50 Cent - Animal Ambition Review
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 06.03.2014
After a five year hiatus, 50 Cent has returned with his latest studio LP Animal Ambition! But can the rap mogul reclaim his position as king of the wild or is it an omega effort? 411's Jeremy Thomas checks in with his full review!
It's been a while since we've heard much out of 50 Cent, at least in a musical capacity. The rapper, who became a household name on the strength of his landmark debut Get Rich or Die Tryin' in 2003, hasn't released a new studio album since 2009's relative failure Before I Self-Destruct. This isn't to say that 50 hasn't been busy though; the man born Curtis Jackson has been busy with other ventures including an acting career (for better or worse) and a film production company, not to mention his philanthropic efforts, SK Energy and his SMS Audio company. It's enough that he came in on Forbes' list of the richest hip-hop moguls for the most recent year with a net worth of $140 million. But he has mostly been absent from the rap game, having made a few featured appearances on tracks through 2012 but little else.
You can't keep a P.I.M.P. down though, and 50 Cent is back with his fifth studio album. 50 has gone aggressive for the label, titling it Animal Ambition with the subtitle "An Untamed Desire to Win." He's taken an equally aggressive marketing tactic as he released ten of the eleven tracks as music videos to promote the album and then streamed the album from his website a week before its release. This is in part a tactic made possible by his decision to take his G-Unit Records away from old label Interscope and suggests a new vitality, not to mention confidence in the music. Unfortunately, the album itself doesn't show the same level of aggression; instead 50 goes back to the well of what made him successful in the first place with diminishing results.
Which isn't to say that it's completely wasted. Things get off to a promising start on the opening track "Hold On," which hearkens back to a leaner, meaner 50 Cent. "Strap under my pillow, I done went legit," he intones over an old school, stripped-back track as if to point out that he may be rich now, but he's not so far above his gangsta roots that he can't go right back there. It's a good opening track, but soon after he's falling into lazy patterns. On "Don't Worry 'Bout It" he drops one of the lazier hooks in recent memory with a whole lot of "Don't worry bouts" that get the point across in crystal-clear fashion: it's none of our business where he's been for the last five years because he's rich and he's back. And that's all well and good if the Charli Brown Beatz-produced beat took more than forty seconds to assemble. Adding insult to injury, 50 just essentially repeats the same old motif for four minutes and gets shown up on his own track by Yo Gotti (and even his verse is uninspired).
It seems that for every good track there's a bad one. "Animal Ambitions" hones 50's aggression and sees him focused (although the production is too crowded, right down to the roars and elephant trumpet samples), and "Pilot" overcomes its repetitive hook with some inspired verse, but they're balanced out by the half-hearted efforts that make up "Everytime I Come Around's" awkward metaphors and the milquetoast pop-rap of "Twisted." You get a menace on "Irregular Heartbeat" that is all the more disturbing for how mellow it is, and then he's trying way too hard for a single with the inspirational "Winner's Circle." These are tracks that literally do not belong on the same album; it's a scattershot effort to restore his 2003-era cred with the more mature businessman that he is now. You can either chase mainstream hit status or you can deliver authenticity and let that carry it organically to success; you can't do both.
The real standout track on the LP is "Smoke." Coming midway through the LP, it's at a point where you've almost been lulled to sleep by 50's laid-back flow and Beatz' "good enough" production style. Suddenly you have Trey Songz injecting energy into the album and 50 responds in kind with his most inspired lyrics. Shamtrax's production makes this a great little club track; this is the most authentic-sounding track on the entire LP. It's the moment that really feels like where 50's at these days; he's not trying to fit himself into Success Mold A or Success Mold B. He's loosened up here and confident, and it flows along very nicely. If only the rest of the album could have been as real.
The 411: 50 Cent's return to music is a "one step forward, two steps back" affair. Animal Ambition may be aiming to return the rapper back to the top of the charts but it's clear that he doesn't know exactly where he wants to be as an artist right now. It is far from the worst attempt by a rapper to reassert their authority on the music work and 50 shows signs of hitting a groove that works for him, but it's just not enough to make the listening experience worthwhile.