With a past that includes multiple gunshot wounds to the mouth, various broken record contracts, an incredible New York mix-tape career and 11 million copies of Get Rich or Die Tryin’ sold, it’s possible to forgive the occasional self-indulgence and self-aggrandizement on his second proper album, The Massacre.
Crazy insane or insane crazy? After the past few months, it’s hard to tell if 50 Cent is the next generation of the Rakim/B.I.G./Jay-Z New York lineage or simply a man whose unprecedented success has rendered him paranoid and on the verge of self-destruction.
50’s chameleonic flow — part Queens roughneck, part injury-induced Southern drawl — keeps clichéd guns-and-ammo joints like “Outta Control” and “This Is 50” above water. Gangsta rap feeds on each artist’s street credibility, so when he raps, “A lil’ nigga hurt his arm, lettin off that Eagle, you know me / Black on black Bentley, big ol’ black 9 / I’ll clap your monkey-ass, yeah black on black crime,” well, you try and argue with him.
According to the man himself, 50 Cent recorded a body of over 60 songs from which he chose the 22 that make up The Massacre. What’s troubling about this 2Pac like work ethic is that only about half of the album’s tracks deserve to see the light of day. The first two singles, “Disco Inferno” and “Candy Shop,” are both flaccid crossover jams with requisite pithy string sections and mediocre Indian flutes, respectively. Being the godfather of G-Unit doesn’t seem to be helping his artistic output, either.
While he’s never quite the perfect gentleman, he gets downright nasty toward the women on the aptly named “Get in My Car” and makes some Sylvia Plath-esque death wishes on the murky “I’m Supposed To Die Tonight.” For someone who wants so desperately to join the rap hall of fame, 50 has made The Massacre out to be the typical achievement of post-Golden Age rap: pockets of weak musical filler buffered by incandescent singles.
As on Get Rich or Die Tryin’, 50 reaches musical peaks when he cuts loose and delivers unfettered blitzkriegs of rage, party revelry or some combination of both. Though it may lead to death by mix tape roasting, he calls out both Jadakiss and Fat Joe for working with G-Unit/Shady archenemy Ja Rule on the relentless steel-drum and synth-fueled “Piggy Bank.” As 50 Cent launches hallucinogenic barb after barb and proposes death to Jada, Fat Joe, Shyne and Nas, the beat, seemingly fueled by pure malice and ecstasy, flies over listeners’ heads like a squall of fighter jets.
Worn-out Motown vocal loops on “Ski Mask Way” recall 50’s pre-Aftermath record days and help to salve the pain of the bloated suburban-raps of “So Amazing.”
Sometimes he strays from the autobiographical and taps into emotional narratives. Unfortunately, he only does it once on The Massacre, and “A Baltimore Love Thing” might be too oblique for the listeners expecting boilerplate verses.
The week of The Massacre’s release, G-Unit rookie and Dr. Dre protégé The Game, who coincidently has a multi-platinum debut album at the top of the Billboard charts, bashed 50 Cent on-air before 50 subsequently ex-communicated him from G-Unit. Later that week, members of The Game’s clique launched shootings at two venues where 50 was reportedly present.
Even for a man raised on death and seemingly unafraid of the afterlife, 50 Cent’s approach to mortality is downright shocking. For all of Eminem’s beef-squashing diplomacy on “Like Toy Soldiers,” 50 just seems to fear destruction that much less.
He’s turning on everyone in sight, seeming to mock mentor Eminem on “My Toy Soldier,” and picking fights with whomever he wants. Here’s hoping The Massacre will become a middling, if not solid entry, into 50’s catalogue and not his death warrant.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars