50 Cent: Before I Self Destruct

50 Cent – nee Curtis Jackson – is one of the more brilliant entrepreneurs to come out of modern hip-hop, but as a rapper, the man has problems: He’s been locked in a sales slide since releasing his seven-times-platinum debut, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, in 2003, and these days, you’re more likely to see him in theaters (where he’s popped up in horrible movies like (“Righteous Kill”) or video games (such as “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2”) than hear him on the radio. 50’s artistic confusion is reflected in Before I Self Destruct’s troubled birth: Originally slated for release in 2007, Destruct was bumped in favor of the roundly panned Curtis, then shoved all over Interscope’s schedule for months; no fewer than six singles from the album have been released since October of 2008, and tellingly, none of them have had half the impact of earlier hits like “In da Club” or “Candy Shop.” Whatever 50’s been doing to this album for the last two years, it hasn’t helped much: Whether he’s engaging in unintentional self-parody with ludicrous gangsta tracks or raging against seemingly everyone in his personal and business life, Self Destruct lacks any of the menacing, mush-mouthed charm that made him a star.

He’s clearly making a desperate effort to make up for embarrassing pop concessions like “Amusement Park,” but none of it works; the production (courtesy of top-shelf producers like Dr. Dre, Polow da Don, and Rockwilder) is as dull and played out as 50’s subject matter – his current single, “Baby By Me,” even samples his own “I Get Money.” Meanwhile, 50 himself strains to sound dangerous, but it’s hard to take tracks like “Death to My Enemies,” “Crime Wave,” and “Gangsta’s Delight” seriously coming from a guy who just debuted his first fragrance for men. His laconic flow has always been part of his appeal, but here, 50 Cent just sounds flabby and tired, and at 16 deeply uninspired tracks, Before I Self Destruct is a painfully long slog. Try to imagine the musical equivalent of being peed on in a rainstorm while an escaped mental patient with a speech impediment shouts at you, and you’ll come close to the experience. With a long list of movies in production and a contract-sealing greatest hits collection on the way, it could be some time before we hear new music from 50 Cent; hopefully, the time off gives him a chance to recharge his creative batteries. (Aftermath/Interscope 2009)

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