By Malice Intended
Sometimes what ends up on the cutting room floor is better than what makes the final cut. This is true in music as well as movies. In the world of film, director’s cuts and extended cuts have become the norm. Sometimes the extra footage enhances the film by adding layers and in terms of characterization and plot points. More often than not, however, these longer versions are merely cash-ins. Ways to fool the fans into buying the same DVD twice. In the world of music, the songs that don’t make the final cut of the official release can end up as mixtape fodder. Upon hearing them, one wonders why they were not included.
Enter 50 Cent. He emerged on the scene in 2003 with an album and image that breathed life back into Gangsta Rap and made him arguably the single most marketable artist in pop music. He did so on the strength of the mixtapes that made him a household name in NYC.
A lot has changed in 6 years. Beginning with the release of Curtis in the fall of 2007, 50 has found himself becoming increasingly irrelevant in a changing pop music landscape and marketplace. Record buyers are no longer captivated by war stories and tough guys. They’d rather dance and sing along to auto-tune assisted choruses. 50 has made various attempts to adapt, with varied levels of success. Even his penchant for beef has become stale.
The only thing that hasn’t atrophied is 50’s penchant for dropping good music via his mixtapes. So far this summer we’ve seen him do this twice with War Angel and Forever King. The contrast between the 50 Cent of these mixtapes and the one we were presented with on Curtis is staggering. Both War Angel and Forever King reveal an artist completely in his element, doing what he does best and having fun. Curtis, which hasn’t aged well since it was released, showed us 50 at his least confident and self assured. He seemed to sense the rapidly changing market and allowed that to shake his vision. The album wasn’t exactly bad, but it was much less cohesive and focused than the previous two. 50 seemed to be trying a number of different approaches. hoping that something would finally stick. The fact that Curtis failed to produce more than one hit is a testament to the disjointed feel of the LP.
Fast forward almost three years to the release of War Angel. In that time, 50 produced any number of G-Unit mixtapes that capture the raw alpha-male style arrogance of his earlier material, but something about War Angel seemed to put the period at the end of the sentence. From the cover art to the song titles and production choices, War Angel plays very much like an official release. It achieves everything that Curtis was aiming for with seemingly less effort. From the sinister bassline of “Talking in Codes” to the raunchy humor of “London Girl”, it was apparent that 50 had retained what made him interesting to us in the first place. He hadn’t changed, we did. Pop culture is a fickle beast, and popular tastes can change on whim, often many times in a single generation.
So why does 50 give away his best material while trying to sell the mediocre and less inspired stuff? The answer is simply that studio albums require the artist to be self conscious and cautious in a way that mix tapes and CD’s don’t. Mixtapes are a promotional tool; a way to tease fans for an upcoming album, or to give them an extra treat to keep them satiated. They offer a chance for the artist to cut loose and be himself. Simply put: Curtis was 50’s idea of what would sell, War Angel is 50’s idea of what’s dope.
A suggestion for Curtis Jackson: For your next studio album, focus on what you like as opposed to what you think record buyers want. The game has changed. Your instincts are suited for an earlier age, and these young bucks (no pun intended) have a much better grasp of current trends and tastes than you do. You’ve already made your money and filled your walls with plaques. Now you can begin a new phase of your career. Now it’s about maintenance. You’ll probably never be the star you were in ’03-05’, but that is as it should be. There is still a market for what you do. Focus on it, and you may find the stability that has eluded you in the past three years
Follow Us on Twitter @ http://twitter/planetill
Follow Malice Intended on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/Renaissance1977
Join Us on the Planet Ill Facebook Group for more discussion