As I consider myself something of a feminist, I was repulsed by the opening lines of “Baby By Me”, the latest release from 50 Cent’s new album, Before I Self Destruct (G-Unit Records). Nevertheless, I vowed to listen with an open mind. The Polow da Don produced track is built around a beat that had me bobbing my head- I won’t front- and Ne-Yo crooning the hook was not at all a bad idea, as featuring Ne-Yo on any song (hip hop or R&B) these days seems to guarantee cross-over success. Unfortunately, weak lyrics and tired metaphors left me totally disappointed. “Have a baby by me baby, be a millionaire…” Tempting proposition, to be sure, but I think I’ll pass.
Disappointment seems to be a recurring theme in listening to Before I Self Destruct. Despite excellent production from Dr. Dre, Scott Storch, Rich Harrison, Polow da Don and Tha Bizness, 50’s inability to complete the package with his rhymes chokes out what potential the tracks possess and leaves the listener glaring at their Ipod in a state of confusion and irritation.
50 has said that this album is his best work to date, eclipsing his efforts on his multi-platinum selling Get Rich or Die Tryin’. I have serious doubts that Before I Self Destruct will live up to that claim, although the dance-friendly “Psycho”, featuring Eminem certainly brings back the feel of 2003’s “In Da Club”. That is, until 50 starts rapping. Not even Em’s clever linguistics and an emergency room intervention from a Dr. Dre beat can save it.
Featuring collaborations with Ne-Yo, R. Kelly, and Lloyd Banks, along with Eminem, the one thing this album has going for it is diversity. In a musical world where an average hour on the radio is beginning to sound like an hour-long mixtape, Before I Self Destruct allows the listener the experience of different production from opposite coasts, and provides a mixture of cultural influences that makes listening to 50 Cent attempt to describe the act of having sex in 101 different ways bearable.
The album does, however, have its reflective moments. On “Do You Think About me”, a perplexed- if not bitter- 50 wants to know how his relationships go from being “all about love” to being “all about ends”. Another pleasant surprise is “So Disrespectful”, on which the rapper goes hard on his “enemies”, the Game, Young Jeezy, his baby mama, even his own father- riding the beat (which is pretty hot- I must admit) like a true emcee.
Set for release November 23, Before I Self Destruct is worth having in your collection if for no other reason than to compare it to “real” hip hop as a cautionary tale of what will happen if money, sex and bragging about having more of both than any one human being needs continues to dominate our airwaves and dictate what we are forced listen to during our daily commutes.