2005 / Music

Review: 50 Cent ‘s Soundtrack Touts Movie, Cohorts

Album Accompanies Rapper’s Big-Screen Biopic

50 Cent is the kind of artist that you’ll never feel completely comfortable liking.

Photo: G-Unit Records/Interscope Records

Photo: G-Unit Records/Interscope Records

His image — real or embellished — is a bit too celebratory of negativity to be easily palatable. The ideas and scenarios that 50 describes in his rhymes constantly fly in the face of the middle-class values that society impresses on everyone.

For fans, 50 comes across like the villain that you love to hate. For all foes of hip-hop, he’s the archetypical public enemy who poses a danger to the younger generation — black, white, or whatever.

Kid friendly or not, the entertainment industry powerbrokers believe that 50 warrants even greater exposure. 50’s latest artistic effort is his most ambitious yet: a Hollywood movie (in which he stars) that partially chronicles his life story and a soundtrack album to accompany it.

The film, on which 50 is billed under his real name, Curtis Jackson, weaves together elements of 50’s own early years (drug dealing, getting shot nine times) with fictitious elements. It’s close enough to 50’s real image to lend authenticity to the flick, but there’s enough distance so as to allow the filmmakers to add other elements to amp up the drama.

Although 50 carries the film, he shares the spotlight on the soundtrack CD, utilizing choice cuts that showcase most of the top MCs from his G-Unit stable. As Lloyd Banks, Mobb Deep and Tony Yayo are out front, 50 takes a bit of a backseat, contributing only a handful of tunes himself and popping up in a couple of others. His influence, however, can be felt throughout. His protégés keep him in frame with almost constant shout outs and compliments.

This disc proves that 50’s day job is still safe. He’s a unique vocalist — aggressive but also laid back — but even more importantly, he has a good eye for choosing tracks. He might revel in tales of violence, but he pairs it with beats that make the songs undeniably likeable.

For the most part, 50’s underlings don’t disappoint. The record’s clear standouts include a pair of songs with sinister-sounding grooves. “Fake Love” hums with a loop of a minor-key zig-zagging melody that is kind of reminiscent of a jazzier Rage Against The Machine tune. What instrument is playing the part isn’t clear; it could be a piano? Or bass guitar? Or both? Meanwhile, rapper Tony Yayo waxes poetic about betrayal (throwing in plenty of misogynistic phrases) while he sounds like he’s got a wad of gum in his mouth. (Yayo’s pearl of wisdom: “Money talks/Bullshit run marathons”). The song isn’t something you’d want to play at a wedding, but is a fun listen.

Equally menacing is the hissing keyboard that anchors “I’ll Whip Ya Head Boy.” 50 Cent and Young Buck work together to rhyme about living a life of crime and thuggery. As they talk about robbing and dealing drugs, the pair duck and weave together like fighters. As they rhyme, a chorus of voices yells out the song title like they are saying, “Hallelujah!” in church.

This soundtrack plays to the strengths of 50 and his crew, and thus makes for a strong addition to his catalog. It will further raise the profile of his acolytes as they continue to chisel out their own careers.

As is the case with D.W. Griffth’s “Birth Of A Nation,” you can deplore the message but appreciate the artistic skill involved. The G-Unit rappers revel in the negative aspects of the urban experience, but you can’t deny great songs.

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Note: David’s nationally syndicated music column, Soundbytes, appeared in the Entertainment section of all Internet Broadcasting websites. This column was originally published there.

©Copyright 2005 by David Hyland. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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