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Get Rich Or Die Tryin'
Only the most blinkered rap aficionados could claim themselves immune to yet another record padded out with the same old routines about homicidal life on the street.
Peter Murphy, 10 Mar 2003
Back when Chuck D could legitimately christen hip-hop the black CNN, a rap record was a dispatch from frontlines only glimpsed by the denizens of middle class America and Europe. These days the form is closer to CNN period; the subjects covered remain the same, but the manner in which they’re covered has become more sensationalist, self-regarding and even self-perpetuating.
I’m not calling into question the legitimacy of 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson to his friends) who’s got the scars to prove himself in any old salt MC bull session. He’s been shot at and stabbed and he’s pissed off just about every major player in hip hop – excluding Eminem and Dre, executive producers of this record – to the degree that he now carries a loaded gun and wears a bullet proof vest. But such dubious credentials aside, only the most blinkered rap aficionados could claim themselves immune to yet another record padded out with the same old routines about homicidal life on the street. Rap now is at the same place the dominant rock acts were at their 20-something mark in the mid-80s; pumped full of big bucks, bloated, overfed and repeating on itself. Apart from a handful of bankable powerhouses – Jay Z, DMX, Eminem and Missy Elliot, there’s nutten goin’ on but the rent. And while Curtis Jackson has now entered that powerbrokers’ elite with Get Rich – the album sold a million in its first four days – it’s not going to revolutionise the form(ula).
Still, it’s a strong collection, distinguished by the Wu-like drama of tracks like ‘What Up Gangsta’ and ‘High All The Time’, the steel drum enhanced waddle of ‘P.I.M.P.’, the funtime skank of ‘In Da Club’. Jackson’s delivery is easy on the ear, sometimes as relaxed as a rap Bill Withers (‘Many Men’), sometimes slanty-eyed as Snoop, sometimes menacing as DMX. Only trouble is, he never breaks out of the bitches and niggaz and dead presidents clichés that bedevil every other act in his ilk. When Marshall Mathers walks on for a couple of walk-ons (the excellent ‘Patiently Waiting’ and ‘Don’t Push Me’) it’s a different ball game: Mathers is what he is not because he’s white, or not just because he’s white, but because his background precludes and excludes him from relying on the lyrical tropes that cripple his lesser confederates.
50 Cent is much, much better than that, but by wringing art out of his life where so many have wrought similar art out of all too similar lives, he has cast himself a black sheep among the flock, but one of the flock nonetheless.