Cast your mind back to 2003, the year in which ‘Get Rich or Die Tryin’ debuted at number one in the Billboard Charts. 50 Cent was the hottest property in rap music, his bankable mix of radio-friendly raps and gangster persona making him a commercial and critical success. With the backing of Dr. Dre and Eminem it seemed 50 was destined to be the biggest rapper of his generation. Unfortunately for the man christened Curtis Jackson this was not to prove the case. Since releasing his debut album, 50’s career has slowly but surely diminished. Each album he has brought out has shown a marked decline in quality and on album number five, ‘Animal Ambition’, the Queens rapper does little to reverse the trend.
His first album in five years, this is very much as you were with 50 still mired in the same faux gangster shtick as before. While on his debut this kind of bravado felt authentic, now it just feels worn-out. There’s an air of desperation and absurdity to it all really, especially when you consider he’s now a multi-millionaire who lives in a 50,000 square foot house. Nevertheless 50 persists with tales of guns, murders and drug-dealing. Intended to boost his street credentials, the lyrics actually come across as the ramblings of a man who has watched one too many episodes of The Wire.
The lyrics are certainly this album’s worst feature but the production does little to help. It’s a strange one because taken as individual singles the production on each song is fine. In fact some of the songs sound excellent; the Blaxploitation-style rhythm on Hold On is a particular highlight. The problem is that almost every song is the work of a different producer. The result of this is a very uneven sounding album. There’s a very generic feel to a lot of the songs as well. 50 has a tendency to jump on the bandwagon of whatever genre is flavour of the month and this record is no different. The token ‘club banger’ Smoke featuring rent-a-hook Trey Songz is particularly shameless; a brazen attempt to tap into America’s love of all things EDM.
The album’s one saving grace is 50’s slow, laconic flow. It’s still alluring and it means even when he’s spouting nonsense, and for the most part of this album he is, the song is still semi-listenable. His flow alone is not enough to save this album though, it merely elevates it from dreadful to just below average. It seems the American public agrees too; the album shifted 40,000 copies in its first week. Compare that to the near million his debut sold and you get a picture of how far he has fallen. Another new album is due in November, if 50 wants to rescue his career from terminal decline he’ll want to do a lot better than this stale affair.