After the runaway success of Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, 50 Cent was championed as both a top selling artist, and an astute businessman. The Curtis Jackson brand took on a life of it’s own, and within the period of a decade, 50 had released an autobiographical novel, a collaborative chapter in Robert Greene’s 48 Laws Of Power series (The 50th Law), a feature film about his life, a video game, a headphone line, an energy drink, a clothing line, a record label, and most famously, the purchase, and then subsequent sale of Vitamin Water to The Coca Cola Company. It’s no surprise that his fifth studio album, Animal Ambition, begins with the lines, “I woke up this morning, this is insane / rich as a motherfucker, and ain’t much changed,” in a bored, cavalier drawl.
But as un-entertained as Fif sounds on the opening of the album, this is actually it’s strongest moment, as he breezes through the pared down, soulful Frank Dukes production, that is reminiscent of his earlier years. He’s able to tap into that classic New York street-hop sound again on tracks like “Pilot” or the anti-wimp anthem, “Irregular Heartbeat”, alongside Jadakiss and Kidd Kidd. The title track, “Animal Ambition” also stands out, despite his corny bulldog growls and pitched down vocals.
Much of the rest of the album is spent trying to recapture that “In Da Club”, “Disco Inferno” hit machine magic, but tracks like “Don’t Worry Bout It”, the “inspirational” “Winner’s Circle” or the Jake One helmed “I’m A Hustler” fail to hit the mark. Even the Dr. Dre produced “Smoke” sounds dated – like something from Jay Z’s Kingdom Come recording sessions – and is drowned out by Trey Songz incessant crooning.
Among the bonus tracks, there are few standout moments, such as the unique throwback to the Aftermath sound on “You Know”, or his collaboration with Schoolboy Q, “Flip On You”, the latter mostly due to it’s guest spot novelty.
Admittedly, this is one of 50′s better albums in recent years, which speaks loudly about his last couple of records. But the biggest problem? Five albums deep, we’re still hearing the same, tired themes. It’d be nice to hear him pull the curtain back on his personal life, or at least put his money where his mouth is, concerning all the beefs he’s started over the years, with some “Ether” style dis tracks.
His departure from Interscope (which ironically sees this album released independently, yet after Jimmy Iovine’s own exodus from the label to Apple) speaks loudly about his *actual* business acumen. With bridges burned behind him, the tactics of strongarming and courting controversy really begin to peel away the onion’s layers, suggesting that maybe this whole thing wasn’t all it was originally cracked up to be. Can’t say the man lacked ambition.
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