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STRUTTING WITH SPIRIT

For some hip-hop lovers, Sunday's Urban Car Show roster was too good to be true. Fans of star Missy Elliott, who was to co-headline the event at Vinoy Park with rapper 50 Cent, were disappointed to find that Elliott, among several other acts promised, would not perform.

Oh, Elliott was there, all right.

Local promoter John Claude Bodziak, who organized this stop of the Urban Car Show tour _ which drew 5,377 to the park and featured a parking lot filled with autos owned by rap stars _ said Elliott couldn't go onstage. Elliot's handlers told Bodziak she had the flu.

That didn't stop boisterous Elliott, whose latest hits include Work It and Gossip Folks, from mingling with fans throughout the day. Elliott even strolled to the display lot to chat with folks admiring her dark gray Aston Martin. (Later in the evening, an emcee said that Elliott, who makes no secret in her music of her proclivity for partying, was backstage, "getting her drink on.")

The show may have had cancellations, but it served a surprise: Wildly popular rapper Obie Trice, like 50 Cent a protege of Eminem, was "in the house" and gave a brief, crowd-pleasing performance of songs from his debut Cheers.

The crowd, however, belonged to 50 Cent and G-Unit, his crew of backing rappers. The hardcore rapper from Queens, N.Y., has taken the rap world by storm since releasing this year's debut, Get Rich or Die Tryin.

Given that 50 Cent has lived the gangsta life he raps about, and that he has Eminem's stamp of approval (both 50 Cent and Obie Trice are signed to Eminem's Shady Records), the rapper has street cred galore in a genre where that's crucial.

Decked out identically to his his G-Unit Crew, 50 Cent wore layers of T-shirts and a ball cap. Though his set was less than 25 minutes long, 50 Cent proved to be a better-than-average live rapper. Backed by a DJ with two turntables, the rapper was constantly in motion, strutting across the stage during hits Wanksta, the steel-drum inflected P.I.M.P., and In Da Club, and tearing off clothes until he sported an undershirt revealing his much-discussed buff biceps. At one point, 50 Cent climbed atop a towering set of amplifiers and grooved and rapped from there.

Proud Southern rapper David Banner, formerly of the rap duo Crooked Lettaz, performed a spirited set that included odes to his native Mississippi, songs about eating KFC on the beach, and the ballad _ okay, a slow rap song _ Cadillac On 22s. Banner also performed the hit Like A Pimp with Lil' Flip. Lil' Jon & the Eastside Boyz, the Georgia crew that specializes in "crunk" party anthems, performed a set that celebrated roots and neighborhood pride.

To contact Gina Vivinetto, e-mail ginasptimes.com.

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