Posted by Michael Mandelkern When 50 Cent released his third album, "Curtis," in late-2007 his rap superstar status was challenged. He vowed to quit the rap game if Kanye West outsold him, and then proceeded to lose the high-profile sales battle against Kanye.
Instead of actually retiring, 50 stayed low-profile in the mainstream and released several street mix tapes. He fired shots at his adversaries on "Elephant in the Sand" in 2008 and released the aggressive and confrontational "War Angel LP" in 2009.
Through promoting his music and public appearance on his social network, www.ThisIs50.com, 50 Cent is back in the spotlight on the strength of his street material.
On Nov. 16, 50 Cent attempted to return to his roots with "Before I Self Destruct," his fourth solo release. He has compared his latest album to the relentless of his solo debut, "Get Rich or Die Tryin'." In 2003, 50 Cent was trying to establish himself as a big player in the rap game.
Since then, he has embroiled himself in high-profile feuds with numerous rappers, most notably with ex-G-Unit artists Young Buck and The Game.
50 is now secure enough with his superstar status that he chooses to brush off his enemies, instead of thrashing at them as he did in his ascendance to fame. He raps with a primal conviction that is comparable to King Kong on top of the Empire State Building.
On "So Disrespectful" he belittles The Game as inferior in his status when he raps, "See, I'm what you never gon' be/I'm in that tax bracket you never gon' see." 50 Cent is on a different level from a rapper who was once a credible threat to 50's credibility.
50 Cent is now comfortable enough to discuss his personal life. His rap adversaries and family may fire at him, but he eats the bullets like King Kong did from the fighter planes. "Everybody mad, damn, even my dad / And I don't even know him, now how the f*** I owe him? / I don't owe nobody s***, I'mma show them." Over tormenting piano keys he bears no compassion to the mother of his child ("I gave the b**** a half a mil / She blew it on Prada") and regards his enemies as ants. He comes off unstoppable, cold-blooded and solitary.
On the mournful and thumping "Strong Enough" he raps on the chorus, "These n***** ain't strong enough, they money ain't long enough / When they bump heads with me, they find out the guns do bust." The track underscores his fearlessness, which was exuded in 2003 but ?battle-tested by now.
50 Cent matches the cadence of the album's instrumentals (with his delivery. In the ominous "Crime Wave" he growls through the persona of a paranoid drug dealer and in "Stretch" cruises a low-tempo, thumping beat. He captures his drug dealing and violent past with the hunger and cockiness he had before the fame.
The album has little luster, however, even though there are some bright gems. There are various tracks that add no substance and reek of little effort. Over the dreary "Gangsta's Delight," he yawns clichés, and he mindlessly flaunts his material wealth to women on "Get It Hot," a beat reminiscent of "I Get Money" that is not head-bob inducing.
"Before I Self Destruct" is like a bag of popcorn that has not been in the microwave long enough. His standout tracks are popped but too many songs are still kernels.
50 Cent does not release enough heat to make another classic album, but he could. The album's uneven effort could be frustrating to his core fan base. When he is hungry, the listener feels his pains, but if 50 gets too full he just might self-destruct.