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Album Review

50 Cent, 'Before I Self Destruct'

November 23, 2009

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Hip-Hop
50 Cent Before I Self Destruct
Shady/Aftermath/Interscope
ESSENTIAL “Crime Wave’’

It’s tough for an insanely rich MC to try to go back to the streets - it’s easier going back to insane, like Eminem - but that’s what 50 Cent does here with mixed success. Many of these tracks leave burn marks as Fiddy moves away from the sing-song, surefire singles approach. So here you get more songs about clips, cash, and revenge. He’s feisty, and while his renewed beef with The Game (“So Disrespectful’’) sounds stale, dropping a line like, “This ain’t ‘Tha Carter’/ It’s harder/ Smarter’’ on “Death to My Enemies’’ shows chutzpah (even if it draws giggles from some). 50 still has superior cleverness, and the narrative on “Crime Wave’’ is vivid and aggressive. But it’s hard to swallow boasts that he’s crazy on the tuneful, by-the-numbers Dr. Dre-produced “Psycho’’ with Slim Shady. There are some hooky cuts including “Baby By Me’’ with Ne-Yo and “Hold Me,’’ one of the set’s best. Meanwhile, “Gangsta’s Delight,’’ which hijacks “Rappers Delight,’’ misfires, and “Could’ve Been You’’ (featuring R. Kelly) falls flat. 50 really needed to make an essential record to regain relevancy. Being merely good at this point isn’t enough. (Out now) KEN CAPOBIANCO