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50 Cent, ‘Before I Self Destruct’ (Aftermath/Interscope)

picture-18576-1373300776Marc Hogan // November 17, 2009

Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson said his long-delayed fourth album would be “like a prequel” to his blockbuster 2003 debut Get Rich or Die Tryin’ — in other words, a back-to-basics return to the rapper-mogul’s more aggressive roots.

But after 2007’s lackluster Curtis and this summer’s abysmal War Angel mixtape, not even A-list producers (Dr. Dre, Polow Da Don, Timbaland) and A-list guest stars (Eminem, Ne-Yo, R. Kelly) can bring back Fitty’s glory days.

From unsettling babysitter-sex and street-hustling reminiscence “Then Days Went By” to chest-thumping call-to-arms (“I’m not tellin’ you to shoot somebody, but…”) “Crime Wave,” the first half of Before I Self Destruct recalls the nihilistic ferocity of Fitty’s legendary pre-fame mixtapes. But Eminem by far out-raps his former protégé on “Psycho,” and 50 Cent’s crabby sniping at a who’s who of hip-hop stars on “So Disrespectful” only underscores his own increasing irrelevance.

The last several tracks shift to the club — sometimes smoothly (baby-making Ne-Yo duet “Baby By Me”), more often not (baby-mama dis “Do You Think About Me”). Before I Self Destruct starts with 50 Cent literally growling, and it ends, on “Could’ve Been You,” with Kelly crooning about sniffing his own excrement. Both sound equally laughable.

WATCH: 50 Cent, “Baby By Me”

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