Friday, April 8, 2011

Album Review: "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" - 50 Cent (2003)

INTRODUCTION

I wrote about 50 Cent's first album, Power Of The Dollar, back in November and gave you the background information on the legendary rapper, so, for the sake of time, I am going to keep this introduction to a minimum.

However, I obviously feel the need to remind you (just in case you forgot and/or didn't read the first line of this write-up) that Get Rich or Die Tryin' was not 50's debut record. The aforementioned Power Of The Dollar was, but due to Fiddy's shooting, he was dropped from Columbia Records, and Power Of The Dollar was never officially released. Then, Eminem and Dr. Dre discovered and signed 50 Cent, and a career was born.

Of course, Get Rich or Die Tryin' was still 50's most successful project, selling 872,000 copies its first week (good for second among rap albums all-time) and being certified eight times platinum by the RIAA. It also spawned six singles, including 50's breakthrough hit, "In Da Club," a song I was never really too big of a fan of.

Get Rich or Die Tryin' features a variety of producers, ranging from Dr. Dre to Eminem to Rockwilder, and vivid tales of street life by Curtis Jackson (50 Cent), covering a wide spectrum of subject matter from his shooting to braggadocio to hustling and, of course, to making it happen with the ladies (okay; that sounded really lame).

Get Rich or Die Tryin' is considered by almost everyone to be 50's masterpiece, and many also consider it to be one of the more influential rap records of our time (most old-school fans will scoff at that, but there is truth to it).

So, let's get to it.

TRACK-BY-TRACK

1. What Up Gangsta

The album gets off to a great start, as Rob Tewlow (whom, as far as I know, we would never hear of again after this record, which is strange considering how good it was) laces a banging beat for 50 Cent to rip to bits. This is a very, very typical braggadocio track, but not many rappers have mastered that as well as 50 has. Also, how can you not love the hook on this?

2. Patiently Waiting
And the phenomenal start continues. "Patiently Waiting" is the best song on Get Rich or Die Tryin'; bar effing none. Eminem's beat is ridiculously dark, and both he (he drops a scintillating guest verse on this) and 50 go in, combining to form one of the best collaborations I have ever heard. Most will say that Eminem murdered Curtis on this, but I disagree, as I think Fiddy more than held his own. This is probably the best lyrical performance of 50 Cent's career.

3. Many Men (Wish Death)
A lot of people say this is 50's best song. I do not concur, as I feel "Patiently Waiting" (among a few others) have "Many Men (Wish Death)" beaten in that regard, but either way, this is still a very, very good record. This is without a doubt one of the most introspective raps 50 Cent has ever written, regardless of the fact that the content is pretty violent. The instrumental by Darrell Branch is an appropriate combination of darkness and somberness.

4. In Da Club
I have never understood what was so great about this song. I know you'll all probably think I've lost my mind after reading what I'm about to say, but I legitimately think that "In Da Club" is one of the worst cuts on the album. I have always felt that Dr. Dre's beat on this was very elementary, and I just never saw what was so catchy about the record as a whole.

5. High All The Time
Back on track. "High All The Time" isn't on the same level as the three-headed monster that opened up Get Rich or Die Tryin', but it's still pretty damn good. DJ Rad's production is outstanding, and what makes this cut even better is that it's not just a song about smoking. The hook here is incredible, and 50 Cent's flow is great.

6. Heat
This Dr. Dre-laced record is certainly a much better effort than "In Da Club," as the instrumental will make you want to punch the nearest object (so move away from the wall or any valuable items while listening to this). As I'm sure you can infer from the song's title, Curtis' subject matter is ridiculously violent here, but it fits in the context of the album.

7. If I Can't
The second-best track on the album. Dre's piano-driven beat is sick, and 50 engages in some more braggadocio rap, but even moreso than he did on "What Up Gangsta." "If I Can't" is easily one of the greatest pump-up songs you will ever have the pleasure of hearing.

8. Blood Hound
Young Buck, who would later become a member of G-Unit and then proceed to get kicked out of the group a few years later, made himself known to the world on "Blood Hound," and he does an adequate job. The song as a whole isn't fantastic, but it works, as Sean Blaze's production is solid and 50 Cent sounds pretty damn impressive over it. The hook is also pretty catchy.

9. Back Down
One of two Ja Rule disses on the album. This one was produced by Dr. Dre, but the beat, as menacing as it is, never really hit me that hard. That said, 50's bars certainly did, as hearing him say Ja Rule sounded like the Cookie Monster was just great. This signaled the beginning of the end of Ja Rule's career.

10. P.I.M.P.
This is a pretty polarizing song, as the beat, produced by Mr. Porter, is reggae-influenced, and 50 Cent basically talks about, um, being a pimp throughout the entire track. I've always been on the side that likes it. That's all I've really got.

11. Like My Style
Which brings us to the most underrated song on Get Rich or Die Tryin'. Seriously; no one ever talks about "Like My Style," and I really don't know why, because it effing knocks. The fast-paced instrumental by Rockwilder is ill, and 50 Cent's flow over it is crazy. Also, Tony Yayo makes a brief appearance in 50's first verse (albeit it was only one adlib) and then another one near the track's conclusion, and the funny part is I really, really dug his part in terms of the latter. I've always loved his "you're not, really really ready, ready, the drama will have ya ass in trauma, boy" line.

12. Poor Lil Rich
After eight years, I still haven't decided on whether or not I like this song. I do know that I've always loved the hook, but at the same time, Sha Money XL's beat just confuses the hell out of me.

13. 21 Questions
The song for the ladies. "21 Questions" is one of Curtis' most popular cuts, but, much like "In Da Club," I've never dug it that much. Nate Dogg (R.I.P.) makes an appearance and does the hook, but his effort just sounded lazy to me and was nowhere near what he was actually capable of. The production (by Dirty Swift of Midi Mafia) was nothing more than average.

14. Don't Push Me
The second (and final) Eminem production on the album. It is not even close to the level of "Patiently Waiting" and, quite frankly, I've always felt this song was pretty overrated. That said, I really liked Lloyd Banks' effort, even if it was incredibly amateurish compared to what Banks can do nowadays. As for Em's verse? Meh.

15. Gotta Make It To Heaven
"Gotta Make It To Heaven" is my least favorite song on Get Rich or Die Tryin'. As a matter of fact, it's the only track I always skip whenever I'm listening to the album. I just don't like it, as I think Megahertz's beat is awful.

16. Wanksta
The first of three bonus tracks (all of which were recorded before the time of Get Rich or Die Tryin', as I'm sure you can tell just from listening to the difference in 50 Cent's voice) on the album and 50's most famous Ja Rule diss. I used to like "Wanksta" a lot more than I do today, but it's still a decent cut. John "J-Praize" Freeman's instrumental is effective, and 50 once again gets at Ja Rule with no problem.

17. U Not Like Me
This record, which was originally on 50 Cent's 2002 compilation album, Guess Who's Back?, bangs. Red Spyda's beat possesses an extremely intimidating feel, and Curtis effortlessly tears it to shreds. Side note: "U Not Like Me" is best-enjoyed played in your whip. Believe me.

18. Life's On The Line
Like "U Not Like Me," this cut was also on Guess Who's Back? (not to mention Power of The Dollar), and this was actually the record that caught Eminem's attention. Terence Dudley's beat knocks, and 50 goes in like an animal and puts down some of his most violent raps ever (and that's saying something). The hook on this is simply terrific.

FINAL THOUGHTS

While I don't listen to Get Rich or Die Tryin' regularly anymore (frankly, I just got tired of it), it really was a great effort by 50 Cent and was certainly ahead of its time. The production remained relatively consistent throughout, and 50 never strays away from his tough-guy persona (I mean, you can even feel his swagger on "21 Questions"), making for a steady, enjoyable listen all the way through.

Many hip-hop "purists" will put this album down and say it cannot hold a candle to the classics out there, and while that may be true, I think it is very unfair to judge Get Rich or Die Tryin' in that regard. Instead, we should just focus on the individual product, and when you do that, you should be able to see that this was a pretty impressive record.

Curtis is obviously no wordsmith, but what he was able to do here was invoke a ridiculous amount of emotion (you can really just feel his hunger on "Patiently Waiting" and his pain on "Many Men [Wish Death]") into his songs, and sometimes that is more important than the actual lyrics themselves. Of course, due to his remarkable success, you don't see that with 50 Cent anymore, but he definitely displayed it on his sophomore effort.

Based on his three follow-up albums, I think it's a safe assumption to state that 50 will never come close to matching Get Rich or Die Tryin' again. I did really like Before I Self Destruct and think that's the closest thing since, but, in all seriousness, it really wasn't that close at all; it was just a lot closer than The Massacre and Curtis.

Get Rich or Die Tryin' flashed a hungry 50 Cent still trying to make it in the industry, and that is the main reason why it was such a successful album. Unfortunately, given that 50 can retire right now and be set for nine lifetimes, we will never see that Curtis Jackson again.

TOP FIVE TRACKS

1. Patiently Waiting
2. If I Can't
3. What Up Gangsta
4. Like My Style
5. Many Men (Wish Death)

SKIPPABLE TRACKS

Gotta Make It To Heaven

2 comments:

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  2. At this point I believe you just don't like commercial type songs. I am not a 50 Cent fan at all and his debut album is very questionable as far as quality in the "classic" regard, but In da Club and 21 Questions were nice cuts. It was for a pop appeal. What did you expect 50 to actually do? He should've made more records like that

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