50 Cent, Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2003)
In the CD booklet for Get Rich or Die Tryin’, 50 Cent plays up his bad-man image, aiming a gun at the camera and flexing his muscles in a deadpan, expressionless demeanor. The, smooth, airbushed quality of the pictures tips off the listener that, far from a grimy, unpolished mixtape, Get Rich or Die Tryin’ is a shimmering multi-million dollar pop production with beats by hit-making producers like Dr. Dre, Megahertz, and Rockwilder. It casts 50 Cent as a hero for rap fans who like their hip-hop decadently and completely thugged out. As a songwriter, 50 Cent is best at crafting memorable one-liners like “we gonna party like it’s your birthday” (inspired by Luke’s “It’s Your Birthday”) from his hit single “In Da Club.” He delivers them through a soft, nonchalant voice that sounds like one big shrug, as if he could care less whether you like him or not. The pose is infectious, and when he wraps himself around the right track, like “In Da Club” or the unintentionally hilarious “High All the Time,” his songs run over you like bulldozers, dusting you off with equal parts charisma and cool. But when he hacks out tuneless filler like “P.I.M.P.” or “Don’t Push Me,” Get Rich or Die Tryin’ sounds like just another wack rap album. But in the end, who cares? It’s 50 Cent’s image and life story that makes him the hottest action figure to roll off the rap assembly line, not his art. Shady/Aftermath/Interscope.