50 Cent - Animal Ambition
My general sweep of social media yielded a small nugget of truth that saddened me more than the gradual descent of Sydney weather in to it's wintry depths. '50 Cent's Animal Ambition only expected to move 35k first week'. For those not in the know, 35k means he will ship 35,000 physical copies of his new record, because that is what the distributor is ordering. This is low. And I mean Insane Clown Posse low. It's the equivalent of the CEO of Commonwealth Bank taking a job at a local Subway cutting up capsicum. 50 moved 1.1 million copies of The Massacre in it's first week in 2005, and even Future's bland Honest moved 53k in its first week this year. The industry is not kind to those missing a hit song, even if they are royalty.
Every review you read about Animal Ambition will lament the fact that 50 Cent still refuses to step out from behind his hulk-like persona and deal us a nice dose of Curtis. Even the record he named after himself refused to shed any lyrical light on the man, with tracks like I'll Still Kill, Ayo Technology and My Gun Go Off just peddling the same shoot, kill, rob, steal, fuck, that's what's real philosophy that Get Rich or Die Tryin' perfectly encapsulated. Follow Curtis on Twitter, or just peruse the popular hip hop sites and you are constantly given examples of his wit and character. Don't believe me? Check this website out. He feels the need to weigh in on every pop culture occurance, from Solange and Jay Z to Justin Beiber, and even when he embarrasses himself, he still turns it in to hilarity.
Animal Ambition could, theoretically, be his most courageous release. From a man who had his career sculpted by two of Hip Hop's greatest success crafters, Eminem and Dr. Dre, we recieve something that completely lacks the In Da Club, Candy Shop or I Get Money moment. Without a designated club banger to precede the release, hype was confined to the determined underground. Hold On, the first single, is a true Brooklyn classic, the kind of thing that Acura's would have turned up till speakers bled on Flatbush in the late 1990s. Frank Dukes laces it with a halting boom bap finished with almost delicate guitar touches, as 50 get's his grime on, 'We came from nothing, now they sayin we straight. You got that? Hold up, Hold on'. His adlibs are menacing, 'We got bail money, whatever, y'all gotta chill'. It sets the soul alight, but if it came on at Le Bain at 2am the twerker's would retire to the bar for refreshments. And unfortunately, an MTV cosign puts numbers on the board. Just ask Kanye, who's only record not to go platinum is the one that mainstream media has shirked from.
Animal Ambition is produced entirely by names you don't hear at the start of every club beat, including legends like Ty Fyffe and Jake One, and lesser known agents like Ky Miller and Shamtrax. Everytime I Come Around, produced by Steve Alien who is basically just a twitter presence to the rest of the world, sounds like it was made on Fruity Loops by a drunk 14 year old. Yet it suits, because 50 brings the menace. There's no Mike Will Made It, there's just a solitary Dre beat, and Pharrell must've been busy with his next boundary cross-over. It gives the whole project a mixtape feel, and it's heritage can be traced back to 50's earliest Eminem-baiting tapes. The closest we get to the minimalist fare that is littering hip hop compilations in 2014 is the gutter Irregular Heartbeat, featuring a scintilating verse from former nemesis Jadakiss. 'Fuck who you with, we'll dump a clip / We by the school yard waiting for you to get your kid'. It proves that even when the current standards are conformed to, 50 can still bring the heat like he did in 2002, even if he is hundreds of times richer and probably further away from gun shots than you or I.
I guess the question must be posed. Does 50 Cent really need to reveal any more of his personality than he has shared so far? It's his 5th proper solo album, and he is still rapping about the exact same things, except now the brags and bravado have been matched by sales and tales, so that they are no longer brags but a heightened form of reality that only the blessed few are able to indulge in. Whilst his mentor Eminem goes about delving in to his own soul and extracting the deepest, darkest depths of it for our entertainment, 50 seems intent on being 50, not Curtis Jackson. There's never been any tension between this persona and his own self as there has between Marshall Mathers, Slim Shady and Eminem.
Essentially, this deals with the two big flaws of this record. Firstly, his sales are explained away by the lack of a club thumper. Secondly, his lack of personality is nothing new. You're buying a record that is made by 50 Cent, not Curtis Jackson, and if Jay-Z's constant pleading has taught us anything, it's that rappers can create whatever character they wish to present to us without fear of reprisal. I mentioned that this could in fact be his most courageous album ever. Unfortunately, it turns out the opposite is true. 50 Cent is a true success story, he has scaled heights that we as mere mortals can not see. There are pictures of him on the internet using a knife and fork to eat stacks of money, or pretending that a stack of 100s is a phone so think he can barely grip it in his mammoth hands. He has scaled the heights and now sits atop them. He no longer needs to sell records. Animal Ambition: An Untamed Desire To Win is the least apt title he could've picked. There is no ambition on this record. Each track is a slow march of themes that he has covered ad nauseum. Money, expensive items, and his apparent lack of interest in women when related to money. And shooting people. The fact that he doesn't even need to take the car out of park now to drive in to a pit full of money shows on Animal Ambition. The final track is instructive. Chase The Paper. "I'm still a rider, I'm still rolling / A nigga still hold the steel, that's how I'm owning / You chase the hoes, I chase the paper" He got rich, and didn't die. The prophecy was fulfilled, and it seems that's the end of the story, which is criminal because with his talent and ability on the mic, he should be dropping masterpieces at this point in his career. Instead, we are left to await the next release, hoping the criticisms somehow make it to his cloud and actually sink in.