"Dedicated To The Winners & The Losers..." - Raekwon

Thursday, November 5, 2009

50 Cent - Before I Self Destruct: Review

"A lesser man would make a joke about 50 wearing a shirt on the cover.
Luckily, I am that lesser man."

I suppose if Curtis Jackson wasn’t Keith Olbermann-certified as the “Worst Person In The World,” one could begin to feel a tiny morsel of human sympathy for the man better known to the world as 50 “Fitty” Cent. After ruling the pop music world with an iron fist for the better part of the decade, 50 has fallen hard from the throne; Kanye infamously emasculated him two y ago in their sales showdown two years ago; his latest singles have been met with scathing indifference from both radio and the critical market; he’s been reduced almost to a court jester, showing up once every few to start a ridiculous beef with another rapper; raging against a world that does not care for his antics, anymore. It’s not far fetched to suggest had not for his Pimpin’ Curly videos on ThisIs50.com, he would relegated to Papoose status on his own record label. Be that as it may, after all the drama he’s caused helping shatter the New York rap scene in his quest to conquer it; it’s hard not feel a tinge (okay, a shit load) of schadenfreudirific joy at watching 50 Cent flail helplessly at making a hit record. The man wore out his welcome long ago and watching his feeble attempts at radio play be is karmic revenge for the endless amount of careers and lives the man tried to ruin. He’s earned this treatment. The man needs to hit the restart button on the last four years of his career.

50’s latest album, “Before I Self Destruct”, is billed as an almost mea culpa for the pop corniness of his previous two forays into blatant commercial pandering. In a way, it’s his “50 Cent Begins,” a revamp of his early mixtape persona before the allure of “Candy Shop” money turned him into a living symbol of gangster homo eroticism and beef mongering. “Before I Self Destruct” is an attempt to produce a record that bangs harder and more consistently than anything he’s done since quite possibly his mixtape days. For the most part, it’s a gambit that pays off as this is a record that is some of 50’s most inspired work since quite possibly “Guess Who’s Back?” and is easily his second best album.

From the opening moments of “The Invitation” (which according to the world’s most accurate encyclopedia is produced by DJ Premier. Really?! It sounds nothing like him, boys.), this record seems to have a clear statement of purpose when 50 Cent re-counting those infamous nine shots stares himself teary-eyed in the mirror and declares to himself “you ain’t dead!” It’s a powerful moment not so much because it evokes the most famous incident in his myth but because it serves as something of a metaphor for the state of his career. 50’s career as it’s nadir but he’s not going down without a fight even if it kills him. From this moment on “Before I Self Destuct,” 50 goes into an impressive stretch run of some of his most inspired, most hardcorest, most gangsterlicious (Word to Riley Freeman.) rap songs of his career. It’s song number ten before we reach anything that can remotely considered anything approaching that would be suitable for play in the club or the radio. 50 is not playing around. For once, 50 drops the quease-inducing sex food metaphor raps and actually provides the "aggressive" sounding music he's been alleging exists in between "21 Questions" knock-offs.

For those ten or so songs, Curtis Jackson gets his swagger back and returns to the viciously sarcastic wit that made him a star in the first place. Aside from the asinine radio-friendly pandering of "The Massacre" and "Curtis," I always felt the main problem with these record were that he couldn't channel the nihilistic joy of his mixtape work into any of his hardcore material. It always appeared that he didn't care and was more content to kick half-assed gangsterisms on auto-pilot than writing anything that remotely approached his early promise as a pure gangster rapper. The only time the fun of being the evil dictator of hip hop was channeled into his music was the shit-talking spoken word interludes, he would record over at the end of his seemingly endless diss tracks . (Think the last minute of "I Run New York.") 50 regains a little bit of that ol' demonic steez back on his new album. On "Then Days Go By", he giddily brags of being sexually taken advantage of as a pre-teen by his older babysitter when he screams "Take me baby, take me!" and on "Stretch," he taunts a young heroin addict that he doesn't give a fuck he' s ruining his live because "it's a cold world we're in". These are situations aren't novel to hip hop music but you can sense the joy 50 feels in playing the villain. We're missing that.

However, after those ten songs, the record begins to slowly fall apart as the second half of the record marks 50 Cent's quixotic quest to produce something gravitating towards a hit record. His insipid single, "Baby By Me," is as flaccid and desperate as the day it was conceived in a board room at the Interscope Records building. "Ok, You're Right" marks Dr. Dre's continued descent into pop, keyboard-plinking senility while "Get It Hot" sounds like budget Timbo lame-assery. This half of the record seems so schizophrenic and out-of-character with the mission statement of the first half that it begins to compromise the whole project. There is nothing on this record that is half as essential as "I Get Money," the brilliantly misanthropic single from "Curtis," and this in itself keeps the record from truly shining.

Still if this isn’t quite his “Stillmatic”, it comes close as possible as we will ever get out of 50 Cent (and no, we will not be debating the merits of “Stillmatic” in my comment section. It’s a great album regardless if your wack-ass Jay-Z revisionism will allow you to admit it or not. Sometimes, your just going to have to agree that the consensus is right, people. This is one of those times.). “Before I Self Destruct” isn’t quite perfect but it offers a glimpse at 50 Cent at this most clear and focused as an artist as he's been since his mixtape days. Welcome back, Curtis Jackson. I will now grudgingly give you your props. Don’t fuck it up.


bding7 said...

Kanye infamously emasculated him two years ago in their sales showdown two years ago


We've missing that

Say word. Anyway, I may have to check this out, as I actually kind of like "Crime Wave" and had a moment a few weeks ago where I was jamming to "Fat Bitch."

Also, Riley is great, don't get me wrong, but Caesar is, to me, the best Boondocks character.

DocZeus said...

Alright, grammar nazi.

MCH said...

WRONG Zeus, this album sucks just like Curtis. The only track I really dug was "Psycho" and that is because Eminem shined as usual.

His rapping here is just as pedestrian as it was on Curtis, where is this improvement you speak of? Say what you will, but The Massacre is wayyyyy better than this (yes it is filled with garbage like Candy Shop, but it is also filled with some of 50's best tracks, in particular Position of Power and God Gave Me Style).

DocZeus said...

As soon as Eminem mentioned the Octomom on "Psycho", I immediately skipped the rest of his verse.

JK said...

I really enjoyed this album and I was very surprised. He really carried it. Only Eminem on it and a couple singers?

I checked my last.fm stats from last week and saw that I listened to BISD about 70 times. I haven't listened to that much 50 in years.

And yeah, how many times has Eminem mentioned the Octomom? It's getting ridiculous.

DocZeus said...

70 times?!?! It's been out for a week! I don't think I've listened to "Illmatic" 70 times in my life.

JK said...

Oops. Haa, I meant I listened to 50 Cent 70 times last week. As in the tracks. Not the whole album 70 times. Myyyyy bad.

And yeah. I love Illmatic too. But I haven't heard it 70 times

Trey Stone said...

man you're really heavy into that gutter shit huh? i mean i am too, when it's good. you know, Biggie, Premo/Nas, '96 '98 '99 Jay, Clipse/Pharrell, Dipset/Just Blaze. but the beats on this are garbage man. raw shit can be just as pandering/boring as forced crossover shit

DocZeus said...

Garbage? Perhaps, they aren't as good as Get Rich but its certainly a step up from "Curtis."

bding7 said...

"Dipset/Just Blaze"

What on earth is gutter about "Oh Boy" or "Built This City?"

tray said...

"The only time the fun of being the evil dictator of hip hop was channeled into his music was the shit-talking spoken word interludes, he would record over at the end of his seemingly endless diss tracks . (Think the last minute of "I Run New York.")"

Very true. Although actually, his verse on I Run New York, first verse if there was more than one, I forget, was pretty good. Other than that, Stillmatic, not so much and I don't think there's even a consensus in favor of it anymore, and to follow up on bding, what in the world is that gutter about '98 Jay or even Biggie and Premo/Nas? I mean, gutter? I'm trying to think of even one beat that Big ever rapped on that you could call gutter. Even the stuff that's supposed to sound dark is too glossy. I think gutter and I think Hell On Earth, the East Flatbush Project, Onyx's 2nd album, certain 3rd string Dipset weedcarriers (cf. 'Pull Your Hawks Out'), those cheap Liveson beats that Styles always raps on on his mixtapes, like Kill That Faggot. You need to lock yourself in a room for a few months and just listen to Group Home, no Neptunes/Timbo produced anything allowed.

Trey Stone said...

chill bding, you're being too particular maan, lol

i was thinking "Welcome to New York City," "The ROC (Just Fire)" (know those are Cam/Roc and not Dipset but whatever,) "I Really Mean It," and yes "Built This City" is the goofiest gutter Dipset song ever

of course not "Oh Boy," i hate that shit. maybe the worst Just Blaze beat from when he was good

Trey Stone said...

oh and to the guy who always has to say something -- whatever if Mobb Deep/Onyx/more hardcore stuff, probably true but i personally don't give a shit, i'm a pop music fan so if your shit sounds incomplete and repetitive chances are i won't like it

Trey Stone said...

if those are more "gutter" anyway i meant. i wasn't really using the word in a literal sense, just relative to some other music that i like. white people fetishizing old-school/boom bap and always qualifying their praise of newer, doper material is just as annoying and close-minded as people who only listen to Top 40, i know you're not only about that tray but speaking in general

Trey Stone said...

also, just to be more of a dick, lol...there is no "consensus" that "Stillmatic" is good outside of rap nerd circles, Jay-Z or no. i'm not saying it's awful, it's just again something i don't really feel outside of a couple great songs, and it has more to do with hardcore genre fans being so invested in Nas's image/debatable intellect (though "Untitled" was well executed on the lyrical tip i thought) that they have to elevate it.

i honestly don't care about stan wars, i joke about it because "hating" is such an ingrained part of hip hop but i'll freely admit when Nas puts out something doper than Jay. it's just that other than "Hip Hop Is Dead" he never has

really like i said you're a good writer but the half-joking parenthetical shots are a bad look, not that i'm offended cuz you're speaking in general, but still

Trey Stone said...

i missed the shit you said about Group Home tray, lol...i've already heard the album, a while ago. just fuck off man, for real. maybe learn how to phrase your opinions so people'll actually give a shit about what you have to say and you're not just being a twat

Trey Stone said...

and i'm sure "locking yourself in a room and playing Group Home" is part of your problem ahahaha. how's it going talking to law school girls about how No Limit's unfairly hated on, lmfao, fucking dipshit

DocZeus said...

The only people who think "Stillmatic" is not a classic are contrarian revisionists and those with some sort of agenda. Historically, it's one of the most important records of the decade. That was true of it in 2001 and it's even more true now.

DocZeus said...

And the half-joking parenthetical shots are an essential part of my personal writing aesthetic. I know exactly what I'm doing with them.

bding7 said...

i'll freely admit when Nas puts out something doper than Jay. it's just that other than "Hip Hop Is Dead" he never has

I need you to explain this. Hip Hop is Dead, of all Nas' albums, is the one that is better than Jay's stuff?

That was true of it in 2001 and it's even more true now.

I'd also like some clarification on this point, Doc.

hl said...

"I'd also like some clarification on this point, Doc."

I can't speak for Zeus. But what clarification is needed? Listen to the album, that shit is dope. Everyone thought it was incrdible when it came out. I just think everything Nas does gets downplayed off GP. Concepts on songs like "What goes around", "Rewind", and "2nd Childhood" are incredible and a return to form people didn't think was possible. Blueprint has alot of consistency, but the highs on Stillmatic are so much better.

DocZeus said...

I've got to remind myself never to mention Jay-Z and/or Nas in any post, again even in passing. It never ends well.

Trey Stone said...


no beef with you Doc, was just sick of tray's bullshit. i'd give him constructive criticism if he seemed at all willing to listen, which from what i can tell he isn't, at least not now.

you're right that "Stillmatic" is important from a hip-hop historical standpoint, the point where Nas's image was revitalized, i totally understand, but i'm not really talking from that standpoint. i just don't feel the album is all. it's not a hater thing, just don't feel it.

you can run your blog the way you want to obviously, it's just that the parenthetical shots come off passive aggressive to me a lot of times, which's become a pet peeve of mine.

bding -- i mean i think about half the songs on "I Am..." are really dope even though it's his most schizo album, but i'd put "Vol. 3" over it. really just depends on my mood though.

"2nd Childhood" is dope but "Rewind" is one of those musically so-so conceptual Nas songs i have no desire to hear again (would rather listen to "Dr. Knockboot," "Who Killed It?" or "Fried Chicken," those at least have dope beats and are witty) and "What Goes Around" is one of Nas's patented waaay the fuck out of his depth songs. schools are poison? alright buddy. granted i get he's probably just trying to say that certain schools are too Western/white-centric, but his articulation is fucking awful

hl said...

Trey: We'll have to agree to disagree on that one. IMO everything that makes Nas a dope MC is on display on Stillmatic. Story telling, sincerity, battle raps, abstract shit etc. And the production is solid aside from a few joints. I don't see how anyone can like Nas as an artist but not like Stillmatic.

As for "What Goes around", you got to be kidding me. His "Ike with the Iverson jersey light skin with herpes" verse is as articulate an illustration regarding karma and HIV in the black community as you can find.

tray said...

"i'm a pop music fan so if your shit sounds incomplete and repetitive chances are i won't like it"

I'm not sure what you're so upset and incoherently rambling about, but anyway, a) what does incomplete and repetitive mean - rap beats are all, mostly, repetitive, and b) do you have anything in mind that sounds incomplete and repetitive to you? As for Stillmatic, it has some great songs of course. I don't care for much of it. There's something a little too self-consciously conceptual about the One Mics and Rewinds, and the production is largely this sort of snoozy synth junk that isn't fun or catchy enough to be pop or soulful enough to be boom-bap that he'd been rapping over since It Was Written. If all the beats were on the level of 2nd Childhood, it'd be a pretty great album. I mean, even the MF Doom remix of Nastradamus is a pretty great album. I just can't take that much lackluster production.

Trey Stone said...

i'm being coherent and i wasn't upset at all, thanks for your concern though. and see we actually agree on shit when you decide to not be a self-absorbed douchebag about it. even if "IWW" is just as much of a NyQuil album for me, lol. "Nas Is Coming" and "If I Ruled the World" are the shit though

there's a way to have "repetitive" beats in rap that are still interesting. Mobb Deep's debut, Tribe Called Quest and Eric B. & Rakim aren't it. Biggie, certain early Nas, Snoop and Dre, sure

Trey Stone said...

hl -- i mean, i knew some people in college that were into that kind of convoluted style, it's just not really my thing, if anything Nas effectively streamlined that kinda thing on "Untitled" without dumbing himself down at all

DocZeus said...

"you can run your blog the way you want to obviously, it's just that the parenthetical shots come off passive aggressive to me a lot of times, which's become a pet peeve of mine."

That's a fair assessment and I suppose I should be a bit less "wanton" when throwing subliminals at certain individuals. (Although, I can't say the Stillmatic comment was meant to be directed at anyway. I was really just trying to curb any Stillmatic discussion but I think I inflamed it instead. Fail.)

But the reason, I write those parenthetical asides is for a certain affect. Sometimes, they are meant to be strictly comedic. Other times, they are meant to absurdly hyperbolic. Sometimes, they are used as commentary to contrast what I'm writing.

I don't want be accused of over analyzing my own work (especially when in the greater frame of things its totally unimportant) but I often tell my friends who read my blogs that I somewhat write in character as "The Good Doctor Zeus" and less as "B.J. Steiner." And what I mean by that is that I always mean what I say (except when I don't) but I don't necessarily mean how I say it (except when I do).

Trey Stone said...

sneaky-ass motherfucker. think you're a rapper or some shit. or a more blunt Stephen Colbert? remember you mentioning that

but nah do what you want, just my thoughts. and it's all good man i wasn't heated over it or anything, just talking

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