No artist without a major-label release was talked about more than 50 Cent in 2002. His independent albums and mixtape appearances enthroned him as king of the hip-hop underground, his lyricism distinguished him from many of his peers and his incessant attacks on Ja Rule won him many fans. 50 also made news last year by signing with Shady Records, uniting him with Eminem and forging a scary lyrical tag team. Em’s decision, were it ever doubted, now seems wise given 50’s solid major label debut, Get Rich or Die Tryin’.

Todd Weiser

The album’s virtues, which are both abundant and worthy of explanation, must first take a backseat to this caveat though: Longtime 50 fans will find Tryin’ disappointing. The tight and unrelenting flow that 50 made his signature while destroying mixtapes in New York is too infrequently found here. While there are verses that fans will learn with a “this-is-vintage-50” satisfaction, like the first rhyme in “Back Down,” there are also many loosely-constructed flows that seem either a product of lacking imagination, deficient beats or desire for airplay. 50, born Curtis Jackson, is mostly on his game, but it’s not hard to hear when he’s not.

Luckily, there is still much to like about this record. For starters, the verses with which Jackson comes correct are impressive and 50 composes rhymes that are witty, involved and captivating. This style is perhaps best heard on the album’s last two songs, “U Not Like Me” and “Life’s on the Line.”

Tryin’ also benefits from its production on the whole. Dr. Dre and Eminem served as the executive producers for this album and their influence is noticeable; many of the tracks significantly relying on the keyboard sounds that have become staples of the Shady/Aftermath style. On songs like “What Up Gangsta” and “Patiently Waiting,” 50 spits over beats that are menacing and contain a dramatic element often found on Eminem records. Meanwhile, the Dre-produced “In Da Club” is a certified club banger, and “Back Down,” with its sparse drum rhythm and simple tones, provides the perfect arena for Jackson’s unilateral battle with Murder Inc.’s finest thug-singer.

There are, however, beats that fail spectacularly and the songs bearing them provide the 18-track record with its only skip-worthy material. Overall, 50’s album, while not equal to the hype that preceded it, is a fine entrance into the mainstream for a talented artist.

3 1/2 Stars

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