Remember back in 2007 when Kanye West and 50 Cent both released their third albums, Graduation and Curtis, on September 11?
Fifty swore that if Kanye’s first week sales outdid his, he’d quit rapping. Yeah, I know it was a publicity stunt. I saw them joking with each other during their photo shoot with Rolling Stone. But when Kanye beat him seven days later, I actually did wish he’d fall back—way back into Not Making an Album for an Extremely Long Time land.
And not because he promised us he would. More so because he had nothing new to say in his raps. His 2003 debut, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, is a classic filled with bubbling club bangers, charming hooks, and enthralling tales of ‘hood happenings. Its followup, The Massacre, seemed a bit more calculated, though it furthered his hot streak.
But the seams in his G-Unit tank tops appeared to weaken when he began rolling out Curtis. I can’t put my finger on why: Maybe it was a combination of laziness and lack of creativity. His first single “Straight to the Bank,” a boring declaration of wealth, stalled on the charts. As did his second single “Amusement Park,” which was a knockoff of his Massacre smash “Candy Shop.” It took Justin Timberlake and Timbaland to get him back on Billboard‘s hot 100 chart’s top 10 on his third try.
Since then, he’s been bent on returning to the aggressive street content that inspired Get Rich. The problem is, he’s not that guy anymore. I don’t want to hear a dude who lives in a Connecticut mansion with marginal shares in Vitamin Water stock rap about how he’ll shoot a man over a drug deal gone wrong. Which is why his 2009 catastrophe Before I Self Destruct was his worst album yet.
Meanwhile, artists and fellow rappers like Kanye West and Jay-Z are selling albums being themselves and—get this—progressing! But it seems like 50 just doesn’t get it. Yesterday, after explaining on Twitter that his Interscope label is “moving in slow motion” during the planning stages of his forthcoming album, he decided to release its first single “Outlaw” on his own. Here it is:
“My crack spots bring cash in nonstop,” he spits. Really, 50? They do? You still deal dope? There are so many topics to pull from the sky and he consistently opts to run back to 2003. Why? Well, there are some who love that 50. On Twitter, one fan wrote, “That new @50Cent song ‘Outlaw’ is crazy! Reminds me of Get Rich!” 50 responded, asking “That’s what you want right?” I don’t, though. I need progression from acts I love.
I’m not saying he shouldn’t bring the same passion he did back then. What I mean is that his subject matter doesn’t jibe with his reality. And in a genre which thrives on “realness” and places much weight on words, it’s pretty tough to take him seriously. The truth is this: 50 Cent is rich—like Scrooge McDuck rich. But he thinks the only way he can connect to his core audience is through being a person he isn’t anymore.
It’s quite sad, actually. I’m sure it’s a tough place to be as an artist. His fans can’t let go of the image of him in a bulletproof vest. And he’s unable to make a song (or album for that matter) that lifts him from it.
I hope 50 does it one day. I really do. But my first listen of “Outlaw” was also my last. If I want the old 50, I’ll play his old albums.