Is there an emcee hotter in the streets right now than 50 Cent? While 50 has been one of the most underrated emcees in the industry for years, it wasn’t until the smash hit “Wanksta” that the mainstream and commercial audience jumped on the bandwagon of 50 Cent and his crew G-Unit. Now it seems as if 50 is everybody’s favorite emcee and his debut album entitled “Get Rich Or Die Trying” due out in February will be a huge success. In the mean time 50 and his G-Unit soldiers continue to put out what seems like a new mixtape every couple of weeks as the streets continue to eat them up. “God’s Plan” continues the 50 Cent mixtape formula of jacking the industries finest production and remaking them with his G-Unit crew consisting of Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo.
From the introduction to “The Massacre” we’re led into a realm which we begin to really appreciate. “In My Hood” through “I’m Supposed To Die Tonight” contain a sinister enough feel which leads us to believe that maybe 50 is approaching his sophomore album with a smoother, more conniving angle before killing that buzz by giving us one of the most over hyped tracks in history; “Piggy Bank.” Now, although entertaining and arguably effective, the excitement surrounding the supposedly heated diss track calms itself to a mere smirking level with soft jabs applied towards Fat Joe, Jadakiss, Shyne and Nas (receiving the most biting of the hits).
In recent years, there has been one emcee that dominated each year before everyone started getting sick of him and his work began to diminish. You have Nelly from 1999-2000, Eminem from 2001-2002, 50 Cent and G-Unit in 2003 and Kanye West in 2004. After some failed attention-seeking mix tape appearances, 50 Cent is now trying to bring back the glory of G-Unit in 2005â€”fresh off the success of label mate The Gameâ€™s debut album, The Documentaryâ€”with his sophomore release, The Massacre.
50 Cent is a true survivor â€“ 9 shots, including one to his jaw that forever altered his speech, an upbringing that cosigns orphan Annieâ€™s â€œhard knock life,â€ and a hip-hop career that started off by dissing other rappers (â€œHow To Robâ€ featuring the Madd Rapper) and included disses back from fellow rappers (Jay-Zâ€™s â€œIâ€™m about a dollar, what the —- is â€œfifty cent?â€ declaration).
But returning from the massive success of his debut album Get Rich or Die Tryinâ€™, one obstacle exists that 50 Cent simply cannot survive on his second album, The Massacre: his own version of the â€œsophomore slump.â€
While most artists in the Hip-Hop industry talk about the harsh reality of the streets, few actually live the tales they boast about. 50 Cent is one of the few artists who know first hand about the drama of the streets. Having survived a tragic shooting, including a shot to the face, 50 Cent has come back stronger and hungrier than ever. The streets which he represents almost killed him, however, 50 hasn’t let that keep him down. If anything, the shooting motivated 50 to come back and prove to all the critics that he’s much more than a one hit wonder that many have labeled him as.
“Don’t believe the hype”. Those immortal words once spoken by Public Enemy in 88′ now ring true almost a decade later. The word hype is an interesting concept in Hip-Hop. On one hand it is the driving force behind an artists success. 50 Cent has almost redefined the term hype in 2002. His G-Unit mixtapes and guest appearances propelled the Queens native into super stardom even before his debut album ever dropped. Hype was certainty defined by 50 in 2002. However, on the other hand, for many artists its that same hype that ultimately leads to their downfall as they cannot live up to the standards set upon them. Back in 1998 a much hyped debut album by Canibus went onto be an utter disaster, as it was the hype or lack of reaching such status that destroyed his career. While Canibus’ and 50 Cent’s career’s are total opposites, they do run a very similar path as both emcees went the opposite route to becoming stars, doing so even before they dropped an album. After all the hype and anticipation 50 Cent’s “Get Rich Or Die Tryin” falls into that category of not living up to the hype.
Tupac Shakur- the name means a whole lot these days. It carries more weight than almost any other Hip-Hop artist in history. He is looked at in so many different ways it is tough to actually grasp his legacy or figure out what to think of him. But one thing is for sure, while he was with us, 2pac was one of the most influential rappers in the history of the game.
Before his death, 2pac along with his fellow outlaw members put together different personas or alias from various historical figures, thus spawning the birth of Makaveli. This new persona 2pac displayed characterized a different side of 2pac, a side many emcees did not want to cross paths with. This new Makaveli side of Pac brought anger, vengeance, raw energy and a thug life image that was looked at as so real, no one would be able to duplicate it, even years after his death. After his tragic death, Deathrow decided to release 2pac’s first posthumous album, entitled, Makavlei “The 7 Day Theory”
Leave it up to the geniuses at Death Row Records to continue finding new ways to tarnish the legacy of 2pac even years after his death. With no new material coming out of the company they are forced to come up with even more extreme ways to release 2pac material just so they can make some money. This years disgrace to 2pac comes in the form of a remix album entitled the â€œNu Mixx Klazzicsâ€, where Death Rowâ€™s production team, Tha Row Hitters, try and remake 2pacâ€™s classic material off of â€œAll Eyez On Meâ€ & â€œMakaveliâ€.
While he was here on this earth 2pac was one of the most influential, controversial, and hardest working artists in the Hip-Hop industry. This uncanny work ethic has lead to what seems like a never ending release of posthumous releases from 2pac. While some have been memorable such as the 2pac/Outlawz album, most have been lackluster such as his last album “Until The End Of Time”. The main problem with “Until The End Of Time” was the album’s production staff’s decision to remake most of 2pac’s unreleased material. Instead of releasing the exact material 2pac made when he was alive, they tried to cash in on a quick buck and liter the album with guest appearances, corny R&B hooks and worst of all new production that didn’t match anything like the original. While most prayed that this trend would not continue on this year’s edition of 2pac album’s entitled “Better Dayz” it has and to everybody’s disapproval it has gotten worse.
Theme music for the apocalypse has been provided by El-P. If “apocalyptic hip-hop” was not a term I just created for this article, El-P would be the genre’s father. Originally signed to Rawkus Records with the independent group Company Flow, El-P has risen to mythical heights in the world of underground / independent hip-hop. He is a white emcee/producer from New York who cannot conveniently fit under only one label. He is not a backpack rapper. He is not a religious zealot. He is not a gimmicky wannabe who is exploiting the culture. Simply, El-P is his complicated self. Founder of the now legendary independent record label, Definitive Jux, El Producto has earned his much deserved respect. As a label founder, El-P used Definitive Jux as a vehicle to release dense and high quality albums by C Rayz Walz, Cannibal Ox, The Perceptionists, Aesop Rock, Mr. Lif, and others. His cacophonic production style is gloriously unique and dramatically powerful. His drums have a juggernaut force and his melodies are lush soundscapes. He has contributed production for albums like “The Cold Vein” by Cannibal Ox, “Black Dialogue” by The Perceptionists, “I Phantom” and “Mo’ Mega” by Mr. Lif, and “Year Of The Beast” by C Rayz Walz. From start to finish, El-P’s “Fantastic Damage” was his challenging and thought-provoking debut solo album. Standout cuts included “Blood”, “Deep Space 9MM”, and “Fantastic Damage.” A true hip-hop producer, El-P also released varied instrumental albums. Released on Thirsty Ear Records, “High Water” showcased his talents by capturing his production skills with jazz band. Released on Definitive Jux, “Collecting The Kid” was a refreshing compilation of tracks from various projects El-P had been working on. “Constellation (Remix)” (featuring Stephanie Vezina) and “Oxycontin” (featuring Camu Tao) were exceptional tracks. Fans were yearning for El-P’s next complete solo album. When people thought El-P could not top “Fantastic Damage”, they were amazed when El-P’s sophomore album surpassed his previous work. “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” is a glorious, intelligent, and powerful album. While the “Fantastic Damage” LP was described as somewhat difficult listening, “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” is exceptionally constructed, instantly entertaining, and intellectually memorable. Hip-hop will never experience another album like “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead”.
“I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” contains multiple tracks of epic proportions. The opening cut, “Tasmanian Pan Coaster” possesses a powerful crescendo and thick bouncing rhythms. El-P’s chorus is a shocking epiphany, “â€¦This is the sound of what you don’t know killing you / This is the sound of what you don’t believe still true / This is that sound of what you don’t want still in you / TPC motherf*cker / Cop a feel or twoâ€¦” The song features Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala of The Mars Volta. Mr. Dibbs also contributes turntable cutting to the track. During the song’s conclusion, the use of a distorted guitar intertwined with an operatic vocal sample creates a devastating cinematic sound. “Flyentology” features Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails on vocals. Even people who are sick of Trent Reznor will probably appreciate the song. El-P uses Reznor’s vocals in a very intelligent way. He is careful not to overuse Reznor too. Since the song does not clash with the other tracks, the album’s flow is maintained. The animated music video for “Flyentology” gives the song a complete new dimension while telling a creative and fantastic story. El-P’s view on religion and spirituality is extremely refreshing. “â€¦There are atheists in the foxholes / There is no intellect in the air / There are no scientists on the way down / Just a working example of faith verses physicsâ€¦” His creativity leaves much to interpretation. The epic conclusion of the album is “Poisonville Kids No Wins”. El-P’s soft spoken, heartfelt delivery is enhanced by the song’s structure. The beat stops and restarts throughout the track, gaining more momentum and power every time. The massively hypnotic chorus is a thick, melodic beat crescendo. Chan Marshall of Cat Power adds poignantly ethereal vocals during the song’s finale, “â€¦Never, ever, ever gonna get that way again…” Cinematically epic, these songs bring hip-hop to creative heights.
The album also includes tracks that are shorter in length but not quality. “Drive” is possibly the most instantly appealing song on the album. For the chorus, a sped-up vocal sample is used before each line. El-P’s verses are wonderfully frustrating. El-P raps, “â€¦I’m not a depressed man / I’m just a f*cking New Yorker / Who knows that sitting in traffic with these bastards is tortureâ€¦” El-P’s “Drive” is proof that he can create a somewhat catchy yet clever solo track that has the potential to be a single. “Up All Night” is a bouncy, intelligent track with thick, electronic melodies and swirling drum rhythms. In the hook, El-P states that he is not a person to be taken advantage of, “â€¦I see you all regardless / I know what lies are like / I might have been born yesterday, sir / But I stayed up all night…” Another bounce-driven track with a memorable chorus is “Smithereens (Stop Cryin)”. El-P’s quick double-time flow adds a cool diversity to the album. He even adds melody to his hook. “No Kings” is a tight cut which features a deep-voiced Tame-One (formerly of Artifacts). “Run The Numbers” (featuring Aesop Rock) is a catchy track which will have you shouting “Find those detonators!” El-P’s melodic repetition of “Na-na-na-na-na-na-na” makes the song catchy, fun, yet still intelligent. Another powerful track, “The Overly Dramatic Truth” is sexually harsh and insanely aggressive.
Only a handful of songs do not have the same intensity or replay value as the other tracks on the album. “Habeas Corpses (Draconian Love)” is an overdone track with the repeated hook: “I found love on a prison ship.” Cage contributes vocals to the track. Although Cage and El-P work well together, the album’s other songs are more satisfying. The only other somewhat filler track is the short and angry “Dear Sirs”. To call these tracks filler is somewhat unfair because the depth and meaning of each song does shine with creativity.
“I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” displays a major maturation in El-P. His production talents have become extremely unique, but massively emotional. As an emcee, he has begun to master his flow and delivery as well as his cadence. Although “Fantastic Damage” was a solid album, “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” is incredibly tighter and more accessible. The album’s accessibility never forsakes the usual complicated beauty of his music. While the album may also be considered a challenging listen compared to most hip-hop CDs, “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” is beautifully challenging and executed with an intellectual precision. Although the album may go over people’s heads, intelligent and open-minded music lovers should appreciate the record’s multiple layers of creativity. Simply, “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” by El-P is a complicated modern hip-hop classic.