The Reintroduction of Curtis Jackson, Part 2
The greatest fear people have is that of being themselves. they want to be 50 cent or someone else. they do what everyone else does even if it doesn’t fit where and who they are. but you get nowhere that way; your energy is weak and no one pays attention to you. you’re running away from the one thing that you own—what makes you different. i lost that fear. and once i felt the power that i had by showing the world i didn’t care about being like other people, i could never go back.
—50 Cent, 50th Law (Green, Jackson 2009)
When I left off yesterday (read HERE if your interested), I was discussing how Curtis was attempting to simultaneously reintegrate himself into an increasing different (Read: Softer, Drug-Induced, and Touchy-Feely… one could say, Happier? Weirder? BOTH?) musical atmosphere than the one he dominated while maintaining the musical authenticity needed to speak to the purveyor’s of the Harsh Realities of his Aggressive Content (sorry— Couldn’t help myself). The problem, at least to me, is two-fold:
1. How do you make mainstream-friendly street music when songs like Starships, The Motto, and *insert faux R&B song with Rap verse here* dominate the Clear Channel Illuminati?
2. When you have a net worth of over 400$ Million, people often have a hard time believing you should still be rapping about guns, drugs, money, and fucking bitches?
(Note: I find the irony almost sublimely crushing when people chastise Curtis for rapping about things he “no longer does” while simultaneously propping up an admitted officer of the law as a paragon drug rap… but I digress)
With Curtis slyly integrating himself into the West Coast Bay Area scene (note: he had already worked with Rick Rock on both the 2nd G-Unit album, Terminate On Sight, and his 4th album, Before I Self Destruct.), linking up with DJ Drama for his first official Gangsta Grillz project, and quietly releasing new music with Wiz Khalifa, Young Jeezy (on both the “Up” Remix & Uncle Murda’s “Warning” Remix) he has positioned himself for a critical, if not musical “revival” in the minds of many wayward fans with the culmination of all this effort, 5 (Murder By Numbers).
How? Well, as the quote from the 50th states, by showing the world he wasn’t like other people. Let me explain…
Big 10 and The Lost Tape both served important creative purposes- Big 10 showed a reinvigorated Curtis staking his claim as the last major commercial New York artist still willing to make New York-centric music (Note the distinction- while many artists flit around the periphery of the major leagues - Prodigy, Raekwon, etc- continue to champion this sound, the last bastion of the old guard still considered mainstream- Camron, Fabolous, Jadakiss, Fat Joe- now make and promoting distinctly southern music, or, in the words of Joseph, they’ve all went “Southpaw.”). The Lost Tape, on the other hand is a southern-leaning affair featuring an abundance of Kidd Kidd verses, 808 slaps, and a 2 Chainz remix; Hell, he also tossed DJ Drama’s neigh worthless ass on it to (sorta) scream over the records! (it should also be noted that of the 3 holdovers from the SMS/SK releases, only “Complicated” has a distinctly East Coast flavor. the other two, particularly the Illmind produced “All His Love,” straddle the line between Leftover 2001-Era Dre beats and spacious, Organized Noize- Soul Food-era fare.)
Viewed thru this lens, the actual impact of these projects should be viewed as a relative success- Curtis, making music that has become unique to him from a mainstream standpoint, has quietly ingrained himself back into the consciousness of the West Coast, East Coast, and Down South music scenes, all without having to submit to the lowest common denominator- pandering (see: CamelGOATS yearly contribution to William’s catalogue, Nasir’s unfortunate collaborations with DJ Khaled and Tyga, Jadakiss gladly accepting whatever remix money a southern artist will throw at him, etc.)
All of this leads the project he just released (and originally touted as his 5th album), 5 (Murder By Numbers). Clocking in at a mere 10 songs
The album opens with the Sizzla-sampled “My Crown,” which Curtis uses to state (and restate) his claim to the mythical crown of NY. Alternating between two distinct flows (more on that later), Curtis navigates the Focus-produced banger, and yet it still manages to be the weakest song on the entire project. Immediate followed up by the banger, ”NY,” which is just BEGGING for a regional remix (think Camron, Jadakiss, Rakim-style remix). “United Nations” finds Curtis bragging about what he’s been up to while he’s been “Losing” on the rap side of his business endeavours- funding the World Food Programme amongst other things. While the chemistry of Hit-boy produced “Business Mind” evokes fond memories of Banks and 50 on “True Loyalty,” Hayes’ everyday hustler raps actually get in the way of Curtis tighter, more focused conversation about hood niggas using rap to break into corporate America. The result is a great song that would probably be an amazing one with either a better feature or being all 50 himself.
“Roll That Shit” featuring Kidd Squared sounds like a Lost Tapes leftover (not a bad thing) with Kidd Kidd and 50 showing the chemistry Young Buck and 50 used to show (see the pattern yet?), although not quite reaching the heights of “Shooting Guns” or “OJ.” “Leave The Lights On” finds Curtis spitting raunchy raps like he flash backed to “Magic Stick” or “Disco Inferno,” but all of these songs are appetizers for the main event- the last 5 songs of this record, which can be considered the true reintroduction of Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson.
Beginning with the first of two Havoc (Mobb Deep) Produced records, “Money” hears Curtis happily proclaim he’s “back on that bullshit,” spitting about how the differences between having money and having “real money”- the old Guns and Butter argument, if you will. Lines like “My stash look like a rainbow, my money is gay/Nowadays Im just happy things are going my way/ I’m straight, some say I got more than I need/ Mucho deniro out in mexico they growing my weed/Its amazing, I made here on my own…”
The second Havoc track, “Definition of Sexy,” is, quite simply, an absolute banger, featuring everything - the airtight flow, the use of melody in both the hook and as bridge, and a completely cold sample - that made people fall in love with 50 Cent’s music in the first place. Lastly are the two standout tracks of this project (and maybe Curtis’ entire 2012), “Be My Bitch” featuring newcomer Brevi and “Can I Speak To You” featuring an uncredited SchoolBoy Q are both the culmination of all the groundwork Curtis has put in on the West Coast. “Be My Bitch” has NO business being as catchy and as fun as it is, and, judging by the song ALREADY being placed in rotation here in Chicago (where I’m currently located), the raunchiness and debauchery are being ignored, as the chemistry between Curtis and Brevi is absolutely undeniable. The final track, “Can I Speak To You,” is quite simply, excellence. Schoolboy steals the show without overshadowing the main star (as 50’s verse is bananas) with a simple line that, in a lot of ways, sums up approach Curtis took to make his way back to this point:
50 told me ambition wins when your talent ainy working/ I say i’d rather relapse than re-enact Curtis and put that work in…
I don’t know if this is the project that will truly jump off 50’s last contractual release for Interscope Records (Currently titled Street King Immortal, due Nov 2012), but I do recognize that 50 has been doing nothing but make the music he likes to make, and all with a goal in mind— to win his way.
Note: I saw someone posit on twitter that Curtis stole his flows on The Crown from Officer Ricky and A$AP Rocky… Not only was this ignorance RT’d into my timeline, it was done without said person being willing to back it up. First, if you can take nothing else from Curtis, you have to admit he has easily the most versatile flow in the game— he has proven he can go from a slow flow to a double time, sometimes in the same. DAMN. Song. Second off, its false- Curtis has used both of those flows damn near his entire career, Somebody Gon Die Tonight and his Overnight Celebrity Freestyle bring both to mind.
Whatever. Haters gon hate.