Thursday, August 07, 2003

50 Cent

A few months ago over at The Devils' Radio I did a straight listen and comment on Yo La Tengo's Summer Sun. Today, I revisit that concept of listening straight through an album and writing as I go along with 50 Cent's recent Get Rich Or Die Tryin'. Here goes the next hour and change of my life:

The intro is fine, with some change settling on a surface and a gun being cocked.
"What Up Gangsta" starts the album. Is 50 having trouble finding the beat? He seems to start on time and as the verses continue he seems to go as long as the line is written, regardless of beat. Strange. I'm not sure why the ball-grabbing "Gang-STAH" of the chorus. Middling.

An Eminem call out starts "Patiently Waiting" - same issues with lyrics fitting tempo, stopping or starting as the line reaches its end. I wonder if 50 can come in on a beat but can't keep it because he's not good enough or whether he doesn't care. Eminem taking the second verse makes 50 sound amateur - he works his lines in and out of the music, changing emphasis line to line, shifting weight from line to line, like an anxious linebacker. Weak chorus, though I like 50's sing-song styling better than the straight rap speak of the verses. I think of Warren G and Nate Dogg doing regulate when I hear the chorus - I think it's the very West Coast sound with the sing-song choral style.

Gunshots - surprise, surprise. Interesting - starting with the long extended chorus makes "Many Men" seem a little different. Again, I'm not liking his style much, like a more thuggish Jay-Z as far as the lackadaisical delivery. Great chorus though. After three minutes I'm wondering why so many good ideas get stretched beyond their means. Love the little piano figure at the end of the chorus.

Shorty, It's your birthday. "In Da Club" has a great Dre beat - almost an early 90's techno stab. 50 is better at quicker tempos - his delivery is more trancelike and smooth, without the forced emphasis. he doesn't imitate Em or Jay-Z or anyone else on this - it's his sound, he's comfortable here, enjoying the vibe. I'm into having sex, not into making love. The guitar figure that appears at the end is sharp.

"High All The Time" - not the speed of "In Da Club" but quick - chorus is again early 90's West Coast - That's it! Domino! Very reminiscent. Always liked Domino - "Getto Jam" was ahead of it's time - apparently 10 years, based on this album. How many odes to drug use and violence do we need. It's kind of sad - it's not like this stuff wasn't tired and played out before Tupac and Biggie went belly up. I wish, I wish, for something new...

I got over ten more songs? Damn.

"Heat" - some dumb skit for 30 seconds, then organ stabs, and 50 ain't playin'. Dre is redeeming this album big time - top notch production on the whole, mediocre front man. Again, this is Played Out. Though using the sound of chambering a 9mm as a rhythmic device is interesting. 50 doesn't have his happy go lucky sound from "In Da Club" - he sounds like he wants people to understand that shooting people and not taking any shit is real. Sad.

Back to bragging about his badass self with "If I Can't". Great chorus - I'm a sucker for anything that ends with "Baby" - and good piano stabs from Dre throughout. Long three minutes.

An aside: I like Dre's production, even if it's amazingly minimal in parts. I always have leaned more toward the fuller production sound of, for example, Prince Paul or the Bomb Squad, yet Dre has had an amazingly strong and consistent style that is almost the opposite - clean and simple, yet there is always just enough going on to be interesting when the artist in front is not.

"Blood Hound" - can you say filler? At least instead of picking a collaborator that makes him look clueless like Eminem, 50 here raps with Young Buck of G Unit. Remind me to stay away from G Unit. I think it's Young Buck who barks.

A G Unit call out at the beginning of "Back Down", which segues seamlessly from the prior track. However, it sounds like filler as well. I'm going to have to look at the credits after - I think Blood Hound isn't Dre. No tell-tale piano/organ stabs, which seem to be the unifying sound (along with multitracking 50 to make his voice sound less flat and uniform). the "G Unit" call outs are really, really bad "G Unit!" What is with the gay stereotype at the end of this?

"P.I.M.P." - I realize that I have heard 6 songs from this so far on the radio, and yet I couldn't have told you any of them were 50 Cent except this one and "In Da Club". I like the steel drum - it plays a Dre piano figure! Great idea though - it's like a more slinky Dwalli thing (isn't that the name of the inescapable Jamaican rhythm? I may check the spelling later). Makes me miss Billy Ocean. He should make a comeback.

"Like My Style" - another piece with a G Unit flunky making 50 look good. I think I heard this already. Is that good or bad?

"Poor Lil' Rich" has a different sound - definitely not Dre. He's doing that weird falsetto rise in the chorus - it's like three 50's singing "Nig-GAH", sort of like a question, but not an intentional one. Worst song so far, which is saying something. I'm thinking he's shooting lots of blanks, like some sort of posturing peacock with a gat.

"21 Questions" uses a guitar figure in place of the piano stabs for a similar effect. Hey, that's Nate Dogg on chorus, not 50's impression of Nate Dogg! Improvement. "I love you like a fat kid loves cake." Again, doesn't anyone understand that if your going to repeat a riff ad infinitum, you should make the song shorter. This one has a 30 second fade out that doesn't fade out until the last five seconds. Almost good, potential for great in this one. Or maybe that's the last 5 songs making shit shine.

"Don't Push Me" - is 50 cent a fan of Gary Numan? - cheesy eighties keyboard chords hold this on together like cheesy glue. I'm not sure if that's a theremin warbling after the chorus - no, I think it's a keyboard doing a tremolo wobble. Would have been cool though. maybe that's my calling - Theremin rapper. Oh, here's Eminem outclassing his protege. Again, he shows how adaptable and masterful he is, even on throwaway lyrics like these.

Bad, bad keyboard. Bad keyboard. You know that synthesized orchestra sound that ruled late eighties house? Then was cut and truncated for tracks like "James Brown is Dead?" The keyboard in "Gotta Make It To Heaven" is like that, only worse. 50 is getting lost in this - too much production. Keyboard stabs and orchestra, drums, handclaps, bongos, Space Invaders sound effects. It's like Dre and Tupac's "California" done flat and bland.

Bonus Cuts:

"Wankster": Just what this needs, more filler. "You're a Wankster" - um, takes one to know one? I want good music! If I'm going to have to listen to someone who has nothing new to say, say it a new way! It's not like Eminem is the most original guy out there - he has his moments, but a lot of his songs are just his versions of the "I'm the illest MF". Yet, he seems original because of his music and delivery. He makes the tropes his, not like 50 here.

"U Not Like Me". No shit. I haven't been shot for doing stupid, stupid things. Most of America, and all the little white boys buying this up, aren't like you, and don't want to do all the crime and crap U Done. By god you're dumb and loud.

Ok, I don't get this at all. He's a little talent (not no talent - there are a few passing songs, and "In Da Club" is downright great), sharing a stage with more important and talented artists (like Dre and Em).

He sums it up nicely "Nobody likes me, that's ok/'Cause I don't like y'all anyway - fuck all y'all" to start "Life's On The Line." I'm done with this. 50 Cent ain't worth two bits.

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