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50 Cent, The Big 10

“If a nigga say I fell off, all I want you to do is ask him, When?” 50 Cent shouts at the end of the opening track of The Big 10, his new mixtape which dropped last week. It’s true that it’s tough to dispute that Fif’s stature as a musical heavyweight has come into question in recent years, as he’s focused on other endeavors. But with The Big 10—named and released in honor of the decade elapsed since his initial assault on the mixtape circuit—the G-Unit general is back with the flashes of the hunger and style that initially catapulted him to superstardom.

On a mission to dispute claims of falling off, the Queens native jumps into the tape with “Body On It,” a slick, shit-talking track with a classically 50 Cent but modern feel where, over Jake One’s stirring keys and drum loop, our hero totes guns, dismisses blog talk, and raps, “Yeah, bitch, I got my second wing/You could pretend I ain’t the shit.” Over the next ten tracks, he indeed proves that he’s been reenergized, sounding comfortable but not relaxed over an array of original production.

As he continues, the savvy businessman showcases members of his new team: the following four tracks feature New Orleans raised Kidd Kidd, femcee Paris, old cohort Tony Yayo, and Kidd Kidd once more, respectively. While the features are generally unmoving, they detract or create a skip factor, as 50 prove strong enough to carry the cuts.

Throughout, Boo-Boo’s bread and butter appear nearly as fresh as when he began to make his mark; his aggression, effortless flow, and rap-sung hooks carry the 38-minute project. Impressively and believably—the believability is much of what makes it impressive—Fif switches lanes between street songs and stuff for the ladies, doing each convincingly. “Niggas Be Scheming,” “Shooting Guns,” “Nah Nah Nah” and “Stop Crying” hone in on his forceful side, while compositions like “I Just Wanna,” “Wait Til Tonight” and “Off And On” take the females into consideration (though, often, with the things he describes doing to them, he’s clearly not taking them into consideration at all). He’s also able to fit in the strictly festive joints like “Put Your Hands Up.” In addition to Jahlil Beats, who produced the song, 50 taps Scoop Devill, !llmind, DJ Khalil and others to assemble the proper sonic backdrop for his release.

As he gears up for his fifth solo album, said to be out sooner than later, 50 Cent has returned to form with The Big 10. Now it’s time to see if he can keep the onslaught going into 2012 and, maybe even for the next ten. —Adam Fleischer

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