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Album Review: 50 Cent – Animal Ambition

4 min read

All the way back in 2003, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson exploded onto the scene claiming that he “got the X if you’re into takin’ drugs” and that he was “into havin’ sex, ain’t into makin’ love” and somehow the world ate it up. With an eventful history of street violence decidedly behind him, he seemed to go from strength to strength over the ensuing decade putting 5 solo albums (as well as two from his crew G-Unit and an impressive eleven mixtapes), several successful entrepreneurial ventures and a handful of high-profile acting roles under his belt. Now he drops Animal Ambition as part of a, well, ambitious marketing campaign for his next “real” album, the modestly titled Street King Immortal in September.

50 Cent - Animal AmbitionBilled by Fiddy himself as a “higher grade than the material I put on mixtapes”, the interesting approach to Animal Ambition’s release is possibly the most engaging part of the collection, unfortunately. Since March, all but the two bonus tracks have been released as “singles” on pretty much a weekly basis. Definitely a smart move in a time when brevity and consistency seem to be the only way an artist can get by online and no one, not even one of hip hop’s heavy hitters, is exempt.

Opening up with the soul-sampling Hold On and another serve of 50’s trademark braggadocio (“I woke up this morning/This is insane/Rich as a motherfucker/Ain’t much changed”), if you’re a fan, it’s more of the same but if not, you’ll just be reminded of every great wordsmith currently in the game and wonder how on earth this guy ranks on the same list. Millennial superstars like Snoop and Eminem (both of whom are tipped to feature on Street King Immortal) have grown with their careers and by 2014, have lived through enough to share some fresh lyrical insight. This may very well be the case with our boy 50 also, but it remains to be seen. So why is he still around? It must just be (apologies for this) his Animal Ambition.

The first “single” to be released Don’t Worry ‘Bout It features a verse from touted Memphis MC Yo Gotti but like most of the record, is little more than an interesting-enough beat over which Fiddy tactfully reminds us how much money he has. The title track operates in a pretty similar style before we get some salvation on the Dr. Dre produced Smoke, featuring an actual melodic hook from Trey Songz. It’s got that unmistakable Dre swagger with some merciless club synth and is easily the pick of the bunch on Animal Instinct.

Every Time I Come Around reminds us that spelling isn’t really important (“N.Y., N.Y./’Til I D.I., D.I.”) and boasts an appearance from New Orleans rapper Kidd Kidd. Again though, it kind of feels a bit haphazard. Ideally, the best material has been saved for the “real” record and this hope is kind of what gets you through this set. The whispered intimidation of Irregular Heartbeat (“Nigga you pussy/You scared/I can hear your heartbeat”) is the kind of rhetoric to be expected from someone young and hungry, but it’s a little disconcerting from a 38 year old like Jackson.

The hook in I’m a Hustler is pretty shamelessly lifted from Pharrell’s input on Jay-Z’s I’m a Hustler Baby but proves to be one of the more interesting beats of the collection, courtesy of Seattle producer Jake One. The minimal futurist R&B of Twisted sounds like it could’ve been an offcut from Kanye’s Graduation and a hook from Mr. Probz is another highlight. Same goes for Winner’s Circle but the over-earnest piano ballad feel is a little too at odds with the rest of the record to make any real sense before the official release concludes with organ and guitar samples and a tasty breakbeat as well as verses from Prodigy, Kidd Kidd and Styles P. Bonus tracks You Know and The Funeral offer some slinky funk and cinematic brass respectively before you’re left wondering what just happened with the last 40-or-so minutes of your life.

Look, it’s a little unfair to slam something like this as “the new 50 Cent album” but as he’s said, that’s not what this is. Quality wise, he’s definitely right in saying that Animal Ambition is of a “higher grade” than a mixtape, but he seems to have done little growing in the decade since Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and the rhymes here seem kind of stale. Here’s to hoping that there’s some top-shelf material that’s been saved for Street King Immortal and we’ll check in with 50 Cent the artist come September but for now we’re left with a marketing exercise of which the objective is noble, but the execution is a pretty half-baked.