Slap on your bullet-proof vests and load your hollow points, 50 Cent’s newest album, Curtis [Aftermath], brings 50’s trademark shoot-out intensity. With head-nodding, bass-pounding beats and 50’s New Yorker slur, a new collection of hardcore gangster rap tracks has arrived.
Basing his music on his life growing up in the streets of Queens, New York, the hip-hop superstar’s hold-nothing-back lyrics were discovered by the controversial lyrical mastermind Eminem in 2002. On Curtis, 50’s real first name, Eminem produced the song “Peep Show” with his identifiable melodic beats and in his “My Gun Go Off,” the Detroit native’s hit song “Lose Yourself” is creatively covered. Other big names featured on Curtis include: Timbaland, Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, Diddy, Jay-Z, Akon, and Justin Timberlake.
Curtis begins with a 51-second dialogue from the 2002 movie Shooters, referring to weapons and destruction, and how to be “packin’ like a man.” The explicit, cut-throat dialogue about violence throws the listener into the mind of a thug before 50 begins to deliver his lyrical threats and proclamations backed by the rhythmic beats.
The repetitive “I Get Money” covers Cassidy’s “I’m A Hustla” in an almost embarassingly blatant way. You’re likely to skip this track and its amateur rhymes before 50 finishes the first verse. He put more creative effort into “Straight to the Bank” with catchy laughter in the chorus that’s likely to stay in your head for hours. While 50’s lyrics aren’t notably witty in this album, they are catchy enough to keep the listener interested. Throwing a curveball with the song “Follow My Lead,” 50 Cent features Robin Thicke, offering a soft and jazzy R&B song. In this song, the listener is able to get a taste of the softer side of the gangster rapper.
The biggest hits on Curtis are “Ayo Technology” and “Amusement Park,” though both tracks are noticeably over-produced to the point that they stick out with their upbeat, poppy sound that contrasts sharply with this artist’s trademark hard and dark tracks. At the same time, “Ayo Technology” can solidly stand as a popular dance track, something crucial to keeping 50’s songs on the hot list in the clubs. Proving the rapper’s popularity even outside of the United States, while walking down a narrow street in Venice, Italy last November I heard 50’s “Ayo Technology” blasting from a kebab shop run by a middle-aged Egyptian man. 50 Cent is no longer just a neighborhood star.
Curtis contains good “vibin’ music,” the type of tracks that pulse through car audio systems, that wake up the neighborhood, and that have energy that raises your blood pressure. 50 Cent deserves respect for coming into the game with his raw, hard-knocking music and, with his third album Curtis, he’s still standing tall and sticking to his signature style. At the same time, 50’s music has become a little predictable and monotonous, as Curtis runs out of energy near the latter half of the seventeen tracks. At the end of the day, 50 Cent’s connections with some of the biggest talent in the game, coupled with his “hustler’s ambition,” keep him sitting comfortably on the throne of East Coast rap.