We gave it a B-
”Different day, same s—,” intones 50 Cent near the beginning of The Massacre. Pardon us, Fitty, but really? After selling more than 7 million copies of Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and becoming a new kind of heartthrob (thug as sex symbol) to teenage girls every-where, 50 Cent is a made man. And the spoils of that success are the recurring theme of The Massacre, on which he graduates from unblinking gangsta revivalist to hip-hop pasha.
Here, 50 confronts a dilemma that’s challenged many before him: What to sing (or rap) about once immediate fame arrives? His answer: the predictable topic of stardom itself. In songs like ”Ryder Music” and ”Position of Power,” 50, who once dodged bullets, is now reveling in super-models and ”life in the fast lane, ”albeit in a nonchalant, almost indifferent tone. Sex also plays a bigger role here than on Get Rich, but it’s hardly of the romantic sort — more than ever, women are for the taking. Bottom-heavy club tracks like ”Get in My Car,” ”Just a Lil Bit,” and the appealing throwaway single ”Candy Shop” (”after you work up a sweat, you can play with the stick” — and no, he’s not talking about an old Atari console) aren’t seductions; they’re orders.
The speaker-rattling sonic booms of Get Rich still pop up. But in another reflection of 50’s ambitions, less intimidating disco samples and cruising R&B grooves are also part of the fabric, as are 50’s own singing and rapping. (He changes his timbre so often, from burly rhyming to lilting half-croon, that you may think there are more guests than there actually are.) ”Build You Up” embodies the revamped 50: The song’s silky hook is reminiscent of old Maze hits, and it’s sung by new buddy Jamie Foxx.
The Massacre‘s depictions of 50’s high-rolling new world are probably as true to life as the unrepentant street sagas of Get Rich; after all, 50 is a rich, presumably pampered pop star. But even with Eminem showing up again to lay down a few tracks, the new songs (and subject) aren’t as absorbing as the old. 50’s voice has always had a casual slothfulness to it, and paired with the right, vivid track — ”Many Men (Wish Death)” from the last album, say — it could produce unexpectedly poignant results. On The Massacre, he tends to sound more self-satisfied than hungry; defending his rap-world turf in recitations like ”I’m Supposed to Die Tonight” and ”This Is 50,” he seems almost distracted.
When he moves beyond hip-hop-star narcissism, 50 can still tap into his old steely authority. It’s there in ”I Don’t Need ‘Em,” produced with cinematic grit by Buckwild, in which he’s an on-the-edge drug dealer. It’s there in the ingratiating, hooky taunt of ”Piggy Bank,” yet another tweaking of now-defeated rival Ja Rule, along with Jadakiss, Fat Joe, and others. (Yes, 50 can still be kind of funny.) In the scariest-by-far track, ”A Baltimore Love Thing,” the narrator appears to be an abusive creep with a junkie girlfriend, until you realize it’s the voice of heroin itself: ”If you give birth, I’ll already be in love with your kids,” he growls at her. It’s the old love-as-addiction metaphor, yet in the context of the album, both the topic and the sleazy, low-rider beats feel fresh. ”A Baltimore Love Thing” slays you in a way that much of the surprisingly nonlethal Massacre doesn’t do often enough.