The window: it’s a phrase used in sports and music to describe the moment before your art has lost it’s edge, people are tired of hearing you, or you just aren’t cool anymore. No rapper is a better example of the window’s existence than 50 Cent. 11 years ago, Curtis Jackson was a global superstar. Get Rich or Die Tryin’ is considered a classic, and The Massacre sold over a million copies it’s first week in stores. Since then, his career has become less about music and more about shrewd business decisions, controversy and alienation, as 50 burned so many bridges that he’s almost all alone. This album is an independent label release, fitting for a self made man who has backed himself into a corner.
Rather than going with popular producers, 50 sticks to beats that complement his sound and doesn’t deviate. “Hold On” is a strong starting point, and songs like “Smoke” and “Pilot” are catchy. It’s tracks like these that validate 50’s decision to play to his strengths. His stubbornness comes at a price, however. 50 has always been an artist first and a rapper second. Since he never took the time to improve his wordplay, the same consistency that helps the album becomes one of it’s faults. 5 albums of tough talk, anthemic hooks and boasts of immeasurable wealth can only go so far. Even the best moments on Ambition sound like lesser versions of his previous work. Surprisingly, none of that is as frustrating as Kidd Kidd. The Young Money transplant may be the most frustrating thing about this album. All three of his featured verses feel as if he’s being forced on the listener.
The commercial success that he experienced early on isn’t possible in today’s hip-hop, but a more solid effort would have silenced his detractors and kept the window open just a bit longer. 50 suffers from a lack of diversity, and it’s always been a drawback in his career. Songs like “Funeral” although a great story telling piece, fail to offer something new and could easily be passed off as a song from 2004. From his starting point in 2003, his music still lags in development and doesn’t captivate without the controversy he once thrived off of. Here we are offered boastful tracks, commanding production, and surprising features, (former nemesis Styles P appears on the stand out “Chase the Paper”), but 50 still lacks sharing personal stories in his music. The greatly executed “Flip On You” featuring Schoolboy Q shows us that he’s capable of sharing the platform with up and coming talents, but he’s still stuck in his traditional executions.
With recent reports that Fif moved about 47,000 units of his latest disc, it’s a far cry from the monstrous sales he once held over our heads. For the first time in his career, 50 needs this G-Unit reunion just as much as Young Buck, Tony Yayo, and Lloyd Banks. Ambition doesn’t break new ground, but shows us Curtis still has something to offer. But 11 years after his classic debut, is he simply repackaging the same material?