- The Washington Times - Monday, March 7, 2005

50 Cent
The Massacre

When you sell 6 million copies of your major-label debut LP, what do you do for an encore?

That’s the challenge confronting 50 Cent, hip-hop pariah-turned-megastar, with “The Massacre,” his second release on the Shady/Aftermath imprint.

His last album, “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” — one of 2003’s biggest sellers, boosted by its monster hit “In Da Club” — turned 50 into one of the biggest names in rap. Fair or not, anything less this time out will count as a disappointment, which 50 himself has conceded.

Despite the large number of gun references and controversial baiting of his rivals, the new album wasn’t made for the underground New York mix-tape scene that rejuvenated 50 Cent’s career three years ago. Instead, 50’s latest release targets the millions of suburban teens who bought “Get Rich” with the same singsong delivery and addictive hooks that made that effort such a success.

On “In My Hood” — with its hard drum track, two-note piano melody and bubbling bass line — 50 rhymes about his need to stay armed and alert in his old neighborhood. It would fit in seamlessly on his first album, which accents a glaring problem: This album’s not much different or any better than its predecessor.

Fans of 50’s earlier work will be dismayed by the steady drop-off in his level of lyricism. Lines like “ice blue in my chain/blood blue in my veins/blue steel in the Range/I’m doin’ my thang” don’t measure up to his slightly more complex wordplay of the past.

There are outright missteps and filler tracks here, perhaps inevitable on a CD with 22 tracks. The album’s lead single, “Candy Shop,” is a dull rehash of “Magic Stick,” 50’s racy 2003 collaboration with Lil’ Kim. And “Disco Inferno” is virtually indistinguishable from every G Unit radio-geared track.

Especially disappointing is “Piggybank,” which had the industry buzzing weeks before the CD’s release. In the song, 50 takes shots at fellow hip-hop artists Fat Joe, the incarcerated Shyne, former mentor Nas and Interscope label mate Jadakiss, all of whom have raised 50’s ire by collaborating with 50’s heated rival, Ja Rule. Yet his verbal jabs — which he says are just warning shots — are relatively weak, especially compared to his past unrelenting attacks on Ja.

He finds a stride toward the end of the disc, particularly on “God Gave Me Style.” Over an Eddie Kendricks sample first used on Cormega’s “Glory Days,” 50 spits a Coldplay-inspired affirmation of his faith, a welcome alternative to the incessant gun battles on the rest of the album. But given the shortened attention span of today’s average hip-hop fan, how many listeners will make it that far?

In the end, the album will leave listeners with a decidedly blah feeling. It’s not a regression exactly, but detractors won’t be converted, and the millions who purchased “Get Rich …” won’t find any stylistic leap forward here.

“The Massacre” is what it is: enough to keep 50 Cent at the top of the charts but not strong enough to earn him the coveted title of “king of New York’s rap scene.”

Better luck next time, 50.

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