50 Cent will headline Bamboozle Left. It's the best idea he's had in years.
Today, we learned that this year's installment of Bamboozle Left, the weekend-long blowout of Orange County mall emo in a parking lot (I've been!), has an unexpected headliner. Mr. Curtis Jackson, who apparently has some time to kill while waiting for his perpetually delayed "Before I Self Destruct" album to become even more relevantly titled, will head up the Saturday show opposite a gaggle of the usual suspects for these sorts of things, including P&H faves Brokencyde, who I simply must see live before the year is out.
While the jokes about this pairing will come fast and easy, this seemingly absurd booking has a strong chance of actually being a pretty fantastic way to close out the weekend and a useful move for Mr. Jackson. Here's why:
1. Emo kids are the last genre of music fans who might take 50 seriously.
After a vigorous sonning at the hands of Kanye West back in the halcyon days of the "Graduation" versus "Curtis" feud, 50's been on something of a credibility death spiral among even Top 40 rap fans. He took hits in feuds with Cam'ron, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross and even Taco Bell, for Godsakes. He's already tried comebacks with blatant, for-the-ladies club tracks, toothless thug posturing and king-of-the-charts boasts that have fallen comically flat. So what's the one demographic that might still find him a menacing and riveting personality? Get Up Kids fans. All he has to do is take his shirt off and reveal an actual bullet wound for those kids to go home thrilled. For one night, he gets to start over in an amber-preserved golden age of white suburbia's appetite for gangsta rap where he's the dangerous outsider. If nothing else, he won't be hurt by this more than a catcall of "Currrrtis."
2. Serious rap influences are the new ironic pop cover songs in emo.
For starters, just look at the collective wardrobes of bands such as Cobra Starship and Metro Station and tell me these kids haven't spent some time with "Yo! MTV Raps" clips on YouTube. Such cross-pollination occasionally yields beastly things such as LMFAO and Hollywood Undead along the way, but in emo today, giant sunglasses, tank tops and talkin' raw about chicks in the club is the new self-pitying Facebook update. Just look at the formidable roster that gave their time and energy to "Punk Goes Crunk," a majority of whom, I bet you, were not kidding in the slightest. Friday's headliner Fall Out Boy rolls deep with Jay-Z, and their fans understand entirely. As emo became pop music, it soaked up the juices of who was on the charts around it, and if you listened to 98.7 to hear Panic at the Disco, you probably soaked up some Game along the way. And it's no huge leap from one kind of aggressive posturing that makes you write whole albums about a breakup to another kind of aggressive posturing that makes you write whole albums about that time you were shot in the stomach.
3. Rappers love rock music again.
Lil Wayne is making a guitar record, Chris Brown uses a Nirvana interlude at his live show, Timbaland foisted OneRepublic on the world, Swizz Beatz samples Coldplay and the Roots got Patrick Stump on a track. In no way am I advertising for a return to the morose '90s days of rap-rock, but both genres seem to have a growing fetish for each other. Stigma from the rap world for playing a rock festival has long since been passe.
4. It's the Coachella heritage-act headliner theory on a smaller scale
Few at Coachella would probably pay to see a Paul McCartney or Roger Waters show on their own volition, but if it's there in front of them, most of those kids will probably get excited to see something so huge and canonical that they'd never get to hear otherwise. In this hormonal hothouse, this holds true for 50. Every kid at Bamboozle will know the words to "In Da Club" and "Wanksta" from school dances and pop radio, and if 50 even brings a half-hearted performance, he'll probably elicit the biggest bump-n-grind pits of the day.There's always a chance 50 could look out on a sea of bad bangs and chain wallets and flip out onstage, but he's a businessman and I suspect he knows that beggars can't be choosers at this tender point in career maintenance. At Bamboozle, both sides win, and you can't say that about many other places 50 could play this spring.
-- August Brown
Photo: Jennifer S. Altman / For The Times