50 Cent’s 5 (Murder By Numbers) was supposed to be ’Fif’s official album. Instead, he wound up releasing it for free, only to announce that his official fifth Interscope album will be out in November. In the meantime, 5 gives 50 fans 10 new tracks to whet their appetite.

The G-Unit general gets things started on with “My Crown,” which samples Sizzla’s classic “Solid as a Rock.” Aside from the fact that ’Fif’s rap rival, Ja Rule, sampled the same joint on his own “The Crown” back in 2003, 50 uses the opening track to set the tone well for the compilation. From there, Curtis turns up the aggressive content and gets back to the streets on “NY,” in which he snarls menacingly, “Fuck around, I get the Mac blowing/My heart colder than that corner you get clapped on/The crack gone, show you that barrel, get my jack on/I’m hungry, eatin’ off plates, we bag packs on.”

50 seems to spit best on 5, when having company. It’s no coincidence that he goes hardest on “Business Mind,” which features one-time Dr. Dre-affiliate Hayes and “Can I Speak To You,” featuring ScHoolboy Q. The only problem is those are the only two features, a situation that leaves even the most hardcore 50 fans wishing that he tussled with bigger-name MCs on this project.

Overall, 5 (Murder By Numbers) is not bad, not great—just good. When listening to the project, one can’t help but think that 50 is trying too hard to give listeners what he thinks they want to hear and subsequently forcing the issue, instead of perhaps saying what he wants to say. He's still 50, though, and his star power on wax hasn't waned completely.

One can only hope that his parting shots on “Can I Speak To You” rolls over into his official album, Street King Immortal: “See I’m where I’m supposed to be, on top of the underground/Still gritty, still run the city, still Em, Dre and 50, fuck with me/I’m a usual suspect when it’s a hit, turn up the volume when you hear my voice, yeah it’s the shit!” —Mark Lelinwalla