Buy Now! 50 Cent – Before I Self-Destruct
Much of the pre-release hype surrounding 50’s latest album, and first since 2007’s underwhelming Curtis, focused on his promise of a return to the Get Rich or Die Tryin’ era 50. While it may be unfair to compare the two albums (for a number of reasons), one thing is clear: this is 50’s best effort since his 2003 debut. But Before I Self Destruct is not without its faults; it’s an uneven record that showcases the difference between Curtis Jackson, circa 2003, and present-day Curtis Jackson.
Things start out very well for 50 as the first five tracks deliver pure fire. Both “The Invitation” and “Death to My Enemies” are vintage 50: menacing and threatening over booming production. His gruff voice only adds the aura created by the production. A Jackson 5 sample drives “Then Days Went By” musically, while 50 reminisces lyrically about friends, family and the come-up. The personal narrative is a great complement to Lab Ox’s track. “So Disrespectful” finds 50 in full-on attack mode – with Game (a familiar foe), former G-Unit member Young Buck and his baby mama all targeted.
The Eminem-featured “Psycho” is the highlight of Before I Self Destruct. Dr. Dre’s production is perfect for the lyrical content of the song and Eminem is in full Slim Shady mode – with more pop references than the listener will catch in one sitting. 50 does his best to keep up with Em, but that’s a tall task for any MC. In the end, despite being outperformed by his guest, the song still hits hard.
And that’s when the wheels fall off.
The absolutely abysmal “Hold Me Down” interrupts any momentum the album had developed and exposes the difference between 2009 Curtis Jackson and 2003 Curtis Jackson: hunger. On his debut, 50’s hunger permeated virtually every track. On Before I Self Destruct, songs like “Crime Wave”, “OK, You’re Right”, and “Strong Enough” have a been there, done that feel to them despite outstanding production – especially on the last track.
Despite another standout track in “Stretch” (which sees 50 using an even more gruff delivery), “Get it Hot”, “Gangsta’s Delight”, “I Got Swag”, “Baby By Me”, and “Do You Think About Me” will have you searching for the skip button – and using it. Not coincidentally, at least three of these tracks (“Get it Hot”, “Baby By Me” and “Do You Think About Me”) appear to be designed for 50’s crossover fan base – and they don’t appear to have been given much effort by 50 himself.
Unfortunately, that’s the downfall of Before I Self Destruct. When 50 appears to be engaged in a track, it succeeds overwhelmingly (see the first five songs), but when he’s reaching for radio play or covering topics that he has covered ad nauseam since 2003, he fails. Not surprisingly, the production on the album is more consistent than 50 – and that is a shame for those fans hoping to see a return to form for Curtis Jackson.