro kicks off with a WWE-like monologue, courtesy of Spliff Starr. Busta’s throne rotates as he joins his hypeman with high energy with M.O.P.’s “Ante Up (Remix).” The coordination between the two boils down to the details, with choreographed moves executed throughout the set.
Busta Rhymes’ grip on the rap game from the late 90s to the 2000s was on full display. He went through classics like the funky, “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See.” Later, he’d demand the women serenade him with Mariah Carey’s hook on the uber-sensual, “I Know What You Want.” Of course, it wouldn’t be a Busta show without performing “Break Your Neck.”
Although the last bit of his set felt abrupt, it became more personal. Busta and Spliff Starr would dive into records, some unreleased, before cutting them off before the hook came in. For example, Busta began performing “Touch It” and cut off the record before reaching the hook. The reason? He’s afforded that right through his 30+ year tenure in hip-hop.
Still, it’s quite clear that one of Busta’s most mesmerizing moments as an MC only occurred within the past 12 years. He still raps his verse on Chris Brown’s “Look At Me” without skipping a beat. It’s truly a testament to a man who has mastered his craft. At 51 years old, Busta Rhymes’s breath control is giving every MC in the game a run for their money. Before Busta left the stage, he had already shown us exactly why he’s feared in the Verzuz space.