50 Cent's 'Curtis': A Changed Man

Please, Mr. Cent: Could you show us less of the money?
Please, Mr. Cent: Could you show us less of the money? (By Jim Cooper -- Associated Press)
By Dan Charnas
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, September 11, 2007

In 1987, when rapper Milk Dee boasted, "I get money/money I got" on Audio Two's classic jam "Top Billin'," he didn't have any. Twenty years later, a digital sample of Milk Dee's voice supplies the anthemic chorus behind 50 Cent's new single, "I Get Money." But 50 ain't lying.

"I take quarter water/sold it in bottles for two bucks," he raps. "Coca-Cola came and bought it for billions/that's what's up." Indeed: Forbes has reported that 50 Cent, born Curtis Jackson, made upward of $100 million this year upon the soft drink giant's purchase of Glac?au, in which the rapper gained a 10 percent stake in return for his endorsement of VitaminWater.

Wealth can free artists, or make them soft. On his third album, "Curtis," 50 Cent acknowledges that much -- "I ain't even got to rap/I'm filthy, mang!" he laughs on "Straight to the Bank." With "Curtis," 50 still does what he does best: write tight pop songs about guns, girls and green over the best beats money can buy. But the charm is gone. Hearing a broke rapper brag about cash is quaint. Having a multimillionaire bully you with his financials is just mean.

Those willing to pay for this kind of pecuniary cruelty will find that 50 does share some treasure on "Curtis." After shooting a blank with his last single, "Amusement Park," he returned fully loaded with "I Get Money," already one of this year's dominant tracks. Bubbling behind it is the arpeggiated mania of "Ayo Technology," a paean to pole-dancing that guest-stars the two-headed musical monster Timbaland and Timberlake.

When that song crests, radios will likely be blessed with bangers like "All of Me" (featuring Mary J. Blige), "Fire" (featuring Nicole Scherzinger) and "Follow My Lead" (featuring Robin Thicke). On this CD, 50 does enough commercial collaborations with his showbiz brothers and sisters to make anyone cry uncle.

Pop songs aside, 50 Cent doesn't want us to think he's let his guard down: "While Jay and Beyonc? was 'mmwa-mmwa' kissin'/I was cookin' one thousand grams in my kitchen/While Nas was tellin' Kelis, 'I love you, boo'/I was shinin' my nine, you know how I do," he raps on "Fully Loaded Clip." Now that's the humor and spunk of the once-struggling 50.

There's plenty of other superlative gangster fare on "Curtis": spooky, slow tracks that evoke the mean streets of Southeast Queens so much that you might forget he lives in a mansion in Farmington, Conn., likely with enough VitaminWater to keep him hydrated for life.

Hearing 50 Cent rap is still the mealy-mouthed delight it always was. But it's an empty pleasure now. His recent halfhearted challenge to Kanye West gives the impression that he can't even find a suitable enemy to fight, and that he has no clue what to do now that the fight's gone out of him. On "Curtis," 50 Cent is a rapper in perfect form, at the top of his game, playing flawlessly, without inspiration.

DOWNLOAD THESE:"I Get Money," "Fully Loaded Clip," "Ayo Technology"

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