As ever, 50 Cent remains a troublesome sort of figure, touting violence and amorality...
Louis Pattison 2007
Being a man of no little self-regard, 50 Cent claimed that if Curtis, his third studio album, failed to outsell Kanye West’s Graduation in its opening week, it would be his last. Final figures had Curtis clocking in at second place, but the music within confirms that if Curtis Jackson is from now on going to cut a more modest figure, it’s a demeanour that still appears to be largely alien to him.
Affairs kick off with one of 50’s customarily bullet-ridden openers, “My Gun Go Off” - a tension-knot of swaggering machismo and rising synth that references Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” both musically and lyrically (except 50 flips the lyrical reference, rap battling replaced by the rattle of a fully automatic).
If Curtis suggests that 50 Cent’s main passions – that is, money, violence, and women – remain largely unchanged from his 2003 debut Get Rich Or Die Trying, it’s clear that he’s still finding new ways of articulating them. Not in his delivery, necessarily; that remains the familiar cycle of boasts, threats and unflappable self-confidence delivered in that one-note slur. Partly, this is thanks to updated production, heavy on the buzzy, heat-warped synthesiser lines and booming, post-Neptunes drums.
But also, it’s in part down to a judicious use of guests including Eminem, Mary J Blige, and Nicole Scherzinger of Pussycat Dolls. “I’ll Still Kill” sees 50 joined on the chorus by Akon, his mournful soul delivery adding a sad, fallen-soldier fatalism to the martial battle rhymes. “Ayo Technology” hooks up with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake, the former building the high-end from blocky, pixellated synths fresh from an ‘80s computer game. And “Follow My Lead”, a match-up with crooner Robin Thicke, imagines 50 in smart evening wear, trying his alpha-male thing with a ‘lucky lady’: ‘If you’ll be my Beyonce, I’ll be your Jay’.
As ever, 50 Cent remains a troublesome sort of figure, touting violence and amorality with a shamelessness that’s doubly chilling for his mainstream ubiquity. It remains hard, though, not to be a little impressed his dogged, unwavering spirit. In 50’s world, might really is right.