Animal Ambition (to be released June 3, 2014)
Some of y’all throw around the word “music mogul” too freely these days.
If your favorite rapper has a song featured on a basketball video game, you’re ready to proclaim him the next Quincy Jones. It really ain’t that serious.
If you want to have a serious conversation about moguls, though, Curtis Jackson has to be in the mix. And his music dominance started just about a decade ago.
While 50 Cent’s portfolio has gotten fatter in the past 10 years, his catalog has become more flimsy. Nothing he’s released has matched the focus and aggression of 2003’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’. Until now.
stans fans, rejoice. Animal Ambition, 50’s sixth album, is the closest we’ve gotten to his early ’00s heyday.
The album title says it all. 50’s flow remains smooth throughout the set but he sounds hungry again. That intensity permeates through even the most laid back tracks.
“Hold On” is a perfect example of this wiser, more focused 50. “We want that deluxe apartment in the sky with a clear view/instead we got the D’s in the rear view.” The desire for success is there and he isn’t afraid to return to his roots to get it: “So say it’s over your dead body and that’s the plan.”
50 is rightfully braggadocious about his business success (gloating about marketing and distribution on “Hustler”) but don’t expect 700 bars about Basquiat and brunch in Brussels. 50 would rather paint portraits on the block. “Irregular Heartbeat” is one of the hardest records of the year – the beat is so sparse it’s practically nonexistent. There’s plenty of space for 50 to issue threats. “You know a dog sense fear, I can hear your heart beat/you bark while we bite around here, I can hear your heart beat.” Kidd Kidd and Jadakiss pop up too, with the latter saying, “Literally I can see your heart pumpin’ through your shirt.” And “Chase the Paper” sounds like a G-Unit posse cut from the crew’s glory days, with Prodigy, Kidd Kidd and Styles P stepping in for the usual players.
The album’s only flaw is when 50 attempts to lighten the atmosphere. Sometimes it works – “Pilot” and “Don’t Worry ‘Bout It” both have an infectious bounce that’s made for clubs but don’t compromise themselves. But “Twisted” and “Winners Circle” don’t fare as well – the former is marred by 50’s autotuned hook (we REALLY need to retire autotune in hip hop) and on the latter, Guordan Banks’ vocals are way too overpowering and downright distracting. It’s a shame, because “Winners Circle’s” theme of Coach 50 pushing listeners to the end zone really had potential. We didn’t need all that yelling on the hook, though.
Despite those minor missteps, this is the most focused 50 we’ve seen in years. There’s no attempts to lure radio listeners, no pandering to younger crowds – it’s just 50 showing his core audience that he’s still as vicious in the booth as he is in the boardroom.
We’re just halfway through 2014 but it looks like 50 may be king of the concrete jungle.
Best tracks: “Hold On,” “Irregular Heartbeat,” “Pilot”
4 stars out of 5