If nothing else, 50 Cent deserves a prize for best hype. The story about him being shot nine times is almost legendary; the multiple mixtapes released by him and his crew G-Unit have become infamous; and Dr. Dre and Eminem paid him a cool million to sign with Interscope/Aftermath/Shady records (and yes, in hip-hop everyone has to have his own record label). Now, with the infectious "In Da Club" dominating the radio, everyone and his mother is talking about 50 Cent. Hell, even his old independent album Guess Who's Back has slowly crept up the Billboard charts over the last few weeks from 63 to 43 to 28. Incidentally, does it piss anyone else off that 50 Cent signed to Aftermath six months ago and already has the world on his shoulders, while the legendary Rakim signed three years ago and has released zilch?
Let's hope the good Doctor knows what he's doing.
Anyway, the question is this: Does 50 Cent live up to the hype? Sometimes. Each song on the album follows a specific formula--a mellow beat, catchy chorus, and the standard "I'm a menacing gangster!" subject matter. This is enjoyable enough for the first nine songs or so, but afterwards it becomes painfully obvious that this is all the album will offer. Fans of catchy pop-rap will probably cream with pleasure, but anyone looking for real substance or staying power will only be mildly happy, if that. Dre and Eminem do contribute nicely, though--Dre's four beats display his best production since 2001, much better than the atrocious crap he offered for Xzibit's last album. And while Em's production remains as boring as ever, Mr. Mathers spits one of his best verses on "Patiently Waiting," charismatically declaring that "Shady Records was 80 seconds away from the Towers/Those cowards f*cked with the wrong buildings. They meant to hit ours!"
As for 50 Cent himself, his drawling flow gets a little soporific and his lyrics are either hit or miss. He'll quote pseudo-philosophy such as "Joy wouldn't feel so good if it wasn't for pain/Death gotta be easy, because life is hard" alongside inexplicably wack lyrics such as "The way I turn money over, you should call me Flipper." The sung hooks are actually quite good, more closely resembling the silky voices of Nate Dogg or Snoop than the off-key gargling of Ja Rule. Speaking of Ja, 50's two disses towards TRL's favorite 'thug in love' are very amusing, as 50 likens Ja's voice to that of the 'Cookie Monster' and mockingly states, "I don't believe you Murr-daa!" Perhaps if 50 spent more time capitalizing on his humor instead of posing as a Mafioso (which has been done to death), the album would be more appealing. Ultimately, Get Rich or Die Tryin' is a very conventional album that is enjoyable about half the time. What Dre and Eminem have essentially done is turn one of the more underrated MCs into one of the most overrated. Think about that.