Perhaps one of the most anticipated rappers we’ve seen in years has stepped to the plate. He has been run through the hype machine, magazines, mixtapes, TRL, BET, ER and of course, studios. 50 Cent, born Curtis Jackson, has risen from the streets of Jamaica, Queens, and has bullet scars to prove it. While hustling the streets he ran across the now late Jam Master Jay who listened to 50’s dilemma about getting out of the street and Jay decided to give him a beat to let 50 write to, a week later 50 came back with a song (though grotesquely formatted) and Jay saw a spark of potential and decided to bring 50 onto his own label.
The two produced a few songs together, one of which (“How To Rob”) caused very many heads to turn as 50 Cent dissed almost everyone in the hip hop industry, and he managed to do it in a matter of three verses. After that Curtis drew in some long time friends from the street and formed his own posse G Unit, who quickly began dominating mixtapes in NYC. Mixtape rotation was high enough to reach the ears of megastar Marshall Mathers, who decided to have a sit down with Dre, 50 and 50’s manager Sha Money, soon after a deal was born leaving us with so much hype it begs to wonder if the hype can ever be succeeded by 50 Cent’s sophomore CD in the game, dropped through Shady/Aftermath Records, “Get Rich or Die Tryin'”.
Right from the get-go, that southern drawl kicks in and 50’s rhythmic voice is known through a rather simple song, “What Up Gangsta”. Simple lyrics never complex but yet it’s a nice beat and melodic hook. One of 50’s bosses, Eminem, appears on track two “Patiently Waiting”, the beat is slow, the hook once again is memorable and the obvious intent on the CD is aimed at only expressing whatever happens to come across the minds of the writers. Eminem kicks some ridiculous flow in verse 2 and 50 sums up the song with the first line of verse three, “you shouldn’t throw stones if you live in a glass house / and if you got a glass jaw you should watch your mouth”. “In da Club” is the first release as you may have already heard, it’s a certified jam from the beat and catchy hook.
Now after surviving being shot multiple times as well as being stabbed, it’s clear 50 is not liked by everyone and this is acknowledged on “Many Men (Wish Death)”. Curtis kicks some serious street lyrics here, the beat is hot, a definite hood banger, just like “High All the Time”. The latter drops a steady beat and an undeniable chorus with plenty of chants to keep you rewinding, the song stays dark and deadly, and some nice flow is inevitable, “if you love me, tell me you love me, don’t stare at me man / I[‘d] hate to be in the pen for clappin one of my fans”. “Heat” is pure street, 50 spews over a fire-laced beat. He spits about cocking guns and letting the lead fly, most of the time he does it in a semi-clever way, mostly made possible by his voice and style.
“If I Can’t” drops a stop’n’go beat, kind of like Mary’s “No Mo’ Drama” but on a much slower tempo, which makes sense since it was produced by Dr. Dre. Premise of the song is that if 50 can’t do it, then it can’t be done, very melodic and will be fresh every time it’s played. “Blood Hound” G Unit’s own Young Buck guest stars on “Blood Hound”, but he displays nothing of any note. The production is game-tight, the flow is predictable but we aren’t really listening to this to hear philosophy though, are we? Either way, it’s nice, but not as nice as “Back Down”, where $.50 takes it back to his basics and decides to call out a few people, but mainly Jeffrey Atkins, aka Ja Rule, in fact the whole ending of the song is dedicated to sparking jokes at Ja.
“P.I.M.P.” explores the pimp game, where 50 plays the part of extorting women for money, nice beat but tired flow. “Like My Style” picks the tempo up a little bit which mixes real nice with 50’s lazy speech. The chorus is forgettable, and the track says that Tony Yayo features, but it’s real minimal. “Poor Lil Rich” adds on another track to cushion the CD as a whole, it gives what is expected, good music and that ghetto vibe. Perhaps one of my favorite tracks is “21 Questions”, which brings in the master of thug-R&B (if there is such a thing), Nate Dogg himself. 50 is asking questions to his girl over a very smooth R&B beat, a smooth song doomed to make you want to hear it again with lines like: “we’re only humans girl we make mistakes / to make it up I do whatever it take / I love you like a fat kid loves cake / you know my style I say anything to make you smile”.
“Don’t Push Me” is very notable, the beat is hard, the lyrics match it. The lyricists are on the edge, and perhaps the best verse comes from G Unit’s Lloyd Banks outshining even Eminem who starts kind of weak but ends his verse on fire. “Gotta Make it to Heaven” is 50 speaking about his street life, from being in Intensive Care to killing haters (which he’s claimed to have done twice). The official CD stops here, the bonus tracks include “Wanksta”, “U Not Like Me” (which he spits “I don’t smile alot, cuz ain’t nothin pretty / got a purple heart for war and I ain’t ever left the city”) and “Life’s on the Line”, the latter two definitely contribute nicely.
What should you expect when you pick this up? Well, since it’s executive produced by Dr. Dre and Eminem, expect a lot of tight production, and since it is 50 Cent also expect a lot of violence and death and the general misuse of women. Expect a few witty lyrics, and sticky hooks. Don’t pick up the CD if you’re expecting something ground-breaking here, it is definitely not. What it definitely is, is a great style flowing over some hot beats and chanting some good choruses and spilling some street-life lyrics, reminiscent of so many other street-prophets. There are a few must-listens, such as Lloyd Banks’ flow on “Don’t Push Me”, and you should probably hear the bonus cut “Life’s on the Line” where 50 actually opens his mouth all the way to rhyme, as well as “21 Questions” & “Many Men (Wish Death). Overall, a quality product to feed the streets all over America a national hood-banger. 4 out of 5 stars.
02. What Up Gangsta
03. Patiently Waiting (feat. Eminem)
04. Many Men (Wish Death)
05. In Da Club
06. High All the Time
08. If I Can’t
09. Blood Hound (feat. Young Buck of G Unit)
10. Back Down
12. Like My Style (feat. Tony Yayo of G Unit)
13. Poor Lil Rich
14. 21 Questions (feat. Nate Dogg)
15. Don’t Push Me (feat. Lloyd Banks of G Unit & Eminem)
16. Gotta Make It to Heaven
4 out of 5