Television

50 Cent: The Money and the Power

Alternately disconcerting and trainwreck-fascinating, 50 Cent's entry into reality programming is a mix of The Apprentice and ego trip's The (White) Rapper Show.

50 Cent

Airtime: Thursdays, 10pm ET
Cast: 50 Cent, Tony Yayo
MPAA rating: N/A
Subtitle: The Money and the Power
Network: MTV
US release date: 2008-11-06
Website
Trailer
Amazon

Last week, 50 Cent: The Money and the Power took its contestants to a horse stable. The contest for the day had the teams (named "Money" and "Power") mucking stalls: at the end of the allotted time, the crew who stacked up the most manure on a scale won. As absurd as this stunt so obviously was, it was made positively strange by 50 Cent's introductory remarks. Standing in front of carefully stacked straw bales and wearing a polo-ish shirt and jeans, the rapper and vitamin water pitchman looked solemn as he explained the reasoning for setting the day's contest, "It's important for people to know that there were African American cowboys blazing trails," he said, before noting that the chore would show the shovelers "how shit can be turned into sugar."

The contestants nodded, absorbing this bit of schizzy acumen. Never mind that they hadn't been informed that morning when they left "Camp Curtis" in Brooklyn that they were headed to this faux rustic site in Queens, so that several players were dressed exactly wrong (women in heels, men in three-piece suits). And never mind that 50 had nothing to say about the cowboys other than noting their existence or that the stables per se had nothing to do with cowboys, black or otherwise. Bizarre and vaguely picturesque, the moment passed into the televisual ether almost as soon as it occurred.

So goes 50's entry into reality programming, a mix of The Apprentice and ego trip's The (White) Rapper Show. Alternately disconcerting and trainwreck-fascinating, the show means to offer "14 young men and women the opportunity of a lifetime," namely, a prize of $100,000 for the winner to jumpstart a business of his or her own devising. Airing on Thursday nights on MTV, the show grants the infamously hustling 50 a chance to share his knowledge. Early on, he announced, "I'm looking for someone who can think like me, hustle like me, and get that money like me." As unlikely as this goal may be, he urged players to compete energetically, then laid out a tension that so far has not materialized, between "book smarts or street smarts" as the most likely ground for success. None of the participants seems especially "book smart," whatever that might mean, though several appear determined to demonstrate a street-like cred they imagine will appeal to the boss and his low-key underboss, Tony ("I got his back no matter what!") Yayo, the G Unit soldier who has not, as 50 phrased it, "gone AWOL on me."

The star used Yayo as a means to introduce his first advice to his players: "choose your crew wisely." During the premiere episode (which aired 6 November), he and Yayo each picked a team leader, more or less arbitrarily (50 selected L.A.-based Joanna, who insisted, "I know how to lead people," while Yayo had Ryan, who wears braids and "walks with a swagger"). Each leader in turn picked team members as if for schoolyard dodgeball, imagining needs for people who looked "strong" or clever. As to how these picks turned out: self-described "Georgia cracker" Nathan pretended he could rap, asserting, "I got more ladies than 50's got Mercedes" (Er, ouch) and Precious, "from the desert," and immediately pegged as the angry black girl (or, as 50 put it, "You're like a poor man's Lil Kim") (At least neither chose Nikki from Illinois, who introduced herself thusly: "I want to be an entertainment mogul... If there's a last Rice Krispies Treat left on the counter, I'm like, 'It's mine!'")

The first task for the teams was to get themselves from their first meeting point on Roosevelt Island to their warehouse home for the duration in Brooklyn. For this antic, The Money and the Power conjured a generally offensive trick: they had to run through city streets chained to one another, "like a chain gang." Given 50's expressed interest in disseminating history, it was perhaps odd that this was not an overtly teachable moment, but only used to embarrass and exasperate the players, who were unfamiliar with New York and so had to stop their running on occasion to ask for directions while appearing so intimately and angrily connected.

The winners got to have drinks with 50 on a balcony, while the losers arrived just late enough that the heavens opened up on them. As they clambered through the front door at Camp Curtis all wet-puppy-looking, it was hard not to wonder how 50 had managed this particular deal with Mother Nature. Once inside and banished to their room (where they sleep on cots rather than beds), the grumpy also-rans faced down one another, considering who made what mistakes and what was at stake. While Derrick insisted they take their situation seriously ("We on a reality show. It's real!"), Dajuan downplayed the fact that they had to wake up at dawn, suggesting that in "the real wars in Iraq, they probably never get any sleep, right?"

The relatively fake wars of the show continued during last week's episode, the one set at the barn. As tends to happen on reality TV, tempers flared as the sweat factor increased, especially on Joanna's team, which lost the competition a second week in a row. Among the losers, a particular tension developed between the self-aggrandizing Nima and self-disciplined Rebecca. She described her mind-set while the camera showed her practicing yoga: "The problem I'm having living in Camp," she said, "is that my basic human needs aren't being met. I'm not being fed organic food. But I do have the ability, because of yoga and meditation, to circum that."

If it's not clear exactly what she meant, her run-in with Nima helped to reframe her discomfort as sane and show why his time in Camp must be limited. Proud of his lack of education ("Me having a degree? What's that gonna do for me? I'm a straight up hustler"), Nima announced -- repeatedly and loudly, as a montage of clips underlined -- that his strategy is to unsettle, psych out, and "con" his own teammates. All sharp angles and irritation, Nima was less than thrilled when 50 pointed out the problem with his strategy: "For one," the Formula 50 pitchman sighed, "You can't expose that you're trying to con people. You're acting like a bootleg Bobby DeNiro right now." As the weight of 50's wisdom sank in, the episode came to a welcome close.

5

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.