He's delivered a stack of solid songs with enduring choruses, but you have to wonder where the 38-year-old American rapper goes from here.
Album review: 50 Cent – Animal Ambition: An Untamed Desire to Win
50 Cent Animal Ambition: An Untamed Desire to Win (G-Unit / Caroline / Capitol) Two stars
There was a time when 50 Cent was almost ubiquitous – a multimillion-selling musical phenomenon that dominated news and celebrity-gossip column inches, with sidelines in Hollywood, video games and myriad business ventures. Yet now, after reigning as a top rap pit-bull since 2003’s fame-making Get Rich or Die Tryin’, the man born Curtis James Jackson III finds himself in a curious position. Although he’s producing a new TV show in the United States, Power, this is his first studio album since splitting with his record label and it’s his first full-length of any sort for five years. Relatively speaking, he’s an underdog once again. Enter the hungry thinking behind Animal Ambition.
There’s a whiff of desperation about it all: a whopping 10 of the album’s 11 tracks have already been released as singles. The opener, Hold On, hardly helps: only notable for a half-interested barb at Kanye West, it’s a lolloping effort that, at points, takes empty braggadocio to an all-time low. Jackson’s signature, lazy, slurred delivery suddenly sounds tired and old.
The title track at least ups his bully-boy boasting to pleasingly bolshie levels, with a trademark, semi-off-key chorus line, while Pilot shows that he can actually rhyme at speed with decent dexterity. Irregular Heartbeat wields some genuine menace thanks to an eerie beat and hungry bars from G-Unit label-signing Kidd Kidd. Oddly, though, a trio of bonus tracks on the album’s deluxe edition drip with more energy and invention than most of the main record combined.
That’s about your lot for highlights, sadly. Even when Jackson’s former production mentor Dr Dre claims a co-credit on Smoke, all that follows is forgettable fluff. And Everytime I Come Around includes one of history’s more unfortunate attempts at rhyming geographical shout outs (“N-Y ‘til I D-I”).
For all that Jackson has embodied everything that’s supposedly wrong with hip-hop in the 21st century, he’s delivered a stack of solid songs with enduring choruses (In Da Club, 21 Questions, Candy Shop, the underrated Get in My Car). He’s got rich and hasn’t died trying. But you have to wonder where the 38-year-old goes from here.
The dance hall-esque Don’t Worry ’Bout It may prove prescient – the repeated central sentiment being “Don’t worry ’bout what I’m doing”. Considering Animal Ambition’s uncharacteristically meek first-week sales, a fair few of his former fans seem to have taken such requests at face value. Which is nothing if not justice for an album that’s about as inspired as its forehead-slappingly obvious cover art.