CD Review of Curtis by 50 Cent
Recommended if you like
Eminem, Dr. Dre, Timbaland
Shady/Aftermath/Interscope Records
50 Cent: Curtis

Reviewed by Greg M. Schwartz

ith song titles like “My Gun Go Off,” “I’ll Still Kill,” “Fully Loaded Clip,” “I Get Money” and “Straight to the Bank,” 50 Cent is perilously close to becoming a parody of himself on his third album. Still, the production values are top notch and there’s a veritable Who’s Who of hip-hop royalty making guest appearances to liven things up.

Akon sits in on “I’ll Still Kill,” adding an extra Boyz N the Hood vibe to the proceedings. “I Get Money” features one of the most unique lyrics on the album – 50 sings about the fortune he made as a minority investor in VitaminWater: “I took a quarter-water / Sold it in bottles for two bucks / Coca-Cola came and bought it for billions / What the fuck?”

Dr. Dre guests on “Come and Go” and  few rappers have more hip-hop cred than the former members of N.W.A. The song has a dramatic, cinematic vibe, as if conjured for a gangsta flick about 50 and Dre taking control of the ‘hood. Justin Timberlake and Timbaland appear on “Ayo Technology,” a sexy track about a nympho who “will give you what you want.” “She wants it, gotta give it to her,” Timberlake sings. Robin Thicke guests on “Follow My Lead,” which has a surprisingly romantic and classy vibe, particularly when juxtaposed with the preceding “Ayo Technology.” There’s even some jazz piano in the background.

“Movin On Up” functions as a hip-hop version of the theme song from “The Jeffersons,” the classic 1970s sitcom about a black businessman in New York City who, like 50 Cent, parlays his small business into a small fortune. The song has a smooth, old school soul vibe that stands out amidst the album’s modern hip-hop. “Straight to the Bank” shows 50 in similar thematic form as he sings, “I’m laughing straight to the bank with this.” Still, one wonders whether 50 undercuts his own musical credibility with such a commentary.

“Peep Show” features a guest spot from Eminem, as well as one of the album’s best grooves, as the duo raps over a tight beat that builds intensity over a bluesy riff. Young Buck and Nicole Scherzinger appear on “Fire,” another ode to female pleasures. But despite its title, the song never really seems to spark. Mary J. Blige delivers, though, adding her trademark soulful vibe to “All of Me,” making the track one of the album’s most memorable.

In the end, it often feels like the quantity of guest spots allows 50 Cent to merely coast along on his laurels instead of working to push his own creative envelope. But no matter your opinion of his music, you’ve got to hand it to 50 for his business acumen. That savvy investment in VitaminWater has assured he’ll be a wealthy player for a long time, regardless of his album sales.

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