Get Rich Or Die Tryin'

50 Cent

Interscope Records, 2003

REVIEW BY: Daniel Camp


There are certain injustices in this world that I, an average person, can’t do anything about. I can’t singlehandedly mend the wounds racism has inflicted on my countrymen for generations. I can’t rid the world of misogyny. I can’t end poverty or disease or war. I’m only one man.

But every now and then, there comes an opportunity to right a singular wrong, to make your mark on the world, to be the hero the world needs for that moment. And when, on the 19th anniversary of the release of 50 Cent’s Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, I noticed that the Vault’s only review of that album gave it the wretched grade of D-, I knew my moment had arrived. Because, with all due respect to my colleague Adam Mico and his cogent review, to let that grade be the final word on 50 Cent’s gangsta rap tour de force is an injustice that I have no choice but to remedy.

Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ was, first of all, an absolute juggernaut for the music industry. Selling 872,000 copies in its first week, it would go on to be the bestselling album of 2003 and one of the bestselling rap albums of all time, certified 9x platinum. For months, you could not go anywhere without hearing the familiar beats of “In Da Club” or “Heat.” After years of minor success with mixtapes, Fiddy’s major label debut landed like an atomic bomb, wiping out all competition in its wake.

And along with sales came cultural impact. 50 Cent ranked right alongside Allen Iverson as the face of early 2000s urban culture. The baggy jeans, the sideways baseball cap, the chains, the grimace—50 Cent embodied white America’s greatest fears and black America’s tongue-in-cheek bravado. My suburban parents would have been my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 horrified for me to bring home a copy of Get Rich Or Die Tryin’—and when has that ever been anything but good for popular music? 50 Cent was forbidden fruit.

His success was owed in large part to the lore surrounding his past—his upbringing in the projects, his early days as a crack dealer, and most famously, the story of how he was shot nine times (once through his left cheek) and lived to tell the tale. While some rappers could tell you a good story about life in the hood, Fiddy had the street cred to back it up. His scars were real.

So, with the backing of rap icons like Dr. Dre and Eminem, Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ was 50 Cent’s entry into the professional rap game, his musical autobiography, his forceful declaration of who he was and what he was about. And he left no doubt.

Each song comes at you with the propulsion of a rocket launched grenade—no subtlety, no beating around the bush. Tracks like “What Up Gangsta” and “P.I.M.P.” are all about establishing Fiddy’s gangsta bona fides, making clear from the get-go that he’s the baddest rapper on the planet. It’s a claim perhaps best exhibited in “Many Men (Wish Death),” in which he recounts the efforts his enemies made to kill him—and how he’s still standing.

Speaking of enemies, one of the standout songs, “Back Down,” would go on to become one of the most famous diss tracks of all time, with 50 Cent lyrically laying waste to rival Ja Rule. So devastating is the takedown, spat out over a Dr. Dre beat, that it essentially ended Ja Rule’s career, and certainly the feud between the two. Poor guy never had a chance.

There’s room for fun in the album too, like on megahit “In Da Club,” a bouncy ode to club life, and “High All The Time,” about…well, you can probably guess. Where you imagine 50 Cent rapping most of this album with a sneer on his face, these are the songs where you can envision a real smile—and if not from him, then from you.

But it’s songs like “Patiently Waiting,” which features a killer guest verse from Eminem, “Heat,” whose beat employs gunshots, and the Eminem and Lloyd Banks-backed “Don’t Push Me” that really speak to what this album is all about: menace. In track after track, 50 Cent lays out the case that he is a dangerous MFer—and because of the danger in his voice and the story he has to tell, you believe him.

Is this album musically innovative or lyrically original? Absolutely not—but it’s never trying to be. 50 Cent’s goal in this debut was to come at you like a hurricane, to lay waste with heavy beats and a consistent story and the sheer force of his personality. Carrying the same voyeuristic power gangsta rap has had since Ice-T and N.W.A. pioneered the genre, 50 Cent took things to new commercial heights with Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, a level rap hasn’t achieved since, and he did it with the same two things all successful rappers have used: a great story and a great beat. Dismiss him at your own peril.

Rating: A-

User Rating: F



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