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REVIEW: 50 Cent and Busta Rhymes at Riverbend Music Center

Photo Cred: Jon Sepchinski Photography

With two of the most famous hip hop GOATS on the same tour it was only fitting they'd bring the sweltering, 100 degree heat to Cincinnati’s Riverbend Music Center Saturday night for 50 Cent: The Final Lap Tour with 50 Cent, Busta Rhymes and Jeremih.

Raspy, aggressive, intensity combined with quick spit bars and mixed with Jamaican Dance Hall energy define Busta Rhymes. Coming off hot from receiving BET’s Lifetime Achievement Award in June there’s no question the gifts he’s bestowed on hip hop as a rapper, singer, songwriter, producer, and actor. With a career spanning almost 40 years and a catalog stuffed with hits.

As the instrumental of “Tony’s Theme” (from the 1983 soundtrack of the movie Scarface) scores the introduction, DJ Scratchator, official DJ for Busta Rhymes, says “Nobody’s following this motherfucker, nobody!” Amping up the volume Scratchator yells “I need you all to make noise!”

“Are you ready to be entertained?” asks Flip Mode’s Spliff Starr hyping up the crowd. “Do you understand what I’m talking about? Take notes and shit. Put your hands up here we go!”

Perched atop his large gold throne Rhymes greets the Queen City like a king to his commoners. “You mutherfuckers ain’t ready!” Dressed in head to toe yellow with leading man looks, Rhymes darts back and forth across the stage captivating the crowd. Spitting bars like a tommy gun, Rhymes enthralls the audience quickly moving from one hit song to the next. Known for his fast pitch flow, Rhymes once held The Guinness Book of World Records for most syllables in 1 second of a freestyle rap.

A standout and original member of East Coast’s hip hop collective “Leaders of the New School.” the group gained national attention when they opened on tour for Public Enemy. Chuck D even blessed Bus-Bus with his moniker, Busta Rhymes, after former NFL football player Buster Rhymes.

When A Tribe Called Quest featured “Leaders of the New School” on its hit 1992 single, “Scenario” a star was born. Rapping alongside greats such as Pfife Dog, Charlie Brown, Dinco D, and Q-Tip Rhyme’s energy-filled verse–”Rawr! Rawr! Like a dungeon dragon”-- is considered among many as his breakout moment that propelled him to his successful solo career.

“Ladies, you remember me just shining my shit up for you, right?” asked Busta. “This is what’s gonna happen; you’re gonna sing my shit louder than that. Fellas sing it to your woman, don’t sing it up here (towards the stage,” laughed Rhymes.

The hypnotic harp influenced beginning beats of “I Know What You Want,” Busta’s 2003 hit single with Mariah Carey, float through the balmy summer air. Featuring Busta’s passion project, Flipmode Squad, and produced by West Coast hitmaker Rick Rock, tells the tale of a love affair from two perspectives. Initially wanting an R&B singer on the track, Mariah Carey convinced Busta to sing, showing his versatility and range of talent. It was a hit across the world, charting at number three on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 2003.

Including a champagne show for the lucky few in the front rows, Busta Rhymes ended his set with a thank you to his fans for supporting him throughout his career.


A survivor’s tale of redemption, 50 Cent’s life and career are no small feat. Shot nine times, dropped from his label, and blacklisted from the industry, 50 clawed his way to the top by honing his skills and perfecting his technique. In 1996, a friend introduced him to Jam Master Jay, who taught him how to count bars, write choruses, structure songs, and make records. Later discovered by Eminem, who gave his mixtape to Dr. Dre. The rest is history.

“I’m raps MVP and I ain’t going nowhere so you can get to know me.”

It's mind blowing to believe it's been 20 years since 50 Cent’s debut album, Get Rich or Die Tryin' dropped.

In 2003, it was impossible to ignore 50 Cent’s magnetic charm, charisma and bad boy looks. He was hip hop’s golden child and gangsta rap’s official bad boy. Discovered by Eminem, you couldn’t walk into a bar, club, or listen to the radio without hearing a track. One of the most hyped debuts of the decade, GRDT had the best-selling first week for a debut project in the Billboard 200 albums chart’s history. The LP sold over 872,000 in its first week of release and debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 200. It remains 50 Cent's best-selling album, with certified sales of 9 million copies in the United States, and is the tenth best-selling hip hop album in the country. The album was certified 6 times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 2003 for shipping six million copies in the US In 2003, Get Rich or Die Tryin' was ranked as the number one album of the year on the Billboard 200.

Enclosed in a smoke-filled glass box with ‘blaring sirens’ as his introduction, 50 Cent ignited the stage and opened with G-Unit’s “I’m on Some Shit,” a rarely performed track from the mixtape Sabrina’s Baby Boy. The audience went wild, singing and dancing along to the beat.

Intertwined with 50 Cent’s high velocity performance is a supporting cast of dancers as well as a full band. During 50’s breaks the crowd was entertained by some of the most gorgeous exotic dancers and gymnasts that have graced Riverbend’s stage. Even the guitarist popped onstage for a quick solo.

Say, “Go Shawty, it’s your birthday” to anyone born before the 21st century and you’ll hear the reply, “We gon’ party like it’s your birthday.” 50 Cent’s massive first number one single, “In Da Club,” produced by Dr. Dre and Mike Elizondo, peaked at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 2003. Sampling “The Birthday Jam (it's your birthday)" by the Miami Bass DJs it broke a Billboard record as the “most listened-to” song in radio history within a week. The track is certified gold and Billboard ranked it as the number one song for 2003. Rolling Stone considers “In Da Club” one of the ‘500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” The crowd was so hype and loud they could be heard singing in Kentucky. The energy was non-stop, full force and exactly what I’d expect from 50 Cent. Sampled “The Birthday Jam (Its your birthday)" by The Miami Bass DJs.

“Whoever said progress was a slow process wasn't talking about me, I’m a P-I-M-P.” sang 50 Cent. P.I.M.P., a Trinidadian-inspired track, predominantly influenced by the steelpan instrument.

“Ayo Technology,” a 2007 collaboration with Justin Timberlake and Timbaland, samples former 2 Live Crew’s Uncle Luke, “I Wanna Rock." The trifecta of hitmakers brought the heat and it became 50 Cent’s second highest debut on Billboard’s Hot 100 charts.

If “The King of Hooks” Nate Dogg was on your track in the 2000s it was sure to become a hit. With his deep baritone voice and vocal style that blended the rhythm and cadences of rap with the melody of smooth R&B, collaborating with ND was a win-win. A departure from 50 Cent’s usual gangsta approach, “21 Questions” is considered a love song and samples the epitome of a love song, Barry White aka Dr. Love’s “It’s Only Love Doing It's Thing.” When producer Dr. Dre worked with 50 Cent on his debut album, he objected to the song being included on the tracklist. According to 50 Cent; "Dre was, like, "How you goin' to be gangsta this and that and then put this sappy love song on?" 50 Cent responded saying; "I'm two people. I've always had to be two people since I was a kid, to get by. To me that's not diversity, it's necessity.”

As white confetti spilled onto the audience like a rainstorm, 50 Cent ended the night with a big thank you to the crowd thanking everyone for their support and coming out to celebrate the 20th anniversary of GRDT.

I don’t consider this tour “The Final Lap” for 50 Cent, it's more like a victory race.


50 Cent at Riverbend Music Center

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