50 Cent - The Big 10

About a year ago, I went to the first of the big Eminem/Jay-Z stadium shows in Detroit, and I was surprised when 50 Cent emerged onstage for a few songs. I shouldn’t have been surprised, considering all the shared history and 50′s proven ability to rock vast crowds. But the mid-decade cold war between 50 and Jay had ended decisively in Jay’s favor, and I’d had a tough time imagining those two sharing a backstage area. And anyway, I basically didn’t think of 50 as a rapper anymore by that point; he was more a weird quasi-celebrity who made tons of shitty straight-to-DVD action movies that nobody watched. But in his 15-or-so minutes onstage, 50 delivered about the most exciting three-song set he could possibly do (“Patiently Waiting,” “In Da Club, “I Get Money”), and I pretty much lost my shit. It was a very serious oh yeah, this guy moment. And on a smaller level, 50′s new mixtape The Big 10 is like that, too.

In retrospect, 50′s fall from dominance happened with mindboggling speed. In just a few years, he went from snarling commercial juggernaut to total cultural nonfactor in unprecedented time. When 50 and Rick Ross got to beefing a couple of years ago, it seemed like 50 would completely decapitate Ross’s career. He had so much to work with (Ross’s prison-guard history, the prolonged flirtation with and sex-tape exploits with various Ross baby-mothers), and he’d once reduced Ja Rule into a punchline with far less. But Rick Ross won decisively without even doing much, simply because he was a fresher character with better songs and because everyone was sick of 50′s cackling-supervillain schtick. 50′s persona had grown so unbelievably grating over the years that he became impervious to sympathy as he once apparently was to bullets. These days, protege Lloyd Banks is actually more popular than 50 in plenty of circles; his world’s upside-down. But in the past few or so, 50′s been having something of a quiet creative renaissance, one that my friend Jayson Greene chronicled nicely in the Village Voice. On those songs, he once again found a sweet spot because he stopped attempting to recapture his lost commercial dominance and simply made 50 Cent music again.

During his fall from grace, 50 hastened things along with a series of clueless crossover moves, like the ultimately damaging big-hit Timberland/Timberlake collab “Ayo Technology.” The music was plenty passable, but it got away from the smirking, melodious stomp-your-face anthems that 50 had built his name on. When 50 mattered, he made unbelievably gruesome threats sound appealing simply by sing-songing them in his slurry bullet-flattened what-me-worry mumble. And he’s back to doing that. The Big 10 is full of the same sort of stuff that made 50 famous: Grisly tough-talk, squirmy sex-talk, triumphant money-talk. And even though his ear for hooks isn’t what it was in 2003, it’s still way sharper than that of just about anyone else in rap. Musically, the tape returns 50 to his thumping synths-and-samples comfort zone; he even rides an utterly shameless KC & The Sunshine Band loop on “Na Na Na,” and he’s back to finding the pocket of every beat that comes his way. But now he’s got the bitter-underdog defiance of someone who knows his moment is over but can’t understand why. 50 might be able to fuck models and swim around in money like Scrooge McDuck for the rest of his life, but his lack of respect still eats at him. It’s a pretty fascinating place to find him. On “Niggas Be Scheming,” he even seems to toss a subliminal at ASAP Rocky, of all people. He’s in uncharted territory.

But weirdly enough, this uncharted territory looks oddly familiar. On the tape’s intro, 50 points out that it’s been a decade since he release 50 Cent Is The Future, the mixtape that made him an underground hero and landed him on Eminem’s radar. When 50 released that tape, he was a bullet-riddled industry castoff who’d burned all his business bridges by threatening to jack all his peers on “How To Rob.” And now he’s back in that same outsider-underdog place, spewing bile at the business from just outside its borders. And he’s back to making outsider-underdog music — stuff that’s catchy and bloodthirsty in equal measure. Sometimes, things come full circle.

Download The Big 10 for free here.

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Comments (7)
  1. Also, it should be noted that Stop Crying is straight fire

  2. Great article! Agree on many points, though I don’t think he lost the Rick Ross beef at all. I think that was just the industry making sure 50 could not end another career. Everyone really felt him destroying Ja Rule, Fat Joe, Jadakiss, Cam’Ron, so they made sure that Rick Ross would not lose that one, and they made sure to keep him alive. I mean, if that was anyone other than 50 Cent doing that to Rick Ross, then Rick Ross’ career would have been over.

    I love that 50′s music is getting better again. He’s the most charismatic person in rap!

    • Uhh, lets calm down with the rapper conspiracy theories here, shall we? Who is “they” that’s making sure Rick Ross would not lose? The rap gods? The reason 50 lost that was because he more or less destroyed his own career via shitty songs, right as Ross ascended on his own merit to the top of what is barely left of modern ‘gangsta’ rap music. You can’t win a rap battle if the world doesn’t care about your music anymore. Picking a fight with Kanye was another pretty shitty move too: 50 Cents too big of an idiot to even understand that Ye’s fans are a completely different demographic of rap fanatics.

      The fact of the matter is that 50′s going to need more than a shitty FL Studio produced mixtape if he’s going to want to be on top again (especially considering all the high end production work put into modern mixtapes.) He also needs to reinvent himself someway without selling out with trendy music fads (a la ‘ayo technology’) if he ever wants to be back on top. That’s exactly what Jay Z had to do.

      Until this happens he can stop trying to pick beefs with ASAP and eXquire. Listening to that happening is like hearing about 2011 Muhammad Ali trying to pick a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Sit down old man, this is just sad.

  3. Tom, I broke your balls earlier about Waka Flocka. So in fairness (whether you care at this point or not), let me state that I actually enjoy your writing a great deal, and this piece is a perfect example of that. Take care.

  4. Great tape. Go 50!

    Side note: 50′s verse on the recent Gucci track “Recently” is incredible. “I’m the king, cha-ching”… yeah baby!

  5. Great article, but that mixtape was shit, and “Niggas Be Scheming” was seriously terrible, what’s up with the like middle-school level production on that? If you’re going to take a bite at Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire and ASAP Rocky in the same song, you should spend a little bit more time trying to make it sound like music. I agree that one of 50′s problems is his lack of respect, after the Kanye indecent in 2007 you think he would learn, but his biggest problem is his lack of musicianship.

    • Totally disagree. What about “You Took My Heart?”… it seems like he’s got a new level of self-awareness, and is kind of making fun of himself. I don’t know why he labeled that a skit tho, it’s a great song. He just sounds solid as hell throughout. Great hooks, and he’s always right in the pocket of the beat.

      There shouldn’t be any requisite for him to take bites on eXquire and ASAP. They’re young bucks who probably don’t have much lasting power. We’re still talking about 50 ten years later. If anything, it makes him look kinda dumb even bringing them up. Not saying they’re not good, but it reminds me of Obama making fun of Trump. They’re not on his level.

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