Is anything hotter than 50 Cent? No. He gets love from the hood. He gets love from the ‘burbs. Hell, he’s more popular than the president. I was in Hartford, Conn. recently and checked out some bars. As soon as I entered, the deejay dropped 50’s “In the Club” and heads started boppin’, guys started mouthing the words and trying looking hard, and the girls started shakin’ their booties. I met up with one of my friends and he told me of a stripper that he called only to get her voicemail…she had the part of “In the Club” when 50 says, “I’m into having sex, not into making love.” When the bar was closing down and I headed to the parking lot, there were some guys trying to look tough, hanging out around a little VW Golf blaring 50’s first single.
And in spite of all this, he retains his credibility.
Aside from signing to Shady Aftermath, label of Eminem and Dr. Dre, which could bump album sales twice over by itself, it’s the street cred that drives his popularity. Stories about his childhood — slangin’ the rock, living without a mother and father for most of his life and, of course, getting shot nine times, only to live because he drove himself to the hospital — are damn near mythical. And the hype around his life story has brought just as much hype as his rap skills. Its the fascination with his life, actually, that makes it easy to draw comparisons to Tupac, who wasn’t as good a lyricist as Biggie but had a charisma that was seamless between his life and his music. 50 is the “I Just Don’t Give A Fuck / Rebel / Villain” who exudes hungriness, and an honesty about his life, when he spits.
Here’s the thing: When the news hit that 50 Cent signed to Shady/Aftermath, I was sure the result would be the best rap album of the year, not necessarily the most popular. I knew it would sell, but I was more excited about seeing what the best hottest rapper in the streets teamed with Eminem and Dre would create.
But Get Rich or Die Tryin’ isn’t the album I wanted. The 18 songs on the album would get their asses kicked against 50’s material on Whoo Kid and Green Lantern’s mix tapes. The album, though it has its moments, is worse than his best mix-tape material. Actually, the exclusive 50 tracks on the DJ Whoo Kid mix tape that dropped the same week are better, and it’s likely that the exclusives were cut from the final album.
While 50 still has the drawl in his voice and flows with supreme confidence, it’s his lyrics that have lost a little luster. He still exudes confidence on each track and still delivers clever punch lines, but his anger, prevalent on the mix tapes, doesn’t come out as strong throughout the album. If the lyrics were just on par, it was the beats, which somehow got worse under the hands of Dre, one of the most respected producers in hip-hop, and Em, that were disappointing.
Don’t get me wrong: Get Rich or Die Tryin’ is a strong album. But it’s an album that was meant for the masses. It has the club tracks, it has the songs for the streets, it even has some for the ladies. Compared to classics from 50, including “Life’s on the Line” and “How to Rob,” Get Rich or Die Tryin’ lacks consistent firepower. To those unfamiliar with the work of the Queens villain, I can see why so many love the album. But for those who’ve been listening to 50 on the mix-tape circuit it’s a different story.