When most artists use their real name as the title of their albums, it' s usually a literal act: the content, more times than not, is more introspective, more personal, having a "raw" feel to it. That artist is not 50 Cent. He named his latest disc Curtis to stop Cam'rom's viral campaign, to some success. The problem is, that's his only motivation: nowhere in this CD does 50 hint at a renewed sense of self. No, we're getting treated to the same Hennessey wishes and gunplay wet dreams that we've grown tired of hearing from 50, the G-Unit and roughly 90% of mainstream Rap radio. While this CD is not the weakest thing to drop in 2007 by any means, it does show that 50 might be a victim of his own past success (which he has alluded to), which has now seemed to manifest itself in the public's boredom with his new product, as well as him being stuck in a creative rut.
The album kicks off with "My Gun", which has 50 dropping so many "I'm gonna shoot you, nigga" references it's ridiculous, but the fucked up part is, in the intro of the very next song ("Man Down") 50 sing-songs an intro about people trying to pin murders on him, but it being impossible, b/c his people murder for him. So which one is it, 50? You pullin' the trigger or the strings? To keep the murder rate rising, 50 then doubles back and pulls Akon along for the ride, with "I'll Still Kill", AKA another excuse to lyrically masturbate about gunfire; not to mention that the beat, while very dope, has that Dr. Dre-lite feel to it: very minimal, kind of sparse, but then towards the end of a measure, it drops that string/piano combo ontop of the basic beat. Why have DJ Khalil mimic Dr. Dre beat-wise, then waste Dre on the chorus to "Come And Go"? The only time he gets it right is when he spits over "Curtis 187", where he is putting his grimey-past on blast, which makes sense: when you were a notty-head yout, yes, you probably popped your guns all the time. "Fully Loaded Clip" has him saying "I ain't fresh out the hood/I'm still in the hood", but what hood is this? I know Connecticut has its grimey sections, but come on 50! For as many interviews I've read and seen 50 speak about artists being believable, how can he stay writing about his past life in the present tense? If he was to stay believable, shouldn't his rhymes be about "Fully Loaded Pens", where he's making sure he has enough Bics to sign all the endorsements, or all of the rapper contracts, as opposed to lying about bagging up coke or the modern day murking of the ever-present snitch?
50's next misstep is thinking he is a sexytime loverman. "Amusement Park" sounds like an R. Kelly b-side, no matter how well he worked the circus sounds in that beat. Who picked this to be a single!? "Ayo Technology" has 50 trying too much: he's trying to hard to keep up with Justin Timberlake and Timbaland's sound, as well as trying to master a double-time flow that works for this beat, but not for 50. Instead of trying to sound intelligent or like he cares about his lyrics, he spends a few bars "rapping", then does a slowed down sing-song, but somehow gives up and lets Justin outshine him (no matter there's a 50-less version on some Pop stations). The beat is a masterpiece - my boy Rafi wants to know what video game-sampling producer's beat did Timbaland jack to bring this to the masses. The fucking noise in there is reminiscent of a boss level in an old NES game, and the instrumental is ripe to be murked by a better-qualified MC. "Follow My Lead" has a nice bop to it, and is where 50 should stay: seductive bedroom eyes over a mid-tempo piano romp, with Robin Thicke blessing the chorus; no wonder 50 got so pissed when this leaked. 50's Mary J. Blige-assisted "All Of Me" sounds like a Love & Life cutting-room floor track, and is only saved by a decent beat (could they not come up with anything better than "got me feeling like a fiend on crack"?)... which is the saving grace for the majority of this album.
I wish I knew what the tracklist looked like before 50 went back in to retool it. He spent a few months making "I Get Money", AKA the concrete anthem of Summer 2k7, and added/took off tracks, but it sounds like he made a CD that wouldn't get laughed at standing next to his previous output. He will no doubt still sell a good grip of records, and will make Dr. Dre and Interscope some good money, but at what cost? In terms of replay value, unless you are 14 years old, white, and trying to piss off your parents, I can only count 5 tracks that should even be revisited. For every "I Get Money", we then get treated to "Straight To The Bank". And why did he keep "Peep Show" on the CD? Eminem phones in a verse AND a wack beat, and he expects this to sell? "Fire" sounds disjointed, as if he told Young Buck "I'll fix you, nigga. You talk to The Game, you do the chorus with a Pussycat Doll". As Method Man would say, "torture, mufucka", which is exactly how I felt when listening to this disc.
rock the dub gives Curtis a 2.5 out of 5. Average work from an average at best MC, who can write hooks and speak about his past exploits with the best of them. Hopefully there's an instrumental version coming, b/c those beats are the saving grace.
Essential Cuts: "Man Down", "Follow My Lead", "Curtis 187"
50 Cent's Curtis is available TODAY at all major retailers.
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