50 Cent finds himself at a crossroads in his career. With his popularity on the wane and people already forgetting about an increasingly delayed studio album, the New York rapper releases the free DJ Drama hosted The Lost Tape in order to appease impatient fans. Does the project manage to recreate the magic formula that captivated the hip hop world as far back as 2003, or is it another entry in the catalogue of underwhelming recent releases from the Queensbridge native?
‘Get Busy’ is a suitably rambunctious opener, featuring new G-Unit record label signing Kidd Kidd in the first of his four appearances on the collection. The LP really kicks into gear, however, on the Eminem assisted ‘Murder One’. To describe Eminem as featured is quite a stretch, owing to the fact he is simply sampled urging 50 to return to “the shit he used to do”. 50 does just that, alternating between a Jamaican snarl and New York bravado over gritty production. The menacing theme carries over to ‘Remain Calm’, boasting a charismatic appearance from Snoop Dogg and second recent G Unit signee Precious Paris. The chemistry between the three MC’s is undeniable, the track easily becoming the standout of the album.
‘Complicated’ features a nod towards 50′s charity work with his Street King energy drink charity initiative:
“You got a nice gimmick going/ You been hot a few summers/ But I got the kind of flow that can stop world hungers.”
The track is a perfect example of what 50 Cent does best, ignoring complicated rhyme schemes in favour of a concentrated, whip-smart flow. Similarly praiseworthy is ‘OJ’, in which 50 and Kidd Kidd have a lot of fun trading bars over an infectious, piano driven beat while ‘Swag Level’ finds the rapper in his club friendly comfort zone.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the project is the experimentation with the mafioso sub genre of rap made popular by artists such as Raekwon and Nas in the early 1990′s. ‘When I Pop the Trunk’ is backed by soulful production as 50 gleefully recounts how he deals with his enemies. On a similar theme is the laid back ‘Lay Down’, the hook ably provided by curiously named newcomer Ned the Wino.
The Lost Tape, however, has a number of missteps littered among the track listing. ‘Double Up’, ‘Can’t Help Myself’ and ‘All His Love’ are all largely forgettable, repetitive and dull. A remix of 2 Chainz’ ‘Riot’ falls flat as 50 tries to hop on the bandwagon the Atlanta native is pushing through the hip hop mainstream, adding nothing that wasn’t there before. The biggest flop on the mixtape, however, comes in the form of the two R&B tracks; ‘I Aint Gonna Lie’ and ‘Planet 50′, where the rapper attempts to recreate the past success of radio friendly hits such as ’21 Questions’. The less said about the misogynistic chorus of ‘I Aint Gonna Lie’ the better, while ‘Planet 50′ overrides the contribution of Jeremih in favour of 50 singing the hook.
These criticisms taken into account, it is clear that 50 Cent is still unsure in what direction his new studio album should be heading. While the experimentation on certain tracks is welcome, the clinging to tired formats somewhat underwhelms the impact of the project. The diffusion of his rap persona into the gangsta, the lover and the hit maker is reflected in the fragmentation of his fan base. If 50 continues to spread himself so thin, it is difficult to see him reclaiming his spot as one of the biggest selling hip hop artists out there today.
(The Lost Tape is available for free download from sites such as Datpiff.com)