Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Curtis by 50 Cent album review

Curtis by 50 Cent album review

Though neither album has been officially released, popular discourse has long since declared Kanye West the winner of this year’s hottest rap battle, the sales war between his and 50 Cent’s respective third records: Graduation and Curtis. Everybody wants Kanye to succeed, and the media has been quick to show support for the blog-friendly rapper, seizing upon 50’s sarcastic pronouncement that he’d quit music were Kanye to outsell him, quietly ignoring the retraction shortly after, and gleefully advertising’s well-timed announcement that Graduation was out-selling Curtis in the pre-orders by five-to-one.

This pro-Kanye sentiment is nothing new. Irritating though he can be, Kanye is an infinitely more likeable character, his cheeky urban (middle-class) braggadocio far more endearing than Fifty’s self-conscious chauvinism; and while 50 will probably never break out of the narrow musical mould created for him by Dre and Eminem, Kanye is a real innovator, if not quite as original as we’d thought. The heat Curtis has faced over the past few months has been well-deserved: lead singles ‘Straight To The Bank,’ a joint enterprise between Dr. Dre and Ty Fyffe, and the cynical ‘Candy Shop’ knock-off ‘Amusement Park,’ would normally be shoe-ins for the year’s worst lists, were it not for the subsequent leak of ‘Follow My Lead,’ a bewildering, lightweight duet with second-rate Trousersnake impersonator Robin Thicke. As it happens, the duet with the real-life Timberlake isn’t a whole lot better, though Timbaland’s shred-guitar-goes-keyboard melody is just mesmerising enough to work.

Fifty billed Curtis as a return to the raw, hardcore rap of Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ (as opposed to the lighter, more commercial The Massacre), with lyrical themes designed to place the listener in the artist’s mindset before he became a superstar. As with most of his boasts about the album, he’s about half-right. The album opens with a sample from a British gangster movie, setting the scene for a trio of murder-obsessed tracks. ‘My Gun Go Off’ is one of the best tracks Fifty’s lent his name to; Adam Deitch and Eric Krasno’s skilful production keeps the tension bubbling just below the surface with a muted hard rock guitar riff; 50’s rhyme and flow is more varied and expressive than his usual monotone drawl, and he.acknowledges the obvious similarity to Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself,’ rapping, “you only get one shot… before I back out to fire back at your head.” ‘I’ll Still Kill’ features one of Akon’s best guest spots this year, shaking up his usual robotic tones with some light rapping and an almost country-like twang, while ‘Man Down’ completes the tritone with an appropriately monotonous sung chorus.

The remainder of the album is as inconsistent as Fifty’s career to date. Dr. Dre puts in a surprisingly poor showing; in addition to ‘Straight To The Bank,’ he produced the album’s second most confusing moment, a heavy synth-loaded duet with tuneless Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger entitled ‘Fire,’ and the mediocre ‘In Da Club’ pastiche ‘Come & Go.’ Another surprise is ‘I Get Money,’ the third single and the official remix of ‘Straight To The Bank.’ Not only does Apex’s version outclass the original, but the clever use of outside samples (including Audio Two’s ‘Top Billin’’) lends the track a power and urgency he’s all but lost in the past few years and gives rise to the quickly-dashed prospect that he could actually take his music in a new and exciting direction. Aside from Dre, Seattle DJ Jake One and Mobb Deep’s are the only producers to appear more than once on the album: Havoc’s efforts are depressingly lightweight, ‘Fully Loaded Clip’ easily the worst track on the disc; but Jake One’s sharp, keyboard beats are a revelation, blending particularly well with Mary J. Blige’s excellent chorus vocals on ‘All Of Me.’

Returning to the Kanye-Fifty feud for a moment, there’s something conveniently symmetrical about that five-to-one ratio. To date, a fact that’s largely been ignored in the media debate, 50 Cent has sold five times as many records as Kanye, and, mediocre though they are, his recent singles have gone over much better in the clubs than Kanye’s twin bricks, ‘Stronger’ and ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing.’ Despite almost botching the entire project over the past six months, it not only feels like 50’s put out a better product than Kanye, but it feels as if 50 Cent has always had more selling power, regardless of what Kanye came up with. The ease with which he’s created a buzz about Curtis, when two months ago his career was set to tank, demonstrates the point well, and there’s little doubt in my mind which record will sell more copies when they’re released on Tuesday. The only question is whether Kenny Chesney will trump them both.

Track Listing:

1. Intro
2. My Gun
3. Man Down
4. I'll Still Kill Feat Akon
5. I Get Money
6. Come And Go
7. Ayo Technology Feat Justin Timberlake And Timberland
8. Follow My Lead Feat Robin Thicke
9. Movin On Up
10. Straight To The Bank
11. Amusment Park
12. Fully Loaded Clip
13. Peep Show Feat Eminem
14. Fire Feat Young Buck And Nicole Scherzinger
15. All Of Me Feat Mary J Blige
16. Curtis 187
17. Touch The Sky Feat Tony Yayo

My Rating is 4.9 out of 5

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