When it comes to my childhood, 50 Cent has to be an artist that’s to be mentioned when the story of my life is played out. When he came into the Rap game, Get Rich or Die Tryin’ was the album that sparked off a generation of kids who embraced toughness in a different way, much like how DMX did in the generation prior. It’s weird how his reign occurred, because it wasn’t just with his solo albums, but also the G-Unit movement that emasculated the masses in a way that was (at that time) only matched by Dipset, and it was probably the last time New York rap was really great, if we’re keeping it 100% honest. Everything started to really fall apart after Curtis, and a lot of that can be attributed to the fact that he was a bully in Hip Hop. With numerous feuds with Ja Rule (well, all of Murder Inc, for that matter), Fat Joe, Cam’Ron (the infamous “CURTIIIIIIS” interview), and the list going on and on – it caught up to him, and besides the music, people just grew tired of him, but he still had a dedicated allegiance of fans based on the many years of G-Unit music (and a movie) outside of his own work that he’d brought to Rap and made it entertaining. It was a cultural shift that wouldn’t have happened had 50 not had his hand in it, and if you’re a Hip Hop purist & enthusiast, you pretty much saw his attitude from far away when you first heard How To Rob.
When the music faltered, you heard it, and it was ugly. After Curtis, Before I Self Destruct happened, then the mixtapes around that happened, and where there were flashes of vintage 50, you knew it wasn’t going to be the same going forward. Money was always his hustle and motivation, so with power moves like Vitamin Water and SMS Audio, you know that 50 was all about the money, but in reality, people were just all about the music. When it was announced that he’d be dropping a new album, of course there was a mix of reviews, but more or less excitement, because New York has really been starved for something great in New York. No disrespect to A$AP Rocky and the rest of the Mob, but they’re nowhere near talented and popular. French Montana? Yawn. Even the Lox has a bit of a buzz, but people aren’t really checking for them. With Troy Ave claiming that he’s the saviour, NY rap has been limited to the underground having to have their little bursts of potential (Skyzoo, Flatbush Zombies, Underachievers). The problem is that it’s hard to take rappers who boasted about the struggle back in the day, to look at them years later reaching near billionaire status and thinking that they’ll have the same (pun intended) ‘ambition’ to fuel the hunger of their younger years (looking at you, Shawn Carter). It’s a skeptical road to walk on, but for people who’ve been starved of something that doesn’t sound trappy, Top Forty or Drake-y, it would be Fifty to help put their nerves at ease on a mainstream level…or so we hoped.
Right off the bat, Hold On gave you that feeling that it was going to be a Massacre vibe around the album, because of the smooth soul sample that was used throughout, but the difference was that, the attitude of 50 is that he’s rich; he knows he’s rich, but it’s like him looking towards his past and reflecting the struggles of the average Black American who wants the everyday American dream. The intensity isn’t all there as it’s more melodic and laid back, but it’s still pretty smooth. The gangster that lives in 50 will always remain within, regardless if it’s on a street or corporate building setting – there are still issues that come with every new territory that’s chartered, but it’s better to have more money around the problems than none at all.
Just as the hope rose, it fell as quickly as the song changed. Don’t Worry ‘Bout It has a bouncy beat and that’s nothing unfamiliar to 50’s music, but song itself is just flat, period. Jay, no-dash, Z’s last album Magna Carta Holy Grail was criticized for essentially being the same thing – having a bunch of tracks that just had filler and talked about his money and whatever else, which is what a high percentage of rap has come down to – or at least just what’s popular. This track sounds like a bunch of specific lines that a younger person going through a bitter break up would say if they had an ex lingering around long after trying to figure out what they were doing with their life in the post-break stage. References to Instagram gives that statement validity, and the Yo Gotti feature does nothing to propel the track to stop me from skipping it. That’s unfortunate, but the album goes on.
Animal Ambition carries the trend of the dope-beat-supbar-lyrics formula that was demonstrated on the previous track, but props to Swiff D getting yet another album placement, because he’s a dope producer that more people should be looking out for. The problem is that 50 has demonstrated his intimidation for so many years that people (including myself) are over the fact that he’s a hustler by nature and trade. I can tell you that I only stuck around on this song just for the beat. But the real disappointment for me came with Pilot. It hurts to hear the decline of one of your favourites try to fit into the new wave of rappers of today by emulating their sound & flows. It sounds like it could have been ghostwritten by a large list of rappers who rap the way 50 did on this track. Another skip, and at the 15 minute mark of the album, the desire to listen forward diminished quickly in all honesty.
It’s been quite some time since In Da Club and Candy Shop, and I promise you Smoke is not going to be on that list to follow. In the shortest words possible, my mother said it about Jay ‘no-dash’ Z, and now I’m going to say it about 50, ‘the man is bored’, because you can clearly hear it on the album, especially on tracks such as this one. I get it’s supposed to be for the party or even for the ‘smokers’, but I think smokers that really smoke would give this track the same look they give their weed man when they want to charge more than what’s in the package. Like, you can’t be serious. Hey look, Dr. Dre was on the beat too – that couldn’t even save it. Terrible.
The song that didn’t annoy me as much as the others was Irregular Heartbeat, and the presence of Jadakiss may have been the reason for that (I don’t acknowledge Kidd Squared). Although they had their qualms back then, for them to come together on this gritty of a track, there was a bit of life that was breathed into this lifeless album to this point. It still didn’t do much to turn my Kanye-inspired-look-of-displeasure into something that was more enthused.
“30 something and you ain’t never open your mouth yet
Social media is giving cowards an outlet
See him in person, say something, I doubt that
Rather get caught with it than get caught without that” – Jadakiss
Jake One is a great producer as well, if you haven’t heard of him, and as much as he gave 50 a couple of beats (The Funeral being the other), it wasn’t enough to give 50 the motivation to do anything great with it, although the track isn’t terrible. I dig the hook – it’s a cool vibe around it, like an American Gangster inspired theme around it. Maybe the tide was turning for the album to improve, but the skepticism was still hanging around like the many hoodies in my closet.
Get. Twisted. The. Entire. Hell. Out. Of. Here. Okay, maybe not all of it, but the autotune inflicted hook threw me into a place where I didn’t want to go, but the rags to riches story involved in the song was cool, but I had no care for this song – period. With that being said, the feeling of accomplishment is one that many people desire, and it’s one that 50 has come to enjoy for over a decade. Like Chris Rock said in Never Scared: “Money is new to us”, so when we get some, it’s a major feeling
“Let’s toast to success and take it a little higher
May tomorrow bring you everything your heart desires
Let your driving ambition offer you new visions
May your gut-instinct help you make good decisions
This is more than Champagne, this is more than just a glass
This is a symbol of accomplishment we rarely ever had” – 50
Winners Circle had the same theme around it – got bored; got skipped. The cycle continues. Felt too MMG for a 50 track, which is ironic considering that history. At least the album didn’t end terribly. Chase the Paper had dope verses all around (hook was terrible), but again, when you throw on Styles P, it tends to amplify the outcome of the track overall. Prodigy did nothing for me, and I don’t know when this album was recorded, but I mean Lloyd Banks or Yayo couldn’t get on the album at all? I didn’t understand that, but this is the outcome of those decisions. Laziness is what I heard throughout, but shout out to the producer on this beat.
The two tracks that should have been on the album instead of being bonus tracks were The Funeral and Flip On You.The storytelling that I embraced 50 for in the early days (I’m Supposed to Die Tonight, When It Rains It Pours, Many Men as some examples), that came out on ‘Funeral’ and if more tracks on the album were like this one, then we’re talking about a completely different feel of the album, much like how ‘Hold On’ set the tone to begin with. It’s so much of a damn tease that it’s actually not fair that we were stuck with all of the filler nonsense that Curtis Jackson actually wants people to pay for – you must be out of your mind, Curtis.
If you didn’t hear Can I Speak to You on the 5: Murder By Numbers album, then I advise you do that, because ScHoolboy Q ripped that, and he also ripped Flip On You as well. Q has said in numerous interviews that it was 50’s music that really propelled him into getting out of gang-banging and making music. To be on the same track as his idol is big, and once again he outshines 50. The difference of time is evident because you can get the sense of urgency and hunger in Q’s delivery where as 50’s appears more winded and just out of it. It’s not the same 50, and it doesn’t have the same intensity. He can tap into it when the track is right, but overall, as the evidence on the album clearly shows – it wasn’t there on a consistent basis.
50 cent brought out G-Unit on Summerjam, who then proceeded to drop a bunch of tracks that got everyone excited, which then got the people excited about 50’s comeback, and then when you listen to the album, that hype escapes like dirt entering a Hoover vacuum. It just vanished and the album made me feel like I was out on a bad date that had some moments of prosperity, but just ended up being ugly overall. You don’t even pay for her meal, you just pay your end and bounce. It leaves a bitter taste in your mouth because of what you’ve heard 50 do, and what 50 has come to be now. For older artists, getting a new audience is often difficult if you’ve been out of the limelight, musically, for as long as you have, and in order to come back, a style or 2 needs to be changed. For some it works, for others it doesn’t, and this was a case of it not working. People wanted to be excited and happy about 50’s return, but the 50 they wanted to come back didn’t show up in album form. The independent venture has nothing to do with the quality of music, because many indies are making good music and have the fan base to make up for that – it’s just the animal that 50 brought out with a ferocity over a decade ago has been tamed and where as the roar might still be there, it sure is weak. Listen with caution, and don’t get your hopes up too high. But for now, this is my opinion, this is my review
That’s My Word & It STiXX