Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The 50 Cent Journey: The Massacre

After the massively successful "Get Rich Or Die Tryin" album in 2003, the buzz surrounding 50 Cent was still strong heading into his sophomore album, "The Massacre". At this point he was a big star (also becoming a businessman), G-Unit was on the rise (continuing the hype with their first group album "Beg For Mercy" as well as solo albums from Lloyd Banks, Young Buck, and uh, Tony Yayo, plus a new clothing and shoe line), and with the supreme backing of Dr. Dre and Eminem, respectively, there was no way to go but up. In what would become a trend for 50 over the next few years (before the release of an album), controversy was the order of the day.

THE BUILDUP

Two months prior to the release of this album, The Game would release his highly anticipated debut, "The Documentary". In addition to tensions on the set of Game's video "Hate It Or Love It" and allegations that "The Massacre" was delayed solely to accomodate "The Documentary", 50 claimed that Game's success was largely due to his appearance on three of the album's biggest hits: "How We Do", "Hate It Or Love It", and "Westside Story", he also claimed that Game wanted to be him. While I agree that 50 played his parts well on the album, I disagreed with the implied notion that it would've bombed if he wasn't on it. I also remember hearing rumors that 50 co-wrote most of the songs on that album, which I still disagree with today. It wasn't too long afterwards that 50 ended any affiliation between Game and G-Unit, but it doesn't end there. The ending of that burgeoning partnership (some may say dismissal) was done during an interview on Hot 97 radio (I believe this was with Funkmaster Flex, also the same interview where he made those success claims mentioned above). I didn't know until now that Game was a guest on that show earlier that day, and unbeknowst to 50, Game and his crew tried to enter the building, but were denied entry by security. Afterwards, there was chaos, which led to one of Game's associates being shot in the leg. Think about this for a moment: can you imagine what would've happened if Game and his crew were allowed into the building, and/or if the associate would've died, and how bad 50, Game, and hip hop in general would've looked in the process?? This would've been the darkest day in hip hop since the unfortunate deaths of Biggie and 2Pac, and with hindsight always being 20/20, whoever made the call to deny Game entry into the building made the best decision possible. 50 and Game later held a press conference (on the 8th anniversary of Biggie's death), apologizing for the incident and apparently squashing their "beef". To this day, many people maintain that all of this was a publicity stunt designed to boost record sales. All things considered, the hype and anticipation was already there for "The Massacre" and "The Documentary", anything additional would've been overkill and unnecessary, and I can see why fans would still feel this way. Today, their "relationship" ranges from rocky at best, laughable at worst, and I would be surprised if these two collaborate again in the future. This would NOT be 50's only beef heading into his sophomore album, but I'll cover that in detail during this review.



Release date: March 3, 2005 (It was originally set to be released on 2/14/05, but it was changed to avoid any leaks, and the initial "St. Valentine's Day Massacre" title was scrapped. Including it's release date, I bought this album 3 times.)



GUESTS
Eminem
Olivia
Tony Yayo
Jamie Foxx
The Game
Young Buck
Lloyd Banks


PRODUCTION
Eminem
C.  Styles
Bang Out
Black Jeruz
Sha Money XL
Needlz
Scott Storch
Dr. Dre
Mike Elizondo
Hi-Tek
Disco D
Cue Beats
Jonathan "J.R." Rotem
Buckwild
Cool & Dre


1. Intro
I could've done without this intro, so let's move on.

2. In My Hood

This was a decent, fast paced song. If there was one thing 50 was good at, it was talking about his hood and how things went down.
*3 out of 5*


3. This Is 50

This is another fast paced song, but it's a smoothly aggressive, appropriately titled banger. The "stretched out" flow he uses at the end of each line was different, but with this song it worked.
*4 out of 5*


4. I'm Supposed To Die Tonight

"Sometimes I sit and look at life from a different angle/Don't know if I'm God's child or I'm Satan's angel"

"Big said, damn niggas wanna stick me for my paper/Then pray for my downfall, I understand it all" 


Even at this point in 50's career (and in his life previously), I'm sure he was no stranger to death threats and those predicting his downfall/demise. This song defies all of that and it's pretty good too.
*4 out of 5*


5. Piggy Bank

This is the unofficial follow up to the incredible "Back Down" and I have some additional thoughts on this one.


"That fat nigga thought Lean Back was In Da Club/My shit sold 11 mill, his shit was a dud"


Why did 50 have beef with Fat Joe, seemingly out of nowhere? Well, likely before The Game was dismissed from G-Unit (despite never really being an official member of the crew), Game went on record and said he had no issues with Fat Joe, who had did the song "New York" with Jadakiss and Ja Rule,and we all know the history with 50 and Ja. In his opinion, 50 considered Game "disloyal" because of his remarks. In the movie "Who's The Man", barber Nick said it best, "every man's free to make his own choices". It was more than childish and petty for 50 to discredit and ridicule someone who collaborated with his nemesis/rival Ja Rule, and that's why that jab was thrown at Fat Joe. I understand the "riding with your homies" claim, but still, why would Game (or anyone) not collaborate with or show props to another artist because the man in charge has his own issues with them, especially when Game previously had no beef with Fat Joe? It made no sense then and it doesn't today. Furthermore, while "Lean Back" was not as successful as "In Da Club", by no means was it a "dud" and it was one of the hottest songs in 2004. (In good news, 50 and Joe would end their long standing beef not too long after the passing of Chris Lighty).


"Jada don't fuck wit me, if you wanna eat/Cause I'll do your lil ass like Jay did Mobb Deep/Yeah homie in New York niggas like your vocals/But that's only New York dog, your ass is local"


Again, this goes back to the same points I made about Fat Joe. In that same clip, Game mentioned he had no issues with Jadakiss and even collaborated with him prior to getting his big break. So apparently, ANYONE who collaborated with Ja Rule became an enemy of 50, and I just shook my head at that line of thinking. (50 and D-Block would also later end their beef and even work with each a few times.)


"Kelis said her milkshake bring all the boys to the yard/Then Nas went and tattooed the bitch on his arm/I mean way out in Cali niggas know you cuz/First thing they say about you is you's a sucka for love"


Smh, come on, I mean was this even necessary?


Not too long after this song, in response, The Lox all dropped counterattacks (separately and together), including the notable "Checkmate" by Jadakiss and "Maybe If I Sing" by Sheek Louch, and Fat Joe released "My Fofo. Nas didn't bother with a response (I don't blame him) and of course Ja Rule said nothing. Overall, as a diss song, this was one of the more lazy, uninspired diss songs I've ever heard, complete with a laughable hook, and you can tell 50 didn't bother putting that much effort into it after "Back Down". Then again, considering his fame and success at the time, he probably felt he didn't need to. Check it out and compare it to "Back Down".
*2 out of 5*




6. Gatman And Robbin

First off, Eminem did a very good job incorporating the classic "Batman theme" in a hip hop form, but that's where it ends on this song unfortunately. 50 is sort of all over the place lyrically, while Em seemingly does his best to try and keep up with the beat. Of the 50/Em collabos, this is likely the most disappointing.
*3 out of 5*


7. Candy Shop



This was one of three songs on this album that got major radio play in 2005 (and it may turn up on radio today). Many weren't too thrilled with this song (more on that later), but personally I had no problem with it. It was clearly designed for the ladies so in that regard it worked well. This also marked the debut of Olivia.
*3 out of 5*


8. Outta Control

 With the unmistakable Dre production and party theme, this was a winner and it's one of the album's highlights. There was also a remix featuring Mobb Deep (they didn't take offense to 50's line in "Piggy Bank") which was just as good.
*4 out of 5*


9. Get In My Car

"I got no pick up lines, I stay on the grind/I tell the hoes all the time, bitch get in my car"


Well, that generally sums this song up in a nutshell. It's ok if nothing else.
*3 out of 5*


10. Ski Mask Way

Although Em came through with a nice, O-Jays sampled track, 50 was still aggressive throughout the two verses.
*4 out of 5*


11. A Baltimore Love Thing

This is by far the most creative song of 50's career, as well as the best song on the album. 50 is rapping from the perspective of cocaine, all the while talking about it's effects and addictive powers. Excellent song.
*5 out of 5*




12. Ryder Music

Lyrically this is more of the same from 50, but what really makes this work is the smooth beat provided by Hi-Tek, and it's perfect for riding to it inside the ride with the windows down.
*4 out of 5*




13. Disco Inferno



The second of three songs that received major radio play in 2005, this banger was a hit and I remember really liking this beat when I first heard it. It does sound like a Dre production, even though he just mixed it. Granted, it's catering to the clubs and the ladies, but as a song it's dope and I may be overrating it a bit.
*5 out of 5*




14. Just A Lil Bit



The third song that had the radio locked in 2005. It's another one for the clubs and the ladies (notice a trend here), but again as a song it's good, complete with a winner of a beat provided by Scott Storch.
*4 out of 5*


15. Gunz Come Out

50 was no stranger to gunplay, literally and figuratively. Decent stuff here.
*3 out of 5*


16. My Toy Soldier

This song is not wack, but not great either. The album certainly could've done without it and Tony Yayo's forgettable verse.
*2 out of 5*


17. Position of Power

The song and title speaks for itself, nothing more or less.
*3 out of 5*


18. Build You Up

In a continuing trend on this album, this one was clearly for the ladies, especially with Jamie Foxx on the hook (himself making a comeback to the music scene in 2005).  
*4 out of 5*


19. God Gave Me Style

Remember the line "this is God's plan homie, this ain't mine" from "If I Can't"? That comes across here, along with the "it must be good to be 50 Cent" vibe.
*3 out of 5*


20. So Amazing

ANOTHER song for the ladies, but this one lacks the spark and flair that was present on "Build You Up", "Just A Lil Bit", and even "Candy Shop".
*2 out of 5*


21. I Don't Need Em

The beat provided by Buckwild was VERY reminiscent of a similar beat used by Ghostface Killah, Sheek Louch, and Styles P on "Metal Lungies" from Ghostface's "The Pretty Toney Album". Here, 50 was straddling the line of being over-confident and over-aggressive, plus it goes without saying that "Metal Lungies" was the superior song, lyrically and production wise.
*2.5 out of 5*


22. Hate It Or Love It (G-Unit Remix)

  The original version of "Hate It Or Love It" with only 50 and Game also blazed radio in 2005, so I guess it was fitting that a remix was next. I'm still a little surprised that this even made the album considering the tension between 50 and Game, but it was probably too late to cut it. 50, Game, Banks, and Buck bring very good verses, Yayo was definitely out of place.
*4 out of 5*


THE PAYOFF

I'm going to talk about the album's success first. 


In it's first week, this album moved an impressive 1.14 million units, and as mentioned, the buzz surrounding 50 specifically and G-Unit was still strong at this point. "Just A Lil Bit", "Candy Shop", and "Disco Inferno" were all successful singles which sold this album, combined with the undeniable charisma of 50, reaching 5X platinum status in the U.S. It was also nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album, but it lost to Kanye West's "Late Registration", and boy does that play a role in the next album. On September 6, 2005, a "Special Edition" of "The Massacre" was released (hitting #2 on the charts), which included the "Outta Control (Remix)" with Mobb Deep, and a bonus DVD featuring videos of every song except "Disco Inferno", "Gunz Come Out", and the "Hate It Or Love It (G-Unit Remix)", the latter of which did not make the Special Edition. 


The album overall will remain at a solid 3.5 stars in my view. It definitely has its highs and lows, also going "up and down" throughout in terms of quality. I remember an interview he did leading up to this album, where he said "he felt it was better than "Get Rich Or Die Tryin" (I wonder how he feels about that now). It was also clear that 50 was taking a more mainstream, female friendly direction, which alienated a lot of people after "Get Rich Or Die Tryin". When considering songs like "Just A Lil Bit", "Candy Shop", "So Amazing", and "Build You Up", they were aimed at the ladies, and he'll probably admit that too. Now, wasn't this the SAME exact thing he raked Ja Rule over the coals for??? The only thing 50 did different was make more money in the process, which led people to rightly say that 50 was a huge hypocrite. You can't criticize the next man for something, then turn around and do that same thing, even if you're doing it better. While the commercial success was amazing, critically he was taking a hit (not positively), and that begin the talks of "falling off" and "selling out". Is that the case going forward? We'll definitely look at that on the next album, "Curtis".

I'll give "The Massacre" a very slight recommendation. Cut out some of the songs ("Gunz Come Out", "A Toy Solider", "So Amazing", "Piggy Bank", etc) and keep the highlights ("Disco Inferno", "Ski Mask Way", "A Baltimore Love Thing", "This Is 50", "I'm Supposed To Die Tonight", etc), it would've been a much stronger album.

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