As I’ve written before, hip-hop had become only a fraction of 50 Cent’s empire. The epitome of hip-hop hyper masculinity, 50 Cent had morphed from a hungry street emcee into a media personality, a corporate CEO, an actor and a Vitamin Water spokesman, but he was only nominally a rapper, and not surprisingly, his music suffered. Sure, he could still crush any rapper who dared offend him, but he did so with the weight of his media empire, not his rhymes. Perhaps sensing his microphone credibility slipping, 50 has returned to the basics for his …
DJBooth Album Review
Before I Self Destruct was originally supposed to drop in 2007, but apparently Fiddy wasn’t feeling self destructive enough at the time and instead released Curtis (a.k.a. the album Kanye crushed him on), saying he would hold Self Destruct until the time was right. The time still isn’t quite right - security isn’t tight enough around the G-Unit fortress and the album leaked on the internet several weeks early - but one way or another, Self Destruct has been unleashed upon the world. He won’t want me to put it this way, but this is a comeback album for 50, an album that’s his best since Get Rich or Die Trying, and possibly his best ever.
For most fans Crime Wave was the first “oh s**t, is 50 back?” moment. From the moment the track’s concrete heavy bass line dropped 50’s bad intentions were clear, and more importantly, he did the track’s devastating beat justice, dropping intentionally blunt and blistering lines that are more declarations of war than rhymes: “I’m not telling you to shoot somebody, but if somebody try to shoot you, shoot em.” Not exactly advice you’ll hear at school. Even better is Stretch, a track that not only harkens back to 50’s days as a street level drug dealer but reveals more about the album’s title: “I’m not supposed to be the boss, I’m supposed to be an enforcer.” 50 apparently believes it’s only a matter of time before his violent tendencies overwhelm his CEO responsibilities, and I’m not inclined to disagree. On occasion 50 takes his need to be intimidating a little too far, most notably on Psycho, a track that’s only too appropriate for guest artist Eminem but doesn’t quite work for 50, who’s far too calculating to truly pull off “psycho,” but when he misses on Self Destruct, at least 50 misses while trying to hit the right target.
Where Curtis really fell apart was when 50 turned his attention to the ladies, but on Self Destruct he mercifully avoids any attempts at reviving Candy Shop, and when he does turn his thoughts to women he does so with relative skill. Case in point, Baby Be Me, the album’s lead single and a track that softens 50’s killer persona without turning him soft, giving him a catchy beat by Polow da Don to work over and bringing in the always classy Ne-Yo to polish things off. Every modern hip-hop album that wants to sell big needs at least one track for the ladies, and Baby By Me should get the job done nicely, especially if gold-digging groupies officially adopt it as their anthem. While 50 never gets as sexy-romantic again on Self Destruct, the album does touch on relationships a few more times: on the soulfully regretful Do You Think About Me and the unintentionally hilarious Could’ve Been You, though most of the hilarity predictably comes from R. Kelly’s hook (“cause I be smellin my s**t too, now how you like that?”). In fact, the album’s only flat-out love song is Hold Me Down, and there the object of 50’s affection is his gun. Women weren’t weakening 50’s game, his desire to make radio hits for them was, and thankfully on Self Destruct he desire is mostly dead.
More important that what Self Destruct says about 50 as a public persona, or his place in the rap game, Before I Self Destruct is a hip-hop album that actually seems to care about hip-hop. Hell, the man even does a semi-quasi-cover of the Sugarhill Gang’s seminal Rapper’s Delight with his Gangsta’s Delight. So how long will it be until 50 once again forgets hip-hop in favor of a new clothing line or corporate deal? If history is any judge, not long. But for now, he’s just a damn good street rapper – exactly what we were all waiting for him to become again.
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 11/9/09
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"You Don't Know ft. 50 Cent, Ca$his & Lloyd Banks" (2006)
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