On July 3rd, Curtis Jackson – best known as East Coast rapper 50 Cent – will release his highly anticipated fifth studio album, Animal Ambition: An Untamed Desire To Win. Animal Ambition arrives just shy of five years after 50 Cent dropped the oft-delayed Before I Self Destruct. Before I Self Destruct was no hit by 50 Cent standards, basically supporting the notion that 50’s career has been down for longer than the five-year hiatus between albums. Still, when you examine 50 Cent’s discography, there are plenty of shining moments worth the time to analyze and rediscover – or discover for the first time if you didn’t keep up with the rapper back in the 00s. Here’s how I would rank 50’s four studio albums prior to Animal Ambition, plus the soundtrack to Get Rich or Die Tryin’.
Get Rich or Die Tryin’ [Soundtrack]
Notable tracks: “Window Shopper”; “Best Friend”
Best Track: N/A…just saying!
I’ll be frank, I wasn’t a fan of the movie Get Rich or Die Tryin’ nor the soundtrack. Soundtracks are often compilations, and that’s exactly what this particular one is. It’s okay, but definitely more than a shade below the quality of 50 Cent’s four studio efforts. Only two highlights come to mind: “Window Shopper” and “Best Friend”. Even with those two joints being ‘the cream of the crop’, neither stands against the juggernauts within the New Yorker’s collection. You could say that I don’t really remember this album… just keeping it one hunna!
Verdict: ★★★ (This sounds fair, right?)
Before I Self Destruct
Notable tracks: “Death to My Enemies”; “Psycho” ft. Eminem; “Strong Enough”; “Baby By Me” ft. Ne-Yo; “Could’ve Been You” ft. R. Kelly
Best Track: “Baby By Me” ft. Ne-Yo
50 Cent’s fourth best album, Before I Self Destruct, actually has some greater virtues than the third-best ranked effort on this list, Curtis. To Before I Self Destruct’s credit, the album actually has greater oomph in regards to being a hardcore rap album. Sure, the pop is there with the infectious “Baby By Me” featuring Ne-Yo or R. Kelly’s guest appearance on “Could’ve Been You”, but the effort serves as an edgier contrast to the oft pop-dominated Curtis. That said, Curtis had more hits, even if many failed to set the charts on fire.
Notable tracks: “I Get Money”; “Amusement Park”; “Ayo Technology” ft. Justin Timberlake; “Straight to the Bank”; “All of Me” ft. Mary J. Blige; “Follow My Lead” ft. Robin Thicke
Best Track: “I Get Money”
Curtis is at best 50 Cent’s third best album. The effort would be the rapper’s first to miss the number one spot in which it was beat out in an epic hip-hop battle with Kanye West‘s Graduation(957,000 vs. 691,000). The singles for Curtis didn’t really take off, with 50 releasing four of them (“Amusement Park”, “Ayo Technology”, “I Get Money”, and “Straight to the Bank”). Only “Ayo Technology”, produced by Timbaland and featuring Justin Timberlake, would catch on, peaking at number five on the Billboard Hot 100. Perhaps it was just the fact that 50 Cent didn’t show much artistic progression this album. Take “Amusement Park” for example – it seemed like a ‘copycat’ to previous smash hit “Candy Shop” (both were bedroom-minded). Another rub, as mentioned in the rationale for Before I Self Destruct, is that Curtis was very pop-oriented – maybe too much for a G like 50.
Notable tracks: “In My Hood”; “I’m Supposed to Die Tonight”; “Piggy Bank”; “Candy Shop” ft. Olivia; “Outta Control (Remix)” ft. Mobb Deep; “Disco Inferno”; “Just A Lil Bit”; “Hate It Or Love It (Remix)” ft. Lloyd Banks, Young Buck, Game & Tony Yayo
Best Track: “Candy Shop”
Following up a classic is difficult, but The Massacre didn’t do badly for itself in the least. The singles performed well, led by the naughty “Candy Shop” (featuring Olivia), one of the most popular singles of the year ultimately. “Disco Inferno” and “Just A Lil Bit” we’re no slouches either, while a rereleased version of the album – The Massacre Special Edition – delivered a brilliant remix of “Outta Control” featuring veteran rappers Mobb Deep. A remix of Game’s big-time hit “Hate it or Love it” was the cherry on top, featuring 50’s G-Unit buds. While I selected “Candy Shop”, the sets biggest single as the best track, it’s actually a difficult call given the firepower throughout the effort.
Get Rich or Die Tryin’
Notable tracks: “In Da Club”; “P.I.M.P”; “21 Questions” ft. Nate Dogg; “Wanksta”; “Like My Style” ft. Tony Yayo; “Patiently Waiting” ft. Eminem
Best Track: “In Da Club”
Folks, this one is a no brainer – period! Likely, 50 Cent will never top this album; he certainly hasn’t at this point of his career. This is 50 Cent’s classic in addition to being considered one of the modern hip-hop classics. “In da Club” will always be the MC’s most important single, period. I can remember throughout my senior year of high school that “In da Club” was the jam (just don’t tell principals or parents I suppose). Throw in exceptional production work, as well as some other slick joints, and Get Rich or Die Tryin’ is the near-perfect rap effort of the 00s. East coast was well represented back in 2003.
How will Animal Ambition turn out? Don’t be surprised if this ranking gets an upgrade sooner than later!