50 Cent's Evolution: How His Past Is Hurting His Future
The rapper has disrupted his sonic evolution by choosing to relive the past instead of exploring -- and speaking candidly about -- the present.
Despite his physique, 50 Cent is no longer the giant he once was. With every piece of music released, from his debut album "Get Rich Or Die Tryin'" (2003) to the singles off his forthcoming album "Street King Immortal," Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson has disrupted his sonic evolution by choosing to relive the past instead of exploring -- and speaking candidly about -- the present.
"Get Rich Or Die Tryin'," which turns 10 years old today (Feb. 6), showcases 50 at his best. The classic album introduced a Queens, NY rapper that spit gritty hood tales, topped with top 40 hooks, and showcased fearlessness and intensity. 50 Cent made headway for the gangsta rapper to see the lands of mainstream.
His lyrics on his first two albums -- from "Patiently Waiting" to "A Baltimore Love Song" -- were bursting with clarity and braggadocio. He had no qualms about being apolitical. His disregard of offending others often gave him the ante -- and he was well aware of it. He played on hip-hop faux pas by calling out rappers by name (i.e. "Back Down") and destroying careers, only to turn around and bank on the same style. No one ever questioned him though; if anything, it added to his appeal. 50 could do that… then.
But with each effort, 50's storytelling has become bleaker. While rappers make their own way, it looks like he's trying to maintain afloat. We're in a state of rap where emotion rules over money: fans are more intrigued by what lies heavy on a rapper's chest than how deep their pockets are. Plates of lobster aren't enough to entertain. At the helm are Nas, Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis with their 2012 albums, and all eyes are set on Drake's forthcoming solo album. G.O.O.D. Music abandoned feelings for opulence with "Cruel Summer," and stumbled. If wanting to revisit the past -- different from reliving -- Fif should explore a depth he hasn't touched before, as Nas did with his tenth studio album, "Life is Good."
50's recent material doesn't ride the rippling wave of his tumultuous past, nor is it current with his lifestyle. It's hard to believe, let alone relate to, a business man rapping about moving drugs, as he does on his latest single, "Major Distribution." I wouldn't mind a song about the love, or lack thereof, he spoke of when talking to Oprah on OWN's Next Chapter interview, or rhymes on the rift between him and G-Unit members such as Lloyd Banks he hinted at when talking to Angie Martinez on Hot 97 last year.
50 Cent's third solo album, "Curtis" (2007), was the rapper's turning point. Contrary to the belief that there will be as much intensity lingering from the lyrics as on the wrinkles of his forehead as on the album cover, "Curtis" is safe. Album cuts such as "Ayo Technology" and "I Get Money" sparked hope for 50's evolution, but it was diminished with the arrival of doubts due to awkward love songs like "Amusement Park" and "Follow My Lead." The songs featured dated beats and a sense of urgency for a formulated hit -- also felt on "Before I Self Destruct."
"Get Rich Or Die Tryin'," which debuted and stayed at No. 1 on R&B/Hip-Hop Albums was on the chart for 88 weeks. Each album following "GRODT," stayed less weeks on the chart. "The Massacre," which debuted at No. 1 stayed on the R&B/HIp-Hop Albums chart for 57 weeks, "Curtis," 27 weeks, and "Before I Self-Destruct," 20 weeks.
50 Cent's latest single, "My Life" featuring Adam Levine and Eminem, though, is a step in the right direction. After all, 50 Cent is opening up about his confusion and hope. The song peaked at No. 6 on the R&B-Hip-Hop Albums chart. 50's last top 10, of his own, is "I Get Money," off "Curtis," dating back to six years ago. It also doesn't hurt that Adam Levine and Eminem, who themselves have evolved, are music's hot commodities.
50 Cent, like every other popular artist, needs to evolve. Let's hope 50 lessens the adamancy to recapture a moment from his earlier work by rhyming on matters that feel true to his current state. If not, he'll only get further away from his fans, and from himself.