Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The 50 Cent Journey: Power Of The Dollar

Welcome to the first part of the 50 Cent Journey. 50's 5th studio album, "Animal Ambition," is set for a June 3rd release date, so I decided to go back in time in review 50's discography, from "Power Of The Dollar" up to "Before I Self Destruct" (and there will be a review for the new album as well). Throughout this journey, I'll be talking about the highs and lows of his career, in terms of his albums. I'll also be using two terms I normally associate with pro wrestling: buildup and payoff. During the buildup, I'll go into the hype and promotion leading into each album, and the payoff will cover sales, historical significance, my overall thoughts on the album, etc. And when talking about historical significance, that brings us to today's agenda, "Power Of The Dollar."

This was scheduled to be released on July 4, 2000

The Buildup

I'll go into "How To Rob" a little more during this review, but if there ever was a way for someone to jump start their career and create a buzz, this was it. With the blessing and mentoring of the late Jam Master Jay, the backing of producers Poke & Tone, better known as the Trackmasters (courtesy of Columbia Records and Track Masters Ent.), it seemed as though 50 was on his way to becoming a star 3 years before he would eventually become just that. So, let's get to part 1 of this journey!

Bun B
Dave Hollister
Destiny's Child
The Madd Rapper 

Randy West
Al West
Terence Dudley
Red Spyda
Rashad Smith
Joshua Michael Schwartz
Brian Koefulf
Sha Self
DJ Scratch

1. Intro
 Although there are no lyrics here, if there ever was an introduction to 50 Cent, complete with a brief view of his persona, if you will, this was it, taking us right into.....

2. The Hit

"These cats gotta be sick to think 50 can't spit/Betta check my batting average, I always make hits"

 "This a hit, let's see if homicide trace this!"

A ruggedly smooth joint right here. Homicide has nothing on this "hit."
*4 out of 5*

3. The Good Die Young

"..... keep your eyes on yours while I keep my eyes on mine"

"The good die young" is a true statement, for all the wrong reasons, and that's certainly the case with hip hop (and of course 2Pac and The Notorious BIG immediately come to mind). I like 50's perspective here, talking mostly in terms of survival.
*4 out of 5*

4. Corner Bodega (Coke Spot)

The obvious activities go down at this one spot. This one was way too short, and I feel 50 had the potential to flex his storytelling muscles here.
*3 out of 5*

5. Your Life's On The Life

"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*

6. That Ain't Gangsta

"How you gon take this like a man or a bitch/You gon get it on nigga or you gon snitch"

This has always been my favorite song on the album, plus it was the second song I heard from 50 after "How To Rob." There's a lot I like about this song, including the beat, definitely one of the more harder Trackmasters productions considering what they had put their stamp on at the time, and the theme. In life on the street, any and everything is possible, but most of it is not "gangsta," such as "you only being a thug when you rat," which is another story in itself. I may be overrating it a bit, but it's all good.
*5 out of 5*

7. As The World Turns

This Bun B assisted joint is pretty good and I believe this may have been the first and only time 50 has collaborated with him. In my view, 50 sounded a little like Daz Dillinger on this one, especially during his first verse. Now with all due respect to 50, this was Bun circa 2000, so you know he steals the show with his verse.
*4 out of 5*

8. Ghetto Qu'ran (Forgive Me)

This was the 3rd song I heard from 50. There's quite a bit of history behind it, in that 50 was mentioning things that some said at the time shouldn't have been on record, namely some of the activities of drug kingpin Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff and others who put work in the drug trade in the South Jamaica side of Queens. To this day, it's entirely up for debate as to what 50's motivation behind this song was, but as it stands it's very good. "Writin rhymes is the best way to express how I feel," and in terms of a song, even if the content is controversial, I understand it. Check it out if you haven't heard it before.
*4 out of 5*

9. Da Repercussions

With consequences there are repercussions, especially in street life, and 50 gives his own perspective.
*4 out of 5*

10. Money By Any Means

50 and guest Noreaga flow about the all too familiar topic in hip hop: money and getting it in any possible way. It's good, but nothing we haven't heard before, even at this point in the year 2000.
*3 out of 5*

11. Material Girl

 Fellas, I'm sure most of us have ran into a material girl at some point in our lives (and this is no disrespect to the women currently reading this post). At any rate, 50 surprisingly just talks about the chick of his desires (who also have her own materialistic desires), but not in a form of ridicule.
*3 out of 5*

12. Thug Love


 This was the first, but it wouldn't be the last time 50 crafts a song talking about what it's like to be in love/in a relationship with him. It also features Destiny's Child, which would also mark the first and last time 50 and Beyonce would be on the same song.
*3 out of 5*

13. Slow Doe

"Slow money is betta than no money," that's all you need to know about this one, another good song.
*4 out of 5*

14. Gun Runner

50 knew his guns, and that comes across here, as he raps and talks a good game to a potential customer/client. Much like "Corner Bodega," this had story potential, but it's too short.
*3.5 out of 5*

15. You Ain't No Gangsta

This apply titled, aggressive track was a nice little "companion piece" to "That Ain't Gangsta," and it's just as dope.
*4 out of 5*

16. Power Of The Dollar

"On a scale from 1 to 10, I'm a nine wit two Ms"

Gritty title track. I feel 50 got into storytelling mode, albeit slightly briefly; very good song. For positive and negative reasons, the almighty dollar is one thing that'll always maintain power.
*5 out of 5*

 17. I'm A Hustler

50 has essentially been a hustler all of his life, so rapping about it had to have been an easy, but still challenging experience. This was the 4th song I heard from him by the way.
*5 out of 5*

18. How To Rob

"..... I'm 'bout to stick Bobby for some of that Whitney money"

"Brian McKnight, I can get the nigga anytime/Have Keith sweatin', starin' down the barrel of my nine"

"What, Jigga just sold like 4 milli, got somethin' to live for/Don't want a nigga puttin' 4 through that Bentley coup door"

Those three memorable lines does this song no justice. As mentioned up top, if there ever was a song to jump start a career and generate a buzz, this was it. 50 pulls NO punches in rapping about what he was willing to do to make his mark in hip hop, even if that meant robbin' and stealin'. To be fair, the artists who responded to this took it a little too seriously. Now, that may be easy to say now, and today it's actually a little difficult to determine whether 50 was serious or "it was all in good, competitive fun." I'll say this, the song effectively did its job in putting 50 on the hip hop map, it generated a hell of a buzz, got people talking, and I feel this is what landed him his record deal. Classic, and possibly the most lyrical thing 50 has ever done.
*5 out of 5*

The Payoff

Almost 2 months before this album was set to drop (May 24 to be exact), 50 was shot nine times in front of his grandmother's house. As told by 50 in 2003, he was in the back seat of a friend's car, trying to escape the gunfire in the ensuing chaos, then next thing he knows, he looks in the mirror (after the shooting), "you got a hole in your face." Miraculously he survived and this near death experience would play a huge part in his character when we get to "Get Rich Or Die Tryin."

Regarding "Power Of The Dollar," the album never saw the light of day, as Columbia Records, apparently either not knowing or caring about the full story, immediately released 50 from the label and the album was indefinitely shelved, leading to it being heavily bootlegged. All of this would've permanently derailed anyone else's career, but this was not it for 50, and again, this plays a huge part in "Get Rich Or Die Tryin." The album overall is pretty good, 4.5 stars. (I also remember he did an interview in XXL Magazine in 2009, stating he was going to re-record all the vocals on this album and release it as a "thank you" to the fans, which didn't happen.) He definitely had potential and I wonder what his career would've turned out to be had the unfortunate shooting not taken place. I'll give it a strong recommendation, especially for those who would like a glimpse into 50 Cent pre-2003. This is ONLY the beginning.

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