I’m probably not the best person to review this album since I haven’t really listened to hip hop since around 1994. And even then, I was very focused in my choices; basically, I liked stuff that evolved out of Ruthless Records. Ice Cube was the coolest member of NWA, and I followed everything he did. One of my favorite rap albums of all time is I Wish My Brother George Was Here by Cube’s suburban cousin, Del tha Funkee Homosapien. Sometime after that, I stopped caring. Sure, I’d occasionally pick up a new album—the Outkast, the Roots, Jay-Z—but none of them made much of an impression.
I have come to realize that there are certain things I do not like in hip hop. I hate synth strings. Not just in hip hop, but it all music. Synth strings are terrible. I also hate double-tracked vocals. I like to imagine that all rapping is freestyled, so double-tracked vocals spoil that fantasy for me. Plus I think it just sounds stupid in rap. And I fucking hate singing. Why do you have to sing some stupid little chorus? It’s fine if it’s women singing, but there’s nothing worse than a rapper trying to sing. Always sounds like Warren G to me.
So those are my biases, right out there in the open. That said, every single track on Get Rich or Die Tryin’ breaks all three of my rules. Every song has synth strings, double-tracked vocals, and awful singing. If you don’t care about those things, you might like it. But I don’t.
The other thing that ruins this album is 50 Cent’s voice. Remember Bushwick Bill from the Geto Boys? The one-eyed dwarf with a thing for grain alcohol? Remember how he didn’t really rap, he just sort of whined like a little retard? Well 50 Cent sort of sounds like him. It’s distracting. If he’s so tough that he can take a bullet in the face at point-blank range, then why does he sound so whiney? And maybe it’s just me but when rappers try to sing, they sound like pussies.
And I’m not even going to get into the lyrical content. I’ll leave that to Chuck D who writes of being “amazed at the selling power of black death and the masters who pimp it. […] The case of the white exec hiring and doing business with the negro so he can create, recreate, cultivate, endorse then sell niggers doin ‘niggativity’ has never been more apparent.” Preach it, Chuck.
Despite all that, there are some nice moments on Get Rich or Die Tryin’. I like the part in “Patiently Waiting” that goes, “If you’re thinking I’m a fucking fall off, you’re so wrong,” and Eminem’s rap in that song sounds great. “P.I.M.P.” features a loop of a Trinidadian steel drum that immediately gets stuck in your head. The other interesting beat on the album is in “Poor Lil Rich,” which is driven by a slithery worm of a lo-tech synth line that sounds straight outta Atari 2600. “Wanksta” and “In Da Club” are both danceable singles that are sure to keep everybody shaking their ass throughout 2003. And in a few years those songs will be looked back on with the same nostalgic fondness that we now feel for “Hammer Time.”