If nothing else, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson is a product of his times. He exists in a game where success is measured by a ratio of 99% marketing and 1% talent – and in the rap business it don’t get much better than nine bullet holes and a crib sheet for crack dealing. Throw in patronage from Dr Dre and Eminem and, as a record exec, you’d put Granny’s house on ten million sales at the very least.
And that’s pretty much what transpired. “Get Rich & Die Trying” was less a launch than a coronation. From a standing start, and courtesy of Dre’s killer soundtrack, Fiddy became just about the biggest, baddest rapper on the planet. That his lyrical skills were poor, at best, was irrelevant. What mattered was his reputation - and the reputation of those nine bullet holes went before him from his webpage to his album sleeves to his Reebok ads. Blam, blam, blam…
The follow-up was always going to be trickier. For a start, Fiddy’s now a multi-millionaire, and even if the business card does read ‘gangsta’ his hustling days are dust. So, what can a poor boy do? For “The Massacre”’s run-in he sidestepped this inconsistency by kicking off more beefs than Jose Mourinho. The single “Piggy Bank” ignites at least five – with Shyne, Jadakiss, Fat Joe, Nas and Kelis all dissed. This is something of a tactical masterstroke because, like milking those nine bullet holes, the headlines remain focussed on anything and everything but the music.
Which is pretty fortunate really, because “The Massacre” is a stunningly bad record. Musically adequate and vocally witless, it’s basically the dumbest action movie sequel ever made with Fiddy playing the role of "Black Schwarzenegger" on the implausibly buffed front cover. The cinematic theme is continued throughout the inner sleeve as we’re treated to a series of laughingly stylized poses designed to highlight every facet of his character. So, in addition to "Terminator Fiddy" (large guns feature prominently), there’s "Scarface Fiddy" (counting out the coke spoils, bitch at the window), "Fiddy Bond" (tuxedo, two bitches, .45’s), "Obi Wan Fiddy" (squatting, Buddha-style, in a rock pool) and, most amusing of all, "Emmanuelle Fiddy" (pouring a jug of milk over a girl’s chest).
The tendency is to treat the whole affair like a glorified “Itchy & Scratchy” cartoon, particularly on hearing the contents. Aside from an Eminem cameo on “Gatman and Robbin” (geddit?) and “Candy Shop”’s second-rate impersonation of “In Da Club”, the remainder is as subtle and as obvious as it’s titles (“Outta Control”, “Ski Mask Way”, “This Is 50”, “Gunz Come Out” etc, etc). Only “A Baltimore Love Thing” and “So Amazing” ever flicker out of the ordinary. Although lets not kid ourselves that “The Massacre” has anything to do with music or talent. 50’s nothing more than a vehicle to make various people (himself, Eminem, Dre, Aftermath Records) very rich indeed whatever the cost.
And that’s the sad thing. It works. 50 markets himself as white America’s worst nightmare – a hybrid of Mike Tyson and thug lover - and white America, happy to see it’s prejudices confirmed, buys his records by the glockload. Simple as. Like Eminem, he’s the rapper George Bush would want you to like. Why the rest of us would want to buy into his clichés of race, rap, violence and wilful stupidity is a wider question and probably one with fairly unpalatable answers.
But at the very least this is a desperately average album, albeit one that will sell wherever retards roam.