Monday, May 12, 2014

The 50 Cent Journey: Get Rich Or Die Tryin

After the indefinite shelving of "Power Of The Dollar," being released from Columbia Records, and shot 9 times (and surviving), this realistically should've done it for 50's career, but to his credit, he didn't give up. He maintained that ever present hustler's ambition and headed straight for the mixtape circuit in 2002. Going back to the shooting for a bit, when he was hit in the face, in addition to a swollen tongue, he also lost a wisdom tooth, all of which caused a noticeable slur in his voice. That "slur" would be part of his signature sound, in a good way. Continuing on, the mixtape grind paid off WELL, releasing the following mixtapes leading up to his official debut:

If you haven't checked out any of these, I strongly recommend that you do so. 50 pretty much set the blueprint for the mixtape being a key factor in the promotion and marketing of an artist. And this is the PRE buildup right here, lol!


To say that 50 changed and revolutionized the mixtape game would be an understatement. Although he utilized the popular/familiar practice of using the hottest beats at the time for himself (the product was dope and catchy), it was his hustler's ambition (again), work ethic, and drive to succeed that created such a STRONG buzz BEFORE he was even signed by a major label. It wasn't too long until Eminem, himself already a big star at this point, listened to "Guess Who's Back," which then lead to a history making $1 million deal with Aftermath Entertainment (by way of a joint venture with Em's Shady Records). Let's see: the mixtape grind, signed with Eminem, dropped two HIT singles in the form of "Wanksta" and "In Da Club," had Dr. Dre overseeing his debut's production and mastering, along with undeniable street credibility due to his past, this was clearly one of the most heavily hyped and anticipated albums ever. The demand for him was huge and expectations were high for this album.

Release date: February 6, 2003 (I bought this album at least 4 times, including the week of its release, Friday, 2/9/03 to be exact. I missed the bonus DVD that came with it, but I was cool though.)

Young Buck
Tony Yayo
Nate Dogg
Lloyd Banks

Rob "Reef" Tewlow
Darrell "Digga" Branch
Luis Resto
Dr. Dre
Mike Elizondo
DJ Rad
Sha Money XL
Sean Blaze
Denaun Porter
Dirty Swift
John "J-Praize" Freeman
Red Spyda
Terence Dudley

 1. Intro
Loyal reader, do me a favor. Grab two quarters, toss em on a table of yours with the greatest of ease, and you got the intro!

2. What Up Gangsta

"Front on me, I'll cut you, gun-butt you, or buck you/You gettin' money, I can't get none wit you then fuck you"

"I'm like Patti Labelle homie, I'm on my own/Where I lay my hat's my home, I'm a rolling stone"

 I remember continuously bobbing my head when I first listened to this song, complete with a dope beat and quite the memorable hook; definitely a tight way to get the album started. "G-Unit, we don't play around!"
*5 out of 5*

3. Patiently Waiting

"God's a seamstress that tailor fitted my pain/I got scriptures in my brain..." -50 Cent

"You shouldn't throw stones if you live in a glasshouse/And if you got a glass jaw, you should watch yo mouth, cause I'll break yo face!" -50 Cent

When I think of this song, the first word that comes to mind is hunger, and you can hear it in 50 and Em's voices throughout. Speaking of Em, he did steal the show on this one with an awesome verse. VERY dope song.
*5 out of 5*

4. Many Men (Wish Death)

"Many men, wish death upon me.....
I'm tryin' to be what I'm destined to be, and niggas tryin' to take my life away"

The lyrics above briefly sum this up. Considering the 2000 shooting that almost took his life, there was a sense of realism on this song and it's very effective. In the face of haters and detractors alike, he finds a way to persevere, even if there's unrest and paranoia along the way.
*5 out of 5*

5. In Da Club

".... go head, switch the style up/If niggas, then let em hate and watch the money pile up"

Oh man, this Dre produced classic was BIG in 2003 and to date it remains his most successful single. Not only does it hold up well today, but it still receives radio play and you're guaranteed to see a full dance floor when the DJ throws this on at any party. More on this song later.
*5 out of 5*

6. High All The Time

"If David could go against Golliath for the stone/I could go at Nas and Jigga both for the throne"

My jaw almost dropped when I first heard that line above, but at the time I knew he was a worthy challenger, if you will, for that "throne." Either way, this is another dope song, one I still like a lot even though it's for the smokers, lol.
*4 out of 5*

7. Heat

"..... I do what I gotta do I don't care if I get caught/The D.A. can play this muthafuckin' tape in court/I'll kill you (I ain't playin')"

 "Keep thinkin' I'm candy, til ya fuckin skull get popped/Then ya brain hop out the top, like Jack in the Box!"

"I see gangstas get religious when they start bleedin'/Sayin Lord Jesus help me, cause they ass leakin'"

"Wit a pistol I define the definition of pain/If you survive your bones'll still fuckin' hurt when it rains"

This is one of the more appropriately titled songs on the album, also my favorite. Lyrically and production wise, this is as high powered as they come, and not to overdo it, but this is straight heat.
*5 out of 5*

8. If I Can't

 "There ain't nothin' they can do, to stop my shine/This is God's plan homie, this ain't mine"

When you're listening to a song (head bobbing included) and you're smiling all the way through, that's a key sign that the song is winning you over and it's GOOD. I always get that feeling when I bump this one. 50 is lyrically inspired and just rides this Dre beat with all the confidence in the world.
*5 out of 5*

9. Blood Hound

This song was more or less the introduction of Young Buck, formerly of UTP, to G-Unit.
*4 out of 5*

10. Back Down
(AKA The Nail in Ja-Rule's Coffin
AKA The Burial of Ja-Rule's Career)

Oh man, I've talked about this song (and the beef with Ja Rule) so much over the years, including on this very blog. So rather than rehash a lot of that, I'm simply going to comment on key lines in the song. After "Life's On The Line" and the ensuing controversies (more shootings, apparent robberies, video shoots, publicity stunts on the part of Ja Rule, etc), things came full circle here.

"..... you's a pop tart sweetheart, you soft in the middle"

"I know niggas from your hood, you have no history/Never poked nothin, never popped nothin, nigga stop frontin/Jay put you on, X made you hot/Now you runnin round like you some big shot"

 At this point, Ja was one of the biggest names in hip hop and after the release of that God awful 4th album "The Last Temptation," his popularity seriously started to wane. The red hot 50 came right out, lyrical guns blazing against Ja and probably was the first MC to call him out, as noted above. Rightfully so, Jay did put Ja on, courtesy of "Can I Get A..." and you can make the case that another hot MC (circa 1998-2000), DMX, made him hot by association. Good points.

"The rap game is all fucked up now, what we gon do now/How we gon eat man, 50 back around/That's Ja lil punk ass thinkin' out loud...."

"I'm back in the game shorty, to rule and conquer/You sing for hoes and sound like the Cookie Monster"

Wow man.

"It's been years and you had the same niggas in the background/You're never gonna sell Mitsubushi (Cadillac) Tah and Crack (Black) Child/Them niggas dead, just suck, they no good/I ain't never heard a nigga say they like them in the hood"

Wow, now that's a complete burial of Cadillac Tah and Black Child. They essentially proved 50 correct, because shortly after this, that was it for them, basically never to be heard from or seen in hip hop again. Let's keep it real, Tah and Child were never good, but they weren't horrible either. They certainly lacked the star power and everything else that Ja had, NO ONE was anticipating any solo albums from them, and honestly I can count on one hand how many people I know that actually said they liked something involving them, together or solo. 

And it doesn't end there. After three amped verses from 50, "Delicious," a "gay" character, comes on towards the end and uh, "sticks up" for Ja to close the song. Well, I have no problem repeating myself on this one, so here goes. This was a BURIAL of Ja Rule and his career, to a point where he clearly was never the same again. The biggest mistake of Ja's career was not properly responding to "Back Down" (and I'm sorry, "Clap Back" and everything else on the "Blood In My Eye" album doesn't count). You CANNOT let a scathing diss like this go unanswered; you CANNOT leave the lyrical bidding in the hands of two guys (Tah and Black) who literally had no chance at putting even the slightest dent in 50's armor, and you CANNOT act like you're too big and/or busy to respond. When all of this happened, it sealed Ja's fate, plus in addition to 50, the other members of G-Unit (Yayo, Buck, Banks), The Game, Eminem, Busta Rhymes, AND D-12 got in on things and just shoveled the rest of the proverbial dirt on Murder Inc's grave and it's stunning to this day. If Ja understood hip hop, he would've took some time away after that "Last Temptation" album, recharged his batteries, and came with a SOLO response to "Back Down." Even if he didn't "win" the battle, he would've had the respect of fans for standing up for himself against all odds and his career likely would've been different as a result, but he didn't do that and look where he is today. Nuff said.

And like you need to ask what this top 10 diss song of all time gets.
*5 out of 5*

11. P.I.M.P.

In addition to an extreme hustler, future businessman, MC with loads of street credibility, you can add "pimp" to the list. There also was a dope remix to this featuring Snoop Dogg, Lloyd Banks, and Young Buck, which probably should've been in the original version's place, respectively.
*4 out of 5*

12. Like My Style

This Rockwilder produced joint follows in the footsteps of "If I Can't." While it's not the better song, it makes its points and you can just hear how much fun 50 is having, but still confident.
*4 out of 5*

13. Poor Lil Rich

"I'm in to bigger things y'all niggas y'all know my style/Your wrist bling bling, my shit bling blaow"

We've all heard the rags to riches stories over the years in hip hop, and of course considering where he was going, 50 was quick to give us his version.
*3 out of 5*

14. 21 Questions

I remember this song being slightly criticized at the time, not due to the theme, but it seemed like a song right from the Ja Rule playbook according to some. Now here's the debate: whereas Ja was on a streak of making songs for the ladies with no end in sight, this was new territory for 50 and it didn't plague this album like it would do some of his later ones. Add in Nate Dogg on the hook with a matching beat, this was good.
*4 out of 5*

15. Don't Push Me

This was a perfect guest spot for Lloyd Banks and Enimem, and alongside 50, they're lyrically aggressive. They got something for you if you push em towards to or over the edge.
*4 out of 5*

16. Gotta Make It To Heaven

"Some say I'm paranoid, I say I'm careful how I choose my friends/I been to ICU once I ain't going again"

"I gotta make it to heaven, for going through hell"

Excellent song here, however, I feel 50 should've used the "gotta make it to heaven" theme to reflect more on his past and where he wanted to go in the future. Granted, he makes a few hints here and there, but if that was present for the entire song, it would've been much better.
*4 out of 5*

*17. Wanksta

 This the first of three bonus tracks. Many would say this is the song that officially put 50 on the map, and you can't argue with that. I remember a 2002 (or 2003) interview where 50 was asked "what is a wanksta, what makes a wanksta." Without any prompting, he immediately answered "Ja Rule, Irv Gotti, Murder Inc." That about says it all right there. Much like "In Da Club," this also receives radio play today.

"You say you a gangsta, but you never pop nothin
We say you a wanksta and you need to stop frontin
You go to the dealership, but you never cop nothin
You been hustlin a long time and you ain't got nothin"

*5 out of 5*
 *18. U Not Like Me

 History has shown us that there's only one 50 Cent and I like how across all three verses he makes his cases as to why you're not like him, and at the same time, this, "Gotta Make It To Heaven," and "Many Men (Wish Death)" are about as close to introspective as he would get on this album.
*5 out of 5*

*19. Life's On The Line
This was covered in detail on the "Power Of The Dollar" review. Here were my words verbatim:

"Murda, I DON'T BELIEVE YOU/Murda, I DON'T BELIEVE YOU, fuck around and leave you/Murda murda, your life's on the line!"

That hook remains the most memorable part of this song to this day, and that's not to say that the rest of the song is not good because it is. Some may say that this was a subliminal shot thrown at Ja Rule, but after revisiting this, as well as hindsight being 20/20, this was clearly a diss and it should come as no surprise (then and now) who 50 was referring to in this song, one of his first classics.
*5 out of 5*


I have a lot to say about this album in closing, and I'll start with my thoughts on the album and its rating. It was incredible when I first copped it in 2003 and I still feel the same today. 50 fired on all cylinders; he was motivated, creative, energetic, smooth, aggressive, charismatic, inspired, popular, in demand, and just about every accolade you can use to describe the hottest artist in a particular genre. The album exceeded all expectations and delivered in spades. With all that being said, I'm officially upgrading the rating from a long standing 4.5 stars to the coveted 5 star rating! MANY people to this day would say 50 peaked with this album, and in reference to his discography, it's "Get Rich Or Die Tryin and everything else." I respectively disagree with that, but that continuous coverage will be explored throughout the rest of this journey. "Get Rich Or Die Tryin" is a classic, definitely one of the best albums of 2003, and it doesn't stop there. To capitalize on how HOT he was at the time, "The New Breed" (a CD/DVD project) was released on April 15, 2003, featuring a behind the scenes look at the making of videos such as "Wanksta" and "In Da Club," along with concert and studio footage. The bonus CD is dope as well, featuring the Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo assisted songs "True Loyalty" & "8 Mile Road," and the Dr. Dre & Scott Storch produced banger "In Da Hood." It moved 645,000 units. Now, I must include a separate section for the album's success.

*In it's first week, the album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and moved 872,000 units, going on to sell 6 million copies at the end of 2003. It has sold 9 million copies to date, making it the 4th highest selling album of all time in the United States.

*It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album

*In Da Club moved a whopping 2,000,000 units, an effective selling point of this album, plus it was nominated for and received various awards from MTV, Billboard, and Rolling Stone magazine

*P.I.M.P. was certified Gold, moving 500,000 units

Whew, that's one of the greatest hip hop album payoffs ever, plus a strong recommendation for this album.

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