It is easy to view the career arc of Curtis Jackson in a Shakespearean context. The man known as 50 Cent ascended to a level of hip-hop stardom in the first half of this decade that no more than a handful of others either before or since has experienced. The catalyst of this astronomical rise was the emotionless public persona he carved out through vicious attack campaigns with only one goal: ruin the career of any person who stood in his way.
There are a few spots on Before I Self Destruct where 50 Cent sings, and he is just fucking terrible. Like, remarkably bad. What’s more, he doesn’t hide his off-key warbling with auto-tune or any kind of studio magic. Still, he keeps right on singing, oblivious or unaffected by his bad voice ….
Released without the usual flurry of hype, Before I Self Destruct fulfills 50 Cent's contractual obligation to the Interscope label. It also doubles as a throwback album, returning the rapper to the hunger and hatred of his early mixtapes while skillfully recasting him as a wannabe upstart. That is, for the most part. The four radio-friendly bedroom numbers that conclude the album are out of place but fairly good to dime-piece beautiful, with the best being the Ne-Yo showcase “Baby by Me” (“Have a baby by me, baby/Be a millionaire”).
So I bought The 50th Law. Like most non-musical projects involving 50 Cent, his co-authored book of Machiavellian strategy stood a good chance at being mindlessly entertaining, and fuck-- I wouldn't mind being as rich as he is. Surely, I'd learn some sort of hustling tactic that would allow me to make back my $20 and then some. It held up its end of the bargain on the first part, but amidst the surprisingly practical advice and hilariously revisionist history (a staged thrashing of an Interscope office is remembered as a PR coup for Curtis.
Since releasing 2007’s depressingly middling Curtis, 50 Cent has kept comparatively quiet. The mindless feuds with Fat Joe and Rick Ross garnered media attention, but otherwise 50 has been blessedly regulated to the shadows, the result of a weary and jaded record-buying public. His once-intriguing persona -- the suave and articulate yet vehement pop-rap titan whose music is defined by an isolative, disgusted nihilism but who has enough showbiz-ready charisma to wow Vivica A.