Album Review: 50 Cent- Animal Ambition
- Artist: 50 Cent
- Title: Animal Ambition
- Lead Single: Smoke
- Twitter: Twitter.com/50cent
There’s a big difference between 50 cents and 50 Cent. For starters, one is worth the equivalent of 10 pennies and four dimes, whereas the other is worth about $140 million. The former is almost enough to get you a crispy chicken snack wrap at McDonalds, while the latter can actually rap and could probably own a few hundred McDonalds’ franchises if he really wanted to. It took a lot of hard work, determination and business savvy to get Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson to where he is today, that’s why Animal Ambition: An Untamed Desire To Win, his fifth studio album, seemed like an apt title for his work ethic. However, after listening to Animal Ambition, the bloodstained king of the jungle on the album cover should probably be replaced with the fabled lion with the thorn in his paw, word to Aesop.
While Animal Ambition is 50’s fifth album, it really doesn’t feel like much of one. Essentially, it’s a prelude for his sixth studio album, Street King Immortal. In an interview with DJ Whoo Kidd last December, Fif explained that “it's a full body of work, I wouldn't call it a mixtape because it's a higher grade than the material that I put out on mixtapes… I'm going to put the animal project out as my viral marketing plan and then it will come out after." Stronger than a mixtape, but a few listens into it and you’ll see for yourself that it doesn’t quite have the cohesiveness of an album, more like a collection of singles. So more or less it’s like a mixtape on steroids. Think of it like watching Usain Bolt train for an Olympic event. Animal Ambition is the calisthenics before the race and Street King Immortal will be the 100-meter dash.
While as seemingly disjointed as Animal Ambition is, 50 Cent certainly comes out swinging on the opening track. Hold On, which was released back in March, has a sound reminiscent of that mid 2000’s 50 Cent, evoking fond memories of hip-hop past. 50 breaks us off with an opening line in his first verse that’s just so, well, authentically 50. “I woke up this morning, this is insane/ Rich as a motherfucker and ain’t much change.” A lot of what Animal Ambition embodies the entrepreneurial success of 50 Cent, a man who has made millions with and without hip-hop. This is coupled with his street mentality, an aspect his woven into his business savvy, along with his “fuck you, pay me” attitude and his alpha male persona.
There are several instances on Animal Ambition where he rides that 2003 wave, bringing back that gangsta vibe that’d make even the most hardcore 50 Cent fans giddy. Enlisting the likes of fellow G-Unit member Kidd Kidd, who makes three appearances on the album, and a staple of New York hip-hop, Jadakiss, the trio combines for a grizzly and intimidating record with Irregular Heartbeat. With lines like, “through the windows of your soul, the eyes never lie/ If you ain’t scared to die nigga, why would you cry,” 50 Cent recreates the magic of yesteryear.
He keeps the vibe alive with Kidd Kidd, another third of the Lox, Styles P, and Prodigy, on Chase The Paper. Over the instrumentals from Lloyd Banks’ Greenday, the fearsome foursome are doing just what you’d expect, chasing that paper. With braggadociuos lines like, “the Mac filled, black talons, hollow tips/ copper-tops, get your ass popped, watch a body drop,” valuing money over hoes and a video full of dirt bikes, quads and beamers ripping donuts, it’s hard not to get a little nostalgic.
However, for as much as we want the throwback to 50 in his Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ days, we got to understand that ’03 was 11 years ago. This isn’t the same man who used to rock bulletproof vests on stage; this is 50 Cent, the businessman, the entrepreneur, one of the most paid guys in hip-hop. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing by any means, he still carries that same persona and understand that his hunger hasn’t dissipated, but he’s evolved since then, like most artists do over time.
If there’s anything 50 Cent has learned in his hip-hop career, it’s how to make a hit record, a craft he’s more or less perfected. This ability is evident early on with Smoke. Produced by Dr. Dre, Mark Batson and Dawaun Parker, it’s impossible not to vibe to this song once the drum pattern kicks in. Accompanied by Trey Songz, the melodic nature of Smoke is borderline hypnotizing and to 50’s credit, melodies are something he did well on Animal Ambition. Smoke is by far the standout in that sense.
While Guordan Banks does his best R. Kelly impersonation on the slightly cheesy Winners Circle and Mr. Probz brings his grainy effect onto the hook of Twisted, something just feels kind of off with it. The songs are easy to nod your head to, but something just feels a little outdated there. Same thing with Pilot, it’s most certainly a smooth and melodic ride, full of that 50 Cent charm, but it just feels uninventive.
And that’s the main issue with Animal Ambition, it’s neither bad nor great, it just kind of fills in that awkward gray area. At a shade under 40 minutes (three bonus tracks if you buy the deluxe version), it doesn’t quite have the strength to be an album. The feeling that just can’t be shook from listening to Animal Ambition is that it seems to be missing something. It’s certainly listenable, but it feels hollow. It lacks the ambition it purports, the hooks aren’t quite as strong as a typical 50 Cent record would have and it just doesn’t quite have enough chutzpah if you will. It just feels like a true connection to the music is missing.
It’s not as bad as his pitch at Citi Field, but it’s not a great as we’d like it to be. If it was released as a mixtape, it’d probably be seen in a more favorable light. Instead we get the equivalent of a cannonball in the shallow end of the pool. It’s a questionable marketing tactic in preparation of Street King Immortal, but at the end of the day, this is 50 Cent, the money making machine hailing from South Jamaica, Queens. He’ll move a few units, build up some buzz and get ready for the big one.
In that sense, Animal Ambition is like a Star Wars prequel. We all know the originals were the best (Power Of The Dollar, GRODT, The Massacre), but for as bad as the Star Wars prequels were, we still watched them, even if they traded in their glorious roots for superficial CGI goodness. We just hope that Episode Seven, or in 50’s case, studio album number six, gets back to that feeling that we know and love.
-Review by Carmine Colangelo