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He might seem like an overnight sensation, but it's taken 50 Cent the better part of a decade to become rap's hottest commodity. Scooped up by Eminem after garnering attention as NYC's quintessential mix-tape MC, 50 Cent, aka Curtis Jackson, has rapidly become the biggest thing to hit mainstream rap since the two men (Em and Dr. Dre) who have plotted his success from behind a velvet curtain. A veritable bulldozer of an album, Get Rich or Die Tryin' is stocked with spangly, crunked-up beats, arena-sized shout-outs and 50's undeniable skill on the mic. More sonically adventurous than its mainstream look suggests, Get Rich or Die Tryin' is part of a burgeoning trend: a mainstream hip-hop record that obdurately answers the battle rhymes spat out by boundary-pushing underground hip-hop darlings Atmosphere, El-P and Anti-Pop Consortium. Which isn't to say that he's gone fat on Pharcyde's jazz-tip, but the sidewinder-like production of "Blood Hound" and the stanky, horn-addled thump of insanely catchy first single "In Da Club" stand head-and-shoulders above your average blast of rap-radio tom-thuggery.

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