50 Cent is a true survivor – 9 shots, including one to his jaw that forever altered his speech, an upbringing that cosigns orphan Annie’s “hard knock life,” and a hip-hop career that started off by dissing other rappers (“How To Rob” featuring the Madd Rapper) and included disses back from fellow rappers (Jay-Z’s “I’m about a dollar, what the ---- is “fifty cent?” declaration).
But returning from the massive success of his debut album Get Rich or Die Tryin’, one obstacle exists that 50 Cent simply cannot survive on his second album, The Massacre: his own version of the “sophomore slump.”
Originally scheduled to be titled The Valentine’s Day Massacre (before an album push-back forced the name change), the former title might have served as a more welcome and befitting description of what 50 presents on his second go-round – a butchering of sing-songy hooks and lovey-dovey anthems that only popped off once (“21 Questions”) on the debut from the rugged Queens-bred emcee but infiltrate The Massacre and make it seem that much less intimidating.
The sexually charged erotica of Massacre’s first single, “Candy Shop,” featuring G-Unit’s leading lady Olivia and production from Scott Storch, and the similarly club-driven “Disco Inferno” both generically reproduce the feel of 50 Cent’s first-ever smash “In Da Club” minus the staying power of the original trend-setting Dre production.
Storch returns again for the awfully-commercial “Just A Lil’ Bit” with a bland looped-up Middle Eastern-influenced production that pairs with 50 Cent’s unsweetened crooning to create one of the most abysmal Fifty tracks ever recorded.
Recent Oscar winner Jamie Foxx, who made noise (both vocally and on record charts) with Kanye West and Twista on “Slow Jamz,” dismisses sing-happy 50 Cent from the chorus for a change on “Build You Up,” which only seems to give 50 more time to lose the bass in his rapping voice, as he hits the track walking, not running, with lines like, “Who knows what the future holds? We’ll be together probably, For better or worse like Whitney and Bobby.” Equally as bad is the hearty creation, “So Amazing,” with Olivia once again helping 50 to pledge his love and devotion to a female, a continuous theme throughout Massacre.
When he takes the time to devote himself back to his roots, the results are still truly an overwhelming “massacre” that will remind audiences of the good ol’ 50, as his return to the block on “In My Hood” resorts back to his street cred and strong-arming ways (“That house party off the hook until them shots go off, Well, that’s what you get for stuntin’ on my block, show off!”).
“Piggy Bank,” 50’s half-serious and publicity stuntish diss track to Fat Joe, Jadakiss, Nas, and Shyne, is saved by the change-riddled and angry production from Needlz, who is gaining quite a reputation himself for his G-Unit productions (see Young Buck’s “Let Me In” and “Bang Bang”).
The conceptual “A Baltimore Love Thing” deserves credit for a solid attempt at personifying the love/hate relationship between drugs and addicts, while the neck-jarring Dre production on “Outta Control” may be 50’s most addictive track on Massacre with his “I’m a hot boy, I’m burnin’ up, I do my thing in the club with the burner tucked” lyrics bringing the grit and grime to the club, outside of his otherwise glitzy attempts.
“Gunz Come Out,” the only other Dre production on Massacre finally sees 50 tango with the trademark piano riffs of the good Dr., which like “Outta Control,” is where 50 Cent is at his best his second time around.
Still, for every “Ski Mask Way,” there is a “Get in My Car,” as 50 Cent melodically sing-songs his way through his Massacre. If Get Rich or Die Tryin’ was lined with streets corners, violent outbursts, and gun references, The Massacre is the exact opposite, with syrupy meditations on love, lust, and everything in between putting The Massacre’s trigger on safety for the most part.
50 himself goes as far as rapping, “This is the flow right here that f----d up Jeffrey’s career,” a direct cheap-shot to 50’s nemesis Ja Rule, who 50 repeatedly criticized for singing his way onto the music charts. But Ja must have had a good thing going for 50 Cent to essentially use the same formula on his sophomore attempt, an attempt that will “slump” its way into the hearts of females everywhere while ignoring 50’s original hardcore fan base.
50 Cent is a true survivor. Neither gunshots, nor poverty, nor a controversial entrance into the hip-hop arena could slow down his rise to fame and fortune. Unfortunately for 50, the sophomore slump of music still exists – and not even The Massacre can manage to bully its way out this time.