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September 27, 2010 | by  | in Features |
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Build big or die trying: Fiddy’s phat fortress

I’m stanky rich, I’ma die tryna spend this shit
Southside’s up in in this bitch,
Yeah I smell like the vault, I used to sell dope,
I did play the block, Now I play on boats
In the south of France baby, St. Tropez
Get a tan? I’m already black
Rich? I’m already that

50 Cent ‘I Get Money’

Of all my guilty pleasures, MTV Cribs is one of the worst. Sure, Cribs doesn’t quite hold the intellectual sway of Kevin McCloud’s Grand Designs or the emotional tug of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, but for an architectural afficionado with a soft spot for the exhorbitant elite, the ostentatious homes on show sure make for compelling viewing. Having recently encountered an hour-long special edition of the show, dedicated to family favourite silver-tounged rap impressario 50 Cent’s Connecticut mansion, you could probably forgive my excitement at the potentially beautiful collision of these two symbols of outlandish opulence. I felt assured my voyeuristic needs were about to be satisfied for a decent stretch of time, but boy was I surprised to discover that the $440 million man who began dealing crack at the tender age of twelve, now lives in a tawdry suburban McMansion in Farmington, Connecticut.

Originally built in 1987 by real estate swindler Benjamin Sisti (who was sentenced to prison for bilking investors of millions of dollars), the Connecticut castle was purchased by the one and only Iron-Mike Tyson, who decked it out to something closer to its present state. After an uneasy divorce, Fifty purchased the manor from Tyson’s wife in 2003 at the heavily discounted price of $4.1 million (down from $22 million). Fifty then pumped a further $6 million into tidying up the 17-acre estate and installing a few creature comforts such as his helipad, recording studio and indoor shooting range.

The tour of Fifty’s humungous home begins in an offensively banal foyer which features two oversized marble columns, and matching mahogany staircases winding their way up to the second floor and beyond. A grinning Fifty then takes us through the the formal dining room featuring a massive polished wooden dining table, hideous white pleather chairs (left behind by Tyson) and the absolutely nouveau riche Baccarat chandelier worth a casual US$80,000—the sheer lavishness of the room is only made more mind-boggling by Fifty’s ready admission that he is yet to dine here (having lived in the house for over seven years). As if an antidote to the rather conspicous display, Fifty excitedly points out his most prized possesion—a fantastically garish jar which depicts the proud homeowner as an Egyption Pharoah having been handmade by his uncle during a stint in the slammer.
After the dining room we are introduced to one of Fifty’s six blingin’ kitchens. Naturally, the kitchen features a soundsystem stacked to the nines so he “can jam while he cooks”. The suspiciously inauthentic kitchen also features a fridge which is conveniently filled to the brim with 50 Cent brand Vitamin Water, and the discerning eye will notice that the oven (not to mention the microwave) looks brand new.

After a quick wardrobe change and a peek at his excessively grandiose home-theatre system, 50 Cent leads us outside to his backyard where the rest of the tour plays out. Following the rapper in his decidely un-gangster-looking red golf cart we are shown his boorish infinity pool that comes complete with a fantastically unnerving 40-person grotto and a waterfall makeout pool that looks to be everything but a real ladykiller. After the pool it’s off to his acre-sized pond filled with schools of koi carp and his very own woodland basketball court complete with G-Unit insignia to hang out with the boys.

Other highlights of this self-defined “playboy mansion of the east” include a glass elevator which leads to the Gucci game room, lined with white leather and suede couches and equipped with a custom-made pool table. The dealbreaker however, and perhaps the only part of the house that sets its apart from the others is his piece de resistance—an in-house night club which boasts stripper poles, private rooms, a DJ booth and a giant swing. Cringe.

As Fifty melodramatically leaves his crib in a helicopter, one can’t help but feel a little suspicious as to the authenticity of what is presented in the hour-long special. Undoubtedly the house and its multi-million dollar price tag is very real and has a number of gangster-approved trimmings, only, when the cameras are gone and the rapper returns to ground I can’t help but picture a less than satisfied Curtis whiling away his time dreaming up obscene tweets and googling his name instead of hosting sexy parties and doing lines off his gold-plated cisterns. Then again, who would know?

It kind of grinds my gears a bit that these individuals, with infinite resources at their fingertips, constantly construct such offensively tawdry McMansions of the neo-shithouse school. Surely even the remotely creative celebrity is capable of a slightly more imaginitive aesthetic than the faux-Palladian palaces that continue to represent the wealthy elite? Fifty probably sums it up best when he describes his decorative ‘style’ as along the lines of the magazine Architectural Digest—a favourite of Martha Stewart-esque suburban housewives—and testament to the fact that, on the surface at least, Fiddy’s pimpin palace looks more akin to a Lemon-Pledged, middle of the range, beige business hotel than a gangster’s paradise.

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