Lately, it seems like it isn’t enough to find wildly popular success in music — it only leaves Hollywood to conquer. Enter 50 Cent’s newest, “Get Rich or Die Tryin’: Music From and Inspired by the Motion Picture,” which accompanies his semi-biopic of the same name released this week. With the help of the G-Unit, 50 Cent delivers an album whose strength and power are reminiscent of his debut release of 2003, “Get Rich or Die Tryin’.”
After being shot nine times in 2000, 50 Cent burst onto the music scene in late 2002 with renewed street cred and magnetic rhymes. His major label debut “Get Rich or Die Tryin'” was rumored to be the “next big thing,” generating the same type of debut hype as Nas’ “Illmatic” and Notorious BIG’s “Ready to Die” (both released in 1994). However, his follow up released earlier this year, titled “The Massacre,” was filled with depthless songs. It didn’t help that the main singles of the album were limp imitations of other songs (“Disco Inferno” borrows heavily from Lloyd Banks’ “On Fire”).
With his new motion picture “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” 50 Cent follows in his mentor Eminem’s wake — this is his “8 Mile,” from the semi-autobiographical legend-building story to the grainy cinematography. It’s no surprise then that 50’s collection is no different. The soundtrack is full of tough, street rap supplemented by diverse instrumentation such as guitars and horns. At the same time however, it’s obvious calculating record company suits have inserted the requisite dance singles to soften 50’s appeal. Still, 50 Cent and G-Unit are moving beyond the candy shops of 50’s last record and have returned to the gutsy, soulful sounds of his debut. He retains all the self-assurance he had on “The Massacre,” but thankfully little of the conceit.
50 Cent raps on the vast majority of the album’s 18 tracks, but only six of them solely feature 50’s languid voice. He opens the soundtrack with “Hustler’s Ambition,” a threatening track with a steadily pulsating beat and melodic vocals. This first single is a powerful taste of things to come, but surely not the best of the album. Coming off the high of the opener, he retracts a bit with “What If,” a calmer follow-up track that slightly falters due to an annoyingly repetitive hook.
On “Talk About Me,” which addresses the constant commentary he receives from the public, 50 interestingly juxtaposes a lighthearted keyboard riff with the somber ambiance of the song. His final two solo songs, “When It Rains It Pours” and “Best Friend” are less- impressive tracks. The first isn’t worth more than two spins, while the latter somewhat embarrassingly demonstrates 50’s soft side (“If I was your best friend/ I’d want you around all the time/ I’ll be your best friend/ If you’ll promise you’ll be mine”).
50 Cent’s collaborations with the members of G-Unit prove to be more successful. Each rapper brings his own sound and style to the disc — Lloyd Banks reverts to his 50-inspired melodic mumbling and Young Buck’s fierce twang intensifies several tracks — testifying to the overall strength of G-Unit. Specifically, Lloyd Banks and Spider Loc nicely complement 50’s singsong flow on “Things Change.” Banks and Young Buck shine on “You Already Know” — a hypnotic Spanish guitar induces a forceful beat which ebbs in curious restraint. M.O.P.’s hyper-effusive additions to “When Death Becomes U,” when contrasted with 50’s fluid lyricism, make for a memorable track. Another particular standout is the closer “I’ll Whip Ya Head Boy” on which a persistent tuba and Young Buck’s underlying vocals culminate in a forceful end to the disc.
50 also manages to team up with notable artists outside of his G-Unit (wading) pool. Mase, said to be one of 50’s biggest influences, raps on the album’s most intensely emotive track, “I Don’t Know, Officer.” On this minimally-produced song, Mase trades in his borderline pop-rap and subscribes to 50’s more organically raw approach.
“Get Rich or Die Tryin'” has all the makings of a successful hip-hop album, from catchy lyrics to strong collaborations. But like most soundtracks, the effort feels somewhat incomplete. Despite these few missteps, the team delivers a rough and entertaining record, sure to complement its millions of movie ticket sales.
Three and a half stars