The first sound you hear on
"The Massacre" -- the much-anticipated new album from 50 Cent being rushed
into stores today to thwart bootleggers -- is a hail of gunfire, followed by
a woman screaming.
Four songs into the nearly 80-minute, 22-track album,
on "I'm Supposed to Die Tonight," 28-year-old former crack dealer Curtis
Jackson raps in his easy, sweat-free way, "Different day, same s--- / Old
Mac [Mac-10 semi-automatic handgun], new clip."
Same s---, indeed. And lest anyone think he's fronting, the bullets flew
on Monday night, and a member of 50 Cent's crew was shot in the hip outside
the studio as the star did a radio interview in Manhattan.
Coupled with the endorsements of executive producers Dr. Dre and Eminem,
the biggest factor behind the phenomenal success of 50 Cent's 11
million-selling 2003 debut "Get Rich or Die Tryin' " was the "street cred"
he flaunted, sporting a bulletproof vest and telling anyone who'd listen how
he'd been shot nine times during his earlier life as a super-thug.
Macho bragging about senseless violence on the mean streets, with an
unhealthy dollop of macho bragging about mistreating women, has been a
pathetic cliche in hip-hop since Dr. Dre first shot to fame and fortune with
N.W.A in the late '80s. Not even the most ardent of 50 Cent's fans -- the
vast majority of whom have never been in the same neighborhood as a real
Mac-10 -- would claim he wrings new insight from his street stories, the way
gangsta poets such as KRS-1 or Tupac Shakur did.
The sharpest criticism I heard of "Get Rich or Die Tryin" and the star's
grandiose gangsta mythologizing came from Chris Rock during the 2003 MTV
Video Music Awards. "All I hear about 50 Cent's new CD is, 'He got shot nine
times,'" Rock cracked. "What about the music? 'He got shot nine times.'
Yeah, but what about the music!?"
The music, like everything that hails from Dr. Dre's patented assembly
line, is smooth-grooving and hook-filled throughout "The Massacre." 50
Cent's secret weapon is a not-unappealing tenor he employs when singing most
of the choruses, producing irresistibly sweet ear candy that will have you
bouncing your head and humming along until the meaning of a stray rhyme in
one of the verses penetrates the happy haze.
It will surprise no one that 50 Cent doesn't alter his lyrical formula on
his sophomore effort. "The first thing they want to say about a rapper when
he makes a lot of paper [money] is, 'He's rich now -- what's he going to
talk about?' " he recently told Newsweek. "Well, I was poor for much longer
than I been rich, so what you think I'm going to still talk about?"
Hence, for the fellas, we have tough talk about gunplay on tracks such as
"Gunz Come Out" and "Gatman and Robin," complete with the corresponding
combat zone clatter -- the most overused button in 50 Cent's studio is
"Gunfire Sound Effects."
Meanwhile, for the ladies, we have a litany of whispered sweet nothings.
"I got no pickup lines / I stay on the grind / I tell the hoes all the
time / B----, get in my car," our smooth-talking lover boy croons in
"Get in My Car."
What did Vivica A. Fox ever see in this guy?
There are hints that 50 Cent is capable of much better; many critics are
citing "A Baltimore Love Thing," in which the rapper speaks in the voice of
the heroin that has seduced a female addict. But while there are poignant
lines -- "If you give birth, I'll already be in love with your kids,"
50-as-H raps -- the opportunity is squandered on cheap jokes like the one
about how our opiate narrator hooked Kurt Cobain ("I be with rock stars /
See, you lucky I'm f---in' with you").
I can't wait to hear what Chris Rock says about this one.