Get Rich or Die Tryin’

If you follow commercial rap, you know that gun-slinging Jamaica, Queens, rapper 50 Cent (a.k.a. Curtis Jackson) is the appointed “next big thing.” There are several reasons for this: 1) He was handpicked by street-cred-craving superstar Eminem, who executive produced this album with Dr. Dre; 2) he has a grittily authentic vibe (his drug-dealing mother was murdered when he was 8, and he spent the rest of his youth absorbed in correctional facilities and selling crack on the streets); and 3) even though he has been shot nine times and stabbed, 50 still looks like a MTV-ready poster boy, as his oiled and chiseled body shows on the cover.

Basically, 50 Cent’s debut is further proof that mainstream rap game is all about image, not artistic merit. Even though as an emcee he has a smooth vocal flow and catchy East Coast drawl, “mane"—all 50 can rap about are the same old glorified street stories with no increased insight or originality: guns, drugs and luring away your woman with riches. Of course, he has the requisite number of guests buoying this album (including Eminem)—when’s the last time a mainstream rapper did an album all by his studly self, anyway?

The production is your typical Dr. Dre fare, which hasn’t made any artistic strides since the classic Chronic (repetitive, dramatic orchestral buildups, snap-cracklin’ beats and interspersed skits). It’s all geared to appeal to white kids driving their mommy and daddy’s cars and bumping the macho music for all to hear their bombastic, Playstation-era mentalities.

At least 50 Cent is honest. Money is the God being worshiped here, as the gold and platinum crosses attest. But this is not the "new classic" all the conflict-generating rap media outlets would have you believe. It’s just another cool-sounding rapper making millions—one who will likely need to be continually shot or arrested to stay on top of a game fueled by ignorance.