Easily the most anticipated record of 2005 thus far, 50 Cent's "The Massacre" was so hot the record label couldn't even keep it under wraps until the originally scheduled release date. Due to the overwhelming amount of bootlegging and digital theft, Interscope and everyone else involved agreed to push the release date up to Thursday, March 3rd - or at least that's what their hype and PR machinery would have you believe. New CD's normally come out on Tuesday, as you've no doubt noticed either by your shopping habits or the fact that's the day each week that RapReviews is updated. Nonetheless I was inundated by requests from Thursday through today to post the review right away. Tempting as the idea was (and belligerent as some of the demands were) I decided to wait and give 50's new album a thorough listen before posting my final thoughts.
The album's "Intro" provides a hint that the original title of the album was probably "St. Valentine's Day Massacre," complete with a Valentine's Day card from 50 to his fans in the form of multiple gunshots. The marketing practically wrote itself if they had released on Tuesday, February 15th - just one day after the famous/infamous holiday. The album wasn't finished yet though, and all parties involved probably decided the name was in bad taste. That's rare form for 50, because in most cases he likes to say and do whatever the fuck he wants no matter who it's going to offend. Take the Needlz produced "Piggy Bank" for example, where 50 decides to verbally berate Fat Joe and Jadakiss for appearing on Ja Rule's "New York." Seems being down with Ja was reason enough for lines like this:
"I'm in the hood, in the drop, Teflon vinyl top
Got a 100 guns a 100 clips, why I don't hear no shots?
That fat nigga thought 'Lean Back' was 'In Da Club'
My shit sold 11 mill', his shit was a dud
Jada' don't fuck with me, if you wanna eat
Cause I'll do yo' little ass like Jay did Mobb Deep
Yeah homey in New York niggaz like your vocals
But that's only New York, dog yo' ass is local"
Nice to see rappers beefing with rappers from their own hood these days. Whether they like it or not one thing is true - 50 outsells them by millions. Three things make 50 an effective and popular MC: riding to some of the best beats in the business, lyrics that vary from menacing reality to humerous pimping and flossing, and the slightly slurry delivery of his flow which can be attributed to the fact he took a shot straight through the jaw. Even my own wife doesn't believe 50 is the same MC when I play her songs from "Power of the Dollar" - that's how much it changed his vocals. Now whether or not that's the right way to get a memorable voice is certainly up for debate (I wouldn't recommend it) but there's no denying his hypnotic effect when you hear him spit on the pounding bass of the Black Jeruz & Sha Money XL produced "This is 50." He even draws out his words at the end of each line just to give it more emphasis:
"I unload to reload when you get hit I suppose
you gon' be strong enough to take this shiiiiiiit
I'm in the hood ridin 'round with a fo'-fo' pound
Can you see through the limousine tiiiiiiints?
I do dirt, the gat bust, I get to kickin up dust
'fore the Jakes come around here kiiiiiiid
Niggaz get knocked if D's start askin question
My name end up in all types of shiiiiiiit
I'll be a gangsta nigga 'til I die fo' sho'
Whether I'm po' or I'm filthy riiiiiiich
Now what you know about movin that Peruvian flake
for that cake, I get rid of dem briiiiiiicks"
50 still likes to talk about his drug dealing days, but these days the only weight he moves by the pounds is cartons of CD's. He debuted at #1 on Billboard after the release of "The Massacre" and that's thanks in part to underground hits like the C. Styles & Bang Out produced "Disco Inferno" or the latest smash "Candy Shop" which features Olivia singing the hook and Scott Storch providing the goodness. If you had forgotten that he had the "Magic Stick," this song is a reminder:
"Give it to me baby, nice and slow
Climb on top, ride like you in a rodeo
You ain't never heard a sound like this before
Cause I ain't never put it down like this
Soon as I come through the door, she get to pullin on my zipper
It's like it's a race, who can get undressed quicker
Isn't it ironic, how erotic it is to watch her in thongs
Had me thinkin 'bout that ass after I'm gone"
There's no question that on "The Massacre" 50 is trying to please both the crossover fans who got down with him "In Da Club" and the hardcore fans who like to see him call out the "Wanksta" wannabes while proving he's still a "P.I.M.P." The only problem with trying to please everybody at once is that sometimes you don't please anybody at all. That's not to say 50 hasn't released another album full of strong songs: the Eminem laced "Ski Mask Way," the superbly smooth "Ryder Music" full of Hi-Tek magic, the bouncing Indian swing of "Just a Lil Bit" by Scott Storch and Buckwild's blaxploitation funk on "I Don't Need 'Em." Dr. Dre's hand is surprisingly light on this release though, as he's only directly involved in two songs - "Gunz Come Out" and "Outta Control." Even there splits Dre splits production duty credits with Mike Elizondo. While Dre does a lot of the post-production mixing throughout the album, it's not the same thing. "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" had a very Dre-like signature musically even on the songs he didn't do, which helped push 50 to a level he hadn't previously reached at any point in his career. The lack of that Dre signature hurts 50 on lackluster songs like "Get in my Car," the overly fast "My Toy Soldier" where 50 almost seems to be tripping over the beat (not one of Eminem's better tracks), and the overly saccharin "So Amazing" featuring Olivia. It will probably be a hit anyway, but 'J.R.' Rotem's beat and the "you're my baby, I adore you" sung hook are so far from 50's hardcore persona it might make you uneasy or even a little queasy.
"The Massacre" is still a fine follow-up to his last full length release, and despite a few miscues avoids letting down his fanbase. One might say that he avoided the "sophomore slump" but technically speaking they'd be wrong since 50's career dates back quite a ways before he signed with Eminem and Dr. Dre. Nevertheless it's his second official major label LP (I only wish "Power of the Dollar" had been officially released, it's a fine record in it's own right) and second since he became a pop culture icon and a sales chart phenomenon. He'll continue to be that phenom on this record, and will no doubt keep Jimmy Iovine a very happy man. "The Massacre" shows he's not infallible though, and that there are a few chinks in the armor. 50 should be careful not to veer too far away from the hardcore persona that made him so beloved in the first place, and Dre needs to remember that while other people can make great beats too when the record has the "Aftermath" imprint on it we still want to hear his own shit.