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50 Cent, ‘Animal Ambition’ [ALBUM REVIEW]

50 CentThe first line on 50 Cent‘s new album, ‘Animal Ambition,’ is, “I woke up this morning, this is insane / Rich as a motherf–ker, and ain’t much changed.” You can go home now. You’ve heard the whole album. Curtis sums up the rest of the 10 songs in those first two bars, but at least he has the courtesy to let you know from the jump.

We’ve heard every word of this album before – guns, drug sales, and money (holy s–t there’s lots of money!) bricks, bad bitches, and pussy ni–as. Giuseppe’s, Tom Ford, YSL. Cars, zips, bottles, ass shots. Isn’t this fun? And by fun, I mean mind-crushingly boring?

The real reason that 50 Cent isn’t on Interscope anymore is because he hasn’t given them a reason to keep him around in seven years. There’s nothing that resembles anything close to a breakout record on ‘Animal Ambition’ — even as he released one song after another from the album in the weeks prior to it dropping, not a single song has caught fire. At least on mixtapes like ‘Big 10,’ people came to something of an agreement about ‘I Just Wanna’ being the best track on the tape, or at least the most viable potential single. Not one song on ‘Animal Ambition’ has made a ripple. His radio traction is dead in the water and his streams are abysmal. No one cares about 50 Cent the solo artist anymore, and nothing on ‘Animal Ambition’ gives anybody any reason to.

In fact, much of ‘Animal Ambition’ sounds like the work on 50′s past couple mixtapes. From 2009′s ‘War Angel’ to 2012′s ‘Lost Tape,’ 50 has been trying to find his sweet spot to no avail. The album seems to deal in what 50 does best — street records — but they end up being boring and uninspiring. It’s like 50 has no gas left in the tank. One of the ugliest parts of the album is when Jadakiss pops up on ‘Irregular Heartbeat’ and renders every other verse on the album insignificant. His imagery gives life to an album that’s gasping for air at every turn – Curtis doesn’t display an eighth of the creativity that Jada displays on his verse.

The hooks are hit or miss. When he taps into the melodic vein that made him successful early in his career, he sounds good on songs like ‘Hold On’ and ‘Pilot.’ Every other chorus is damn near laughable. He’s growling like an actual animal on the title track’s hook. ‘Smoke’ is a pathetic reach for the clubs that falls flat on its face. The chorus on ‘Hustler’ goes, “My mind on the money, I ain’t trippin’ on the hoes / I blow a whole lotta paper on clothes, dig it I’m a hustler baby.” I wish I was joking.

The verses are disastrously bland, to the point that any one verse in a song can replace any other verse in another song and you wouldn’t know the difference. “Want the best of the best, top of the top / I mean the baddest b–ch, you know, the cream of the crop,” he raps on ‘Twisted.’ It’s depressing how unimaginative he is across only 11 songs.

Take a look at some of the phrases 50 uses throughout the 38-minute slugfest: “Turn up,” “Versace, Versace, Versace,” “Facts, I stack racks on racks on racks.” It’s hard to tell if he’s parodying himself or just rap as a whole, but it comes of as a joke either way. He can’t find his musical footing, and he’s been looking for it ever since his second album. The guy who can’t stay out of the public’s eye doesn’t have a clue what to say once he’s in it. Just listening to ‘Animal Ambition’ makes you feel bad for the guy. He still believes he can rehash 10-year-old topics and remain important to hip-hop. In reality, he probably knows it’s not working – hence the overshadowing announcement of a new G-Unit album set to drop in November.

Perhaps it all started when his manager and close friend, Chris Lighty, tragically passed away in 2012. Better than ‘Animal Ambition’ is GQ’s profound profile of Curtis, and the principal takeaway from the piece is the man’s pervading sadness. None of that conflict is present on ‘Animal Ambition’ – instead he’s just a hollowed out, champagne-sipping gangster like every other rapper. He’s a business man trapped in a musician’s body — perhaps that’s why Steve Stoute’s (true) sentiments stung him so badly months ago. Grantland recently called him, “the world’s most visibly invisible rapper.” 50 says he left Interscope of his own accord, but when his last album, ‘Before I Self Destruct,’ failed to sell 200,000 units in its first week, the writing was on the wall – the label wanted him out. Even Dr. Dre barely manages to throw 50 a pity beat for ‘Smoke.’ It’s a Detox left-over, not a tailored banger. No one believes in him anymore. You can’t play the underdog for 10+ years.

If there’s a saving grace on ‘Animal Ambition,’ it’s the beats. Producers Frank Dukes, Jake One, Swiff D, and Charli Brown Beatz (who has also worked with Mr. Muthaf–kin’ eXquire) all contribute blazing beats, but what’s the point of choosing a sexy target when you can’t even hit it? Hopefully their placements on a high-profile (?) album will get these producers more exposure. Meanwhile, their work only further emphasizes the fact that 50 is rapping like a mannequin on the entire LP.

A horrific opening pitch for the Mets. An on-stage robbery. The reunion of G-Unit at Summer Jam. And the usual avalanche of insults, shot from a gun that seems to be held by a drunken hand. This is all we’ve heard about ‘Animal Ambition’ during its build-up. Not a peep about the music. That’s because there’s nothing to report. Nothing new, nothing exciting. 50 Cent was a hero in 2003, but heroes eventually die, honorably or otherwise. The credits roll, the movie ends, and another star is born. The cycle will continue, whether 50 resists or not. His time has come to an end.

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