The Quotable Reviews: Curtis

"You can hate this / but face it / BIG and 2Pac just ain't around" - 50 Cent: Fire; Curtis

When it comes to this rap shit, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson has 2 defaults: love songs[1] and gun music.

All wrapped in club beats.

Since erupting on the scene with his colossal debut album Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2003), Curtis Jackson has become more Industry than Emcee. Sure, he's sold over 21 million records world wide (not to be discounted by any means), and his now infamous, one-man dismantling of Ja-Rule's rap career is forever ingrained in Hip Hop history - but his uncanny business acumen is what is most impressive about the Jamaica, Queens native. 50 Cent's name and G-Unit brand have expanded from 9s, beats and rhymes to books, movies, clothes, video games, and Vitamin Water (straight up, Formula 50 is The Company Man's favorite flavor. Pause. No brokeback). Fiddy's successfully wanksta'd his way off the block and onto Wall Street. He's the rare individual who sees the forest and the trees. He's a businessman and a Business, Man.

But is 50 Cent still an artist?

Hate it or Love it, Get Rich or Die Tryin', for all its gun-blazing bravado was one of the most artistic, angst injected, balls-to-the-wall albums since the birth of Gangsta Rap. It earnestly embodied the spirit of the hustler and made you wanna get on some ass at the same time. It was classic. It is a Classic - a perfect storm of sound, energy, and timing.

An impossible height to surpass.

50's 2005 follow-up Lp, The Massacre, underwhelmed critics but still proved to be a commercial success (to the tune of 11 million records sold worldwide). Once again using beef to fuel public interest (this time going to war with one of his own G-Unit soldiers, The Game), The Massacre showcased Fiddy falling back on the familiar (love songs[1] and gun music) while still expanding his reach as an Emcee (tracks like "In My Hood" and "Gatman and Robin" proved that 5-0 had more than one delivery in his arsenal, and "Baltimore Love Thing" (where he tells a the story of a sordid love affair between the drug and the drug addict all from the perspective of a bag of heroin) is arguably the most creative song he's ever released). The album definitely contained more good than garbage - but compared to GRODT, The Massacre was suspect. And a significant step down sonically.

Since then the music industry has fallen in the isher and even the most notable Hip Hop artists are having trouble moving units (for example, Atlanta rapper T.I. was the only the artist to go platinum through much of 2006, only to be joined by Jay-Z in November of the same year - a fact unthinkable during Hip Hop's boom of the late 90s to early 00s). Fickle rap fans aren't turning out in droves to cop the latest rap releases like they used to. Is Hip Hop's buying public famished or fatigued? Patiently waiting or worn out from the same played-out sound? Let Fiddy tell it, and they're all waiting for his third studio release, Curtis. What does he have to feed the masses? Lets take a listen.

"The old-timers told me 'slow dow.' / They shoulda known now / I wont hesitate to make shit hot." - 50 Cent: "Movin' On Up"; Curtis

Sonically and content wise, Curtis has 2 defaults: love songs[1] and gun music. The first 3 tracks on the album ("My Gun Go Off", "Man Down", and "I'll Still Kill") find the same gun-blazing bravado we've grown accustomed to from 50 over the past 4 years. The DJ Khalil produced "I'll Still Kill" is by far the freshest of the three from a production standpoint and Akon makes a notable return to his "Locked Up" days, croonin' "Fiddy don't make me ride on these n***** / cause I will kill, dip, and hide on these n*****." From there the album hits its groove with the undeniable, Audio Two sampled "I Get Money" and the head-knockin', Dr. Dre produced "Come & Go." Fiddy's lyrically at his best on the latter track spittin' "the drama I'm wit it. / I get biz, you get it? / I beez on that shit-it. / I'll splitcho wig-ig. / Thats why a n**** bit it. / I said I didn't do it. / Witnesses said I did it" while ridin' the beat to perfection.

"Lets get it poppin' shawty / we can switch positions. / From the couch to the counters in my kitchen." - 50 Cent: "Ayo Technology"; Curtis

From there its straight to the love songs. The Justin Timberlake assisted "Ayo Technology" boasts another addictive Timbaland beat (in my best Mugatu voice: Timbaland is so hot right now) and the corniest hook of the season "Ayo, I'm tired of usin' technology. / Why don't you come sit on top of me?[2]" Ghetto-pass-accredited-white-boy-number-2 Robin Thicke shows up on the smooth, 21 Questions-esque "Follow My Lead". Produced by The Bizness (who?), this track is the next song to be released, further appeasing 50's buying fan base.

The softest part of the album follows with the the base heavy yet lyrically deficient "Movin' on Up," the under performing "Straight to the Bank", and the audience-disrespecting, AKA: "Magic Stick" meets "Candy Shop" re-tread "Amusement Park." "Straight to the Bank" and "Amusement Park" are only significant because of their inability to create a buzz when initially released earlier this year - the first 50 Cent releases to prove to be commercial failures (foreshadowing?). The disappointment continues, surprisingly, on the Eminem assisted "Peep Show" - another stale, club love song. The staggered, bouncing beat keeps this track listenable, but even Marshall Mathers sounds stale - rhyming "I shouldnt have to tell you shawty you should know / I hope you're really getting into my creep show. / And let me shit on your chest and if some pee comes out / just guzzle it down. Just guzzle it down." I mean, I'm a HUGE Em fan, but he sounds like he's aiming more for shock value rather than significance.

There are a few more tracks left on Curtis (Young Buck and Tony Yayo show up here and there...and that chick from The PussyCat Dolls sings the hook on "Fire" - where I'm sure the video will be better than the actual song) but by this point in the album they all sound the same (with the exception of "All of Me" featuring Mary J. Blige; easily the best song on the Lp. Too bad its buried in the album's anus). And at 17 tracks in length, Curtis is entirely too long for its lack of diversity. Gun song. Gun song. Gun song. Gun song. Love song. Love song. Love song. Gun song. Its repetitive and severely lacking replay value. Curtis doesn't sound hungry on Curtis. He doesn't sound like he's having fun (which is probably why he looks so stressed on the album cover. Gone are the days of bullet-proof 50 standing tall "like he's got an "S" on his chest"). And unfortunately he doesn't have much left to say. At best, Curtis is a passable Lp loaded with generic love songs and gun music. At worst? At worst its the last grasp for commercial viability from a soon-to-be fallen album sales titan[3], and theres nothing any of his enlisted pop-star guest appearances (Akon, Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke, that chick from The Pussycat Dolls, Eminem) can do to save him[4].

Man Down.

Rating: QQ

[1] Love songs = songs for the ladies. Club-ready beat optional.
[2] Really? Your tired of usin' technology? Why don't you come give me a lap dance? Word? Good thing Golden Boy Timberlake is singing that part or it would've never made it out the studio.
[3] Just watch Kanye West outsell him when tomorrow's week 1 sales report is released.
[4] I'm just glad I didn't buy this album.

Carry on...