Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson was King of the World — once. It was a simpler time. George W. Bush was still president. Dr. Dre still produced records occasionally. And successful commercial rappers were bullet-scarred warriors, or at least had the good sense to pretend they were. Auto-Tune…skinny jeans…rapping about your feelings… these ignominious, confusing days were far off.
Now, after two flopped studio albums — 2007’s lifeless Curtis and 2010’s surprisingly crackling Before I Self Destruct) — with no new project looming on the horizon, 50 seems less like the pitiless conqueror of Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and more like your drunk, embittered uncle, leaning in to regale you with a beery-eyed treatise on exactly how and where everything went wrong.
Which doesn’t mean he still isn’t entertaining. Indeed, on the mixtape circuit, 50 has never stopped delivering consistent material, and The Big 10, his latest missive, is a concentrated, bracing burst of bile. The rapper advertised it as a celebration of his decade-long domination of the mixtape game, but he mostly uses it like he always does, i.e. to rant over the cheapest beats available. Except for one contribution from DJ Khalil, who wedges stadium-ready drums into one of his uncomfortably overstuffed rock-rap hybrids, there are zero productions that signify awareness of any year past 2007.
50 has never had much interest in the current rap conversation unless, of course, it involves him. There are guest appearances here, surprisingly, but none from outside his circle: We get Tony Yayo, who somehow cleared out room on his schedule; a promising, growling-tomboy female rapper named Paris, who informs us that “my cat has a five o’clock shadow”; and some guy who actually says, “You pussy and you ain’t shit / Kitty litter.” But this is the Curtis Show, and it’s time for the Airing of Grievances.
And so. On “Niggas Be Scheming,”he demands to know when he fell off: “The Curtis album? Okay, so I guess No. 1 isn’t good enough.” He threatens to shoot up your child’s christening (“Shooting Guns”). He kicks bored-sounding game to whatever females he imagines are around. When he bothers, he can still chill spines: On “You Took My Heart,”he opens with “Sunday morning, preacher in the pulpit / Kiss my Nana, I can’t listen to this bullshit / It’s all good till he askin’for an offerin’ / All we got is pain, so that’s all I can offer him.” But he almost never bothers otherwise, so we’re simply left with the sound of a deposed dictator,licking his wounds.