I’ve never been a big fan of 50 Cent and I won’t pretend that I am. I’ve heard his early material (including his shelved “debut” album for Columbia Records, Power of the Dollar), some of his mixtapes and even the G-Unit LP, Beg for Mercy. I felt each release varied in quality, but when I came across 50’s sophomore album, The Massacre, I was as surprised as any Rap fan could hope to be.
The Massacre is, indeed, a far cry from 50’s early material and also his official debut album, Get Rich or Die Tryin’. Less hardcore and abrasive, but softer and more radio-friendly, it is, ultimately, the equivalent of anything rival Ja Rule would record. It seems money got the best of 50 as he had abandoned his previous persona for that of your rapper everyman; lighting up clubs, loving the shorties and, when tiring of that, maybe a clapping a shot or two. The Massacre was poorly received critically, but sold unsurprisingly well. Hardcore 50 fans hate it, the Rap community hates it, but being the guy I am I couldn’t just rely on word of mouth. In the end, however, it’s the only 50 Cent album that I can truly listen to after one full spin… and it only took 50 selling his soul to accomplish it.
In a surprising first, 50 attempts to cover a wide variety of topics throughout the course of the LP. There are fewer hardcore/gangsta tracks as opposed to Get Rich or Die Tryin’, but, as a result, there is more material closer to what 50 attempted on one of that album’s hit singles, 21 Questions. A select portion of the album is female-friendly, either through club-ready or pseudo-love songs, which is almost enigmatic in and of itself. 50 Cent has always degraded women and when he performs songs such as the very respectful, dare I say beautiful, So Amazing, the end result, though stellar, seems insincere. That doesn’t detract from the overall score of the album, though, but it’s just quite uncharacteristic of 50. Other songs, such as Get in My Car paint women as sex objects, as does lead single Candy Shop. The material may be catchy, but the less violent 50 was certainly a surprise for a lot of fans. 50 also finds time to include some club joints. Outta Control is easily the best, but Disco Inferno doesn’t disappoint, either.
50 will always include songs for the gangstas and, although not as abundant as it was in past releases, 50’s improved lyrics does seem to help matters during these particular moments. The album’s opener, In My Hood, creates perfect atmosphere between the lyrics and beat, while I’m Supposed to Die Tonight is as dark as the songs get here. Its hook is almost reminiscent of 2Pac’s Death Row material, while its grimy lyrics are certainly not a detractor. Ski Mask Way is blessed with similarly gritty lyrics and production that could work miracles.
There’s also more introspective material on this release than 50 has covered on past albums. A Baltimore Love Thing is a track which finds 50 using the metaphor of a failing relationship for heroin addiction, while more casual material like the reflective God Gave Me Style finds 50 giving thanks to God for everything that he has graced him with (such as his recent success). Although not quite as introspective as the others, Ryder Music is the mellowest track presented here and represents another dimension of the album fairly well also.
The production given to 50 is, personally, some of my favorite he’s been handed. Ranging from club bangers to laid-back pieces to more atypical gangsta productions, there’s a wide variety of beats handled for The Massacre. 50 does well with all of them, although by the time the album is over, the tracks will have begun to run into each other. Less characteristic of 50 as well, the production is more characteristic of the mellower, radio-friendly lyrics than the hardcore material present on 50’s past albums and mixtapes. But that’s not a detractor; the many different styles are great for variety and the big name producers that lend 50 a hand do grade-A work.
Not many guests to worry yourself with except G-Unit or its affiliates (aside from an underused Jamie Foxx); many of them are just wasted air time. I’m not the biggest fan of G-Unit, so maybe I’m biased here, but the only decent verses spat by any of them are courtesy of ousted G-Unit member Game and punchline rapper Lloyd Banks. Any of the decent guest appearances come in the form of backup vocals (such as Olivia on So Amazing) and a rare hot verse here and there. Other than that, 50 was obviously trying to keep the spotlight on himself.
Not a perfect album by a long shot, but one of the most entertaining and even exhibiting an artistic growth, The Massacre is an undeniably solid release from Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. If some of the fat was trimmed, this could have been an album to contend with for 2005. As it stands right now, it’s just a solid release from an artist who usually relies far too much on image to move units.