A decade ago, 50 Cent made his name in rap thanks to his assault on the mixtape game. In the time since, his career has had a unique trajectory—he’s gone from biggest star in the industry to an artist with impressive outside business ventures to an individual whose name still holds plenty of weight, but less so for his music, as he tries to find new footing. It’s this third stage that he currently finds himself in. Fif remains capable of making hot music—he proved this with the December 2011 mixtape The Big 10—but his mainstream relevancy now rests on atypical yet successful collaborations like “Down On Me” with Jeremih and “Up!” alongside Bay Area newcomer LoveRance.
That’s where The Lost Tape comes in. Linking with DJ Drama for a certified Gangsta Grillz, 50 is looking to earn his respect back in the same way he first took it as he readies his fifth studio album for this summer. There are times when he’s able to do this, but it’s not consistent throughout. The major knock on Fif is still present here—that the content of his music hasn’t evolved at anywhere near the pace of the realities of his circumstances—with the result, when negative, falling somewhere on the spectrum between stale and no longer believable. The times he’s at his best are on cuts like “Complicated,” an updated version of his vintage tough talk. “You got a nice gimmick, though, and you’ve been hot a few summers/But I got the kinda flow that can stop world hunger/SK, I got nothin’ but energy/Call me 50, call me Ferrari, the remedy/Hi, again, in case a hater don’t remember me/I happen to be what these rap niggas here pretend to be,” he rhymes with an easy flow over the smooth production.
It’s that style of production that marks the release, with plenty of rather slow-tempoed, occasionally jazzy or soulful beats for 50 to take a stab at. On the whole, it suffices, but it doesn’t set the ideal backdrop to foster the aggressive energy that can be the Queens native’s forte. The most riotous beat is, well, “Riot,” where 50 splices his own verses into 2 Chainz’s single. The outcome is the most exciting moment on the tape, which also makes it a little disappointing in that 50 is unable to duplicate the fire that he seemed to approach that track with, knowing it had already been done so well in its original form.
Other guests, for the most part, don’t particularly detract, but nor do they bolster the effort noticeably. The G-Unit general allows Kidd Kidd and Precious Paris to tag along for a few tracks, while Jeremih and Robbie Nova offer some R&B flavors. “Murder One” features Eminem, technically, but truly only includes a few words of encouragement from the vet to kick it off. Still, it’s one of the project’s highlights.
In teaming with DJ Drama for The Lost Tape, 50 Cent wasn’t quite able to reignite the fire of his early days, but he did serve up a tightly packed project that’s worth riding around to. It doesn’t wholly recall the elements that brought 50 Cent to the top, but done in a newly organic, 2012 way, as fans seemed to have hoped. But his song-crafting skills and lyrical approach are still there, which make his impending fifth album on Interscope one worth tracking. —Adam Fleischer (@AdamXXL)