In case you haven’t heard (and you probably haven’t), 50 Cent is back.
The former face of popular rap dropped his fifth studio album Tuesday. Animal Ambition marks the rapper’s first project since 2009’s Before I Self Destruct.
After taking a couple of years off to chase new business ventures, the rapper made waves in the hip-hop world in February after announcing he was leaving longtime studio partner Interscope and taking his label, G-Unit Records, independent while signing a distribution deal with Caroline/Capitol/UMG. The announcement breathed new life into a long-dormant career and left fans eager to see what the aging rapper had left in the tank. The answer? Not much.
Animal Ambition is nothing new. For the most part, it sounds like the same old 50 — and not in a good way.
The Queens, New York, native returns to a tried and true formula — catchy, simple tunes rather than insightful tracks — on Animal. But radio hits these songs are not. The simplicity that once made 50 Cent famous just seems boring here, as much of what he says comes across as repetitive and basic. The album’s beats aren’t bad, but they’re not nearly good enough to redeem 50’s lyrical shortcomings.
Things start to go poorly by the album’s second song, the beautifully titled “Don’t Worry ‘Bout It,” which sounds as though 50 wrote it in about five minutes. The next few songs are more of the same — one-dimensional lyrics focused around money or violence. The Trey Songz collaboration “Smoke” is especially bad, particularly because it seemed to be the track with the most radio potential at first listen. More than anything, these songs just sound lazy.
But, while bad, Animal Ambition isn’t a complete train wreck. The best songs come back-to-back in the latter half of the track list. Both “Hustler” and “Twisted” are catchy, confident and simple songs without much to say, but their smooth beats and somewhat-entertaining lyrics work well, if only because they remind the listener of former hits.
And therein lies the essence of the entire album: The only positive things to come out of Animal Ambition are just songs that sound vaguely like something else. The best are the ones that remind fans of a time when 50 ruled the radio. But, as Animal Ambition sadly makes clear, that era is dead and gone.
Fans who were hoping this album would be a carefully crafted, effort-filled project constructed over the course of 50’s hiatus will be sorely disappointed. The rappers who have found success despite growing older are those who changed their style with age, often making their music more personal or insightful. But not 50. This is no passionate project, no portrait of an artist approaching 40 years old. This is a feeble attempt to revive an old formula. It’s radio rap that shouldn’t even make it to the radio.