50 Cent returns with more of the same on "Animal Ambition."
On Animal Ambition, 50 Cent returns to the old street-ready sound that made him a household name back in 2003. Unfortunately, a lot has changed in hip-hop since 50’s debut. With the rise of Kanye West (or more particularly 808s & Heartbreak), the genre has become more emotive—more artistically diverse and interesting. Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Kid CuDi and even Future to an extent have thrived off mixing street-singles with genuine tales of personal and romantic hardship. In today’s hip-hop landscape, being “street” simply isn't enough to satisfy the genre's growing appeal. Apparently, 50 never got the memo.
Animal Ambition opens with “Hold On.” Produced by Frank Dukes, the minimalistic single is about as close to Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ that 50 has sounded in a long time. “Woke up this morning, this is insane,” he rhymes. “Rich as a motherfucker and ain’t much changed.” He’s not lying. Curtis, at least musically, has stayed very much the same over the past decade. The question of whether this complacency is a gift or a curse depends entirely on the listener.
The biggest problem plaguing Animal Ambition is that 50 just isn't particularly interesting anymore. If he isn’t rapping about his money, he’s rapping about berating people who hate on his successes. His choice of subject matter since Curtis has hardly any variation. Back on his early work, the braggadocio at least came backed with some menacing authenticity. On “Blood Hound,” there was very little doubt that 50 were actually capable of “moving on you with that Mac.” He was hungry and ready to do whatever it took to support himself. Today, maybe he's willing to steal a chain, but he’s also making appearances on Good Morning America and becoming best friends with Meryl Streep. He owns up to this discrepancy on “Irregular Heartbeat,” with “You think my rap shit a gimmick, I ain’t see parole in a minute,” but, again, chooses to stick to the script otherwise. It’s as if 50’s afraid to show any side of himself outside of what we heard on his debut. The rapper with the sly sense of humor that we see in interviews is nowhere to be heard on any of his music. He makes no attempt at deviating from the same old thing. Good artists keep their fans happy; great artists try to expand.
That being said, it would be a disservice to Animal Ambition to write it off based solely on 50’s history. Overall, the album is fairly enjoyable. The production from front-to-back is solid and, with the notable exceptions of “Twisted” and “Winners Circle,” every song is easily listenable. "Chase The Paper" sounds lifted straight from The Massacre-era in the best way possible while “Smoke” is the “Ayo Technology” upgrade 50 needed to lock a release date. "Pilot," too, sports one of the catchiest hooks of the year. Not including bonus tracks, the forty-five minutes of material breezes by, which is more than could be said about any full-length solo release that 50 has put out since his debut.
At some point, an artist just has to look in the mirror and ask themselves, “Why am I still making music?” 50 attributes his continued releases to his “ambition” for success. This would be a reasonable answer if he wasn’t making significantly more money elsewhere. 50 continues making music simply “because.” If it were a priority, he would have gone independent sooner and started releasing singles more regularly. Animal Ambition doesn’t really serve a purpose—at least not for 50’s bank account—and that purposelessness shines through in the risk-adverse, cookie-cutter nature of the release. It’s the same old 50 with new album artwork. For established fans, the project should serve as an enjoyable appetizer to Street King Immortal, but this is far off from the release 50 needed to draw the spotlight back his way. If 50 is serious about getting back into hip-hop’s elite emcees, it’s time for him to release a game-changer—something a lot more ambitious.
Stream Animal Ambition here.