Release Date: Jun 3, 2014
Record label: G-unit Records
Genre(s): Rap, Pop/Rock
50 Cent may be fifth in Forbes's rap rich list, but it's for his music that the sometime actor and entrepreneur craves respect – he has another album, Street King Immortal, due this autumn. As he admits on Winner's Circle, "I'm tryna make it feel like the first time/ Like a junkie I'm sorta chasin' my first high." Animal Ambition – his first release not overseen by Dr Dre and Eminem, having severed ties with the Shady/Aftermath/Interscope conglomerate – is going to struggle to match the sales of his multiplatinum 2003 debut, Get Rich Or Die Tryin'. Nor is the former drug dealer likely to recapture the notoriety and relevance he had at his peak.
Once upon a time not long ago, when people worshipped gangsta rap and lived life slow, a rapper named 50 Cent was the man to beat, selling millions of records with hit songs and beefs. However, he would soon become the catalyst to his own defeat. Following lacklustre studio effort Before I Self Destruct, 50 Cent has spent the last several years trying to re-establish himself as one of rap's premier artists to varying degrees of success.Unfortunately, Animal Ambition doesn't do much to help solve his musical conundrum.
You don’t have to get far into 50 Cent’s new album before he addresses the elephant in the room. On the maddeningly catchy second song, “Don’t Worry About It,” the rapper tells fans and foesalike they shouldn’t care about all the “time passing and I’m not around.” In fact, it’s been five long years since the largest-selling hip-hop star of the early aughts managed to put out any actual music. (The new album has an official release date of next Tuesday, but nearly all its tracks can be previewed on 50’s official website now).
50 Cent :: Animal AmbitionG-Unit RecordsAuthor: Grant JonesFive years is a very long time in hip hop, and for somebody that can legitimately claim to be a household name, 50 Cent finds himself dangerously close to being irrelevant. 2007 saw the release of "Curtis" surrounded by a big buzz revolving around a sales rivalry with Kanye West (who released "Graduation" at the same time). He claimed that he would retire if Kanye outsold him, which he didn't.
Eleven years after the release of Get Rich or Die Tryin’, 50 Cent is still alive. Reportedly one of the five wealthiest rappers alive, 50 has understandably become increasingly less motivated in his music as the years go by. His passion for making music is still there, but the unrelenting drive for success that fueled the honest emotion behind tracks like “Many Men” is something that can’t be faked.
Thirty-odd years from its modest, casual beginnings, hip-hop has evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry, one that doubles as a grinding, relentless machine, marked by high turnover and few long-lasting careers. Sourced from some of America's poorest neighborhoods, many of its stars start off young, raw, and inexperienced, pulled up by an ability to shape rough experiences into interesting narratives. Many later exit this turbulent genre in equally bad shape, unceremoniously dropped from labels or phased out by age or public perception, often deeply in debt or left with money they're not capable of managing.
“I even saw when keeping it real...went out of style. Now it’s like, it doesn’t matter what it is, it just matters that it sounds good.” This is 50 Cent letting his guard down in a humble, humanizing GQ profile. Fully aware he hasn’t been the underdog or on top since his indelible hook from the Game’s “Hate it or Love It”, he’s presumably making a plea for sympathy.
On the opening cut from Animal Ambition, 50 Cent is invigorated and fresh, rapping over funk-infused Frank Dukes production that sounds like the laid-back score to a blaxploitation movie. But that fire doesn't last long. Limp tracks like Twisted and Trey Songz-assisted Smoke - the album's two most craven attempts at radio play - would have sounded outdated five years ago.
50 Cent wants you to know he’s still rich and successful, perhaps more than any other rapper with pedigree—even Jay Z, and that’s saying something. His Animal Ambition raps are solely self-serving as a dissertation on the depths of his prosperity. That isn’t to say tales of opulence can’t also be gratifying for a listener (sometimes as a semi-vicarious sensory experience), but Curtis Jackson is clearly suffering from one of the harsher cases of “affluenza” in Rap, one that warrants about as much interest as Nasdaq ticker tape in a Third World country; despite the title, his fifth studio album is far from ambitious.
It's been five long years since 50 Cent's last album, but anyone anxious about the rapper's financial state can breathe easy: "Rich as a motherfucker and ain't much changed," he declares at the outset of Animal Ambition. Also unchanged are his limitations as a rapper, both technically and in his choice of subjects. The theme here, we are told, is prosperity and its discontents, but he doesn't do much more than flaunt it and berate people for hating his success.
Do fans still care about 50 Cent? Five years ago, with the commercial flop Before I Self Destruct selling a shockingly low 159,700 copies in the first week, it seemed like they didn’t. 50 saw a gradual decline in his popularity after he took an L from Kanye West during their competitive album showdown between Curtis and Graduation in 2007. He saw his spot at the top of the hip-hop food chain in jeopardy, leaving him no choice but to reevaluate how to maintain his staying power.
With his mentors/friends off selling companies to Apple for billions of dollars, or re-entering the mainstream game with an album dispatched from 8 Mile, rapper/mogul 50 Cent decided to distance himself from the business world of Iovine, Eminem, and Dr. Dre, leaving the Interscope, Shady, and Aftermath label family after 12 fruitful years. Not only that, but he took his unreleased Street King Immortal album with him.
The wildly off-mark first pitch thrown by 50 Cent at a New York Mets baseball game last week will live in hip-hop infamy as one of the great offstage stumbles of all time. It certainly was funny — in a mean-spirited way — to see such a colossal fail. But for those as unskilled in sport and the ways of the ball as he seemed to be, the New York rapper's screw-up was, in a sense, inspirational.
50 Cent’s shift to an independent label for his first record in five years intimated he was attempting to reboot his career by returning to his creative roots. Not quite. The MC-entrepreneur smartly eliminates the bloated production that marred his latter-day work, yet the disc is undermined by a dearth of imagination and, ironically, ambition. As with many MC’s turned multimillionaires, Fitty seems to have run out of compelling, convincing stories beyond his insular bottle-popping world.