If anyone can attest to Jay’s claims that the ‘streets is watching,’ it is 50 Cent. Throughout 2002, 50 Cent dominated the mixtape circuit and generated the biggest buzz for an artist without a major label album since Eminem some 5 years ago. Ironically, when the bidding wars began for 50’s services it was Eminem and Dr. Dre that wooed him to Shady/Aftermath. A bitter feud with Ja Rule and Irv Gotti only gave 50 more attention and as 2003 hit, everyone was hollering “G-G-G-G-UNIT!”
With every gangsta rapper from NYC to LA claiming to be the realest, 50 has had to do very little to convince people that he is as real as they come. After being filled with 9 bullets (including one in the face) a couple years ago, he took it in stride and earned his respect from the grimiest of street cats. Combine his credibility with his witty rhymes; laid back flow; top-notch production and association with Hip Hop’s biggest stars and you’ve got platinum plaques waiting around the corner.
One aspect of Get Rich or Die Tryin’ that has been overlooked is that while its’ core listeners are in NYC, the majority of the production comes from outside the rotten apple. However, Dre has no problem taking his sound to the east and Eminem has shown he can make it pop in NYC after his productions for their royalty. While Dre makes it bounce on megasmash “In Da Club,” he gets a little darker on the Ja-Rule dis “Back Down.” With little more than a horn and baseline, 50 rides Dre’s click-clacks and gunshots on the oh-so-gangsta “Heat.” Eminem continues to shine on the production tip, lending 50 the album’s best beats (and some show-stealing rhymes) on “Patiently Waiting” and “Don’t Push Me.”
To no one’s surprise, 50 is on some thug shit here, but manages to squeeze a few gems in as well. From the outstanding “Many Men,” he spits “Sunny days wouldn’t be special if it wasn’t for rain/joy wouldn’t feel so good if it wasn’t for pain/death gotta be easy cause life is hard/it’ll leave physically/mentally and emotionally scarred.” He gets reflective in the next verse when he considers his purpose in life, “in the bible it says ‘what goes around comes around’/Hommo shot me, three weeks later and he got shot down/now it’s clear that I’m here for a real reason/cause he got hit like I got hit but he ain’t fucking breathin‘” Songs like the aforementioned “Many Men,” along with others like “What Up Gangsta” and “Blood Hound” are all perfectly molded to 50’s style. There are occasions where 50 strays outside his comfort zone (“21 Questions”) and where things get plain tired (“Poor Lil’ Rich”).
Some don’t feel 50’s marble-mouthed delivery and it can get particularly tiresome on the hooks. That aside, he does pay a lot of attention to song structure and even though not everything clicks, nothing sounds thrown together as filler material. While 50 lacks the lyrical prowess and mic presence of a Jay-Z or Nas, he has wedged himself into New York’s upper class by keeping it in the gutter.