Review : 50 Cent - Before I Self Destruct
PitchforkSo I bought The 50th Law. Like most non-musical projects involving 50 Cent, his co-authored book of Machiavellian strategy stood a good chance at being mindlessly entertaining, and fuck-- I wouldn't mind being as rich as he is. Surely, I'd learn some sort of hustling tactic that would allow me to make back my $20 and then some. It held up its end of the bargain on the first part, but amidst the surprisingly practical advice and hilariously revisionist history (a staged thrashing of an Interscope office is remembered as a PR coup for Curtis. Kanye West isn't mentioned once in the book), there was little insight to 50's music-making process. The "50th law" essentially lionizes fearlessness and a deep connection with the public, qualities almost entirely absent from his last two albums-- Curtis sounded a hell of a lot like a rap record made by a guy who lives in a Connecticut mansion, while the profoundly bored War Angel LP only served as proof of how the mixtape game he revolutionized had completely passed him by.
But 50's nothing if not calculating, and while Before I Self Destruct might not be designed to reach the pretty impressive first week sales of Curtis, it may be a wiser move making it to appeal to listener who still might be rooting for the guy. In other words, the sort of guy who thought "Blood Hound" and "Back Down" were by far the best tracks from Get Rich or Die Tryin'. It's transparent pandering on the level of "Amusement Park", but the difference is that 50 still can rap convincingly about his financial power moves whereas every bit of sexual pursuit simply bores him to death-- he can't even really make a love song about his guns these days (see "Hold Me Down").
He's still got that voice, and when he wants, it can still intoxicate and overwhelm with sheer menace. "The Invitation" and "Death to My Enemies" snarl with a ferocity that's refreshing in the context of 50's recent output as well as the current hip-pop landscape where meat'n'potatoes gangsta is actually kinda novel. He disarmingly sings along with the Jackson 5 sample that begins "Then Days Went By" before reshaping his "Hate It or Love It" verse into a squalid blaxploitation that makes you think he'd view Precious as a comedy. There's the part where a trip to the South turns into a murder spree and he pistol-whips his drug-addled uncle, but it's his staggering anti-romance that provides the most creepy shock: "she was 20, I was 12/ Nana said she raped me/ I just smiled ear to ear saying 'take it, baby, take it.'"...full text
BbcIt’s been well over two years since Curtis Jackson announced the impending release of Before I Self Destruct, a span of time that’s seen the delivery of not just one 50 Cent album – 2008’s Curtis – but also an album with 50’s reliably no-frills gangsta rap crew G-Unit.
Curtis was patchy, but it did at least see Fiddy trying to expand his brief, enlisting guests including Akon, Justin Timberlake and Nicole Scherzinger of Pussycat Dolls and switching up the relentless gun-talk in favour of game attempts at crossover. It, like all 50’s albums to date, was huge, but in context, could also be seen as a commercial stumble – 50 claimed it would outstrip Kanye West’s Graduation in first week sales, a target it fell short of by 250,000 sales.
Perhaps for this reason, then, Before I Self Destruct has the feel of a rapper returning to what he knows best – that is, 16 tracks largely predicated on murder, crime and revenge, sometimes tinged with nostalgia for a time before warfare permeated hip hop, but short on mercy in the here and now. Notably, 50 still has a talent for this stuff. Both Then Days Went By and the Dr Dre-produced Death to My Enemies mix lyrical violence with beats that jack from classic soul, neatly blending light and shade....full text
PrefixmagSince releasing 2007’s depressingly middling Curtis, 50 Cent has kept comparatively quiet. The mindless feuds with Fat Joe and Rick Ross garnered media attention, but otherwise 50 has been blessedly regulated to the shadows, the result of a weary and jaded record-buying public. His once-intriguing persona -- the suave and articulate yet vehement pop-rap titan whose music is defined by an isolative, disgusted nihilism but who has enough showbiz-ready charisma to wow Vivica A. Fox and the editors at GQ -- lost its luster a half-decade ago, and the occasional glimmer of apprehension is the only remotely interesting thing about 50’s recent activities. He realizes that in this age of slogging unemployment rates and rampant foreclosures, the world isn’t willing to purchase millions of copies of a stale product regardless of how much pot-stirring controversy is involved, and he’s visibly concerned: On the slow, somber track “Flight 187,” he takes aim at everyone from in-house producer Dr. Dre to the mother of his son, struggling to make sense of his turbulent life and demonstrating both irrational bluster and sorrow in the process.
At times on Before I Self-Destruct, 50’s desperation is palpable. He samples “I Get Money” on the glitzy ballad “Baby By Me” in a feeble attempt to recapture the energy of his last truly well-received piece of work. And on the halting “So Disrespectful,” he mocks familiar targets such as the Game and Young Buck. Although the exercise is bolder than most of Curtis (a record that came loaded with passionless bravado and monotonous, leaden taunts at anonymous foes), it fails to reach the ferociously exciting highs of classic diss tracks like “Wanksta” and “Back Down.” Smug, self-amused malice has been 50’s niche since “How to Rob,” but you’d hope that he would have outgrown such a facade by now, as a 34-year-old man more than a decade into his career....full text
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