Ranking G-Unit’s Albums From Worst To Best: ‘Get Rich Or Die Tryn’ Edition
1. 50 Cent-Get Rich Or Die Tryin
In hip-hop's grand retrospect, we take 50 Cent more seriously than we take, say, Nelly. As if Nelly was just a hitboy wonder of 2000, whereas 50 Cent was a #realrap icon, a credible promise of lyricism and violence, both at once. Yet in 2003, the appeal of "In Da Club" was no less immediate, and no more complex or high-brow than "Country Grammar," or than most of Ja Rule's contemporary hits, for that matter. Yet neither Nelly nor Ja nor even DMX ever made an album quite like Get Rich Or Die Tryin'.
What set 50 Cent's debut apart, then, wasn't just the singles, or all the beef and preemptive drama. With the Wu in decline
If you sit and consider the album's full title as mission statement—"Get rich, or die trying."—it's uncanny how, after having survived both stretcher and shelf, 50 Cent is nothing but charismatic, relaxed, and occasionally too cool for his own magnum opus. With boundless dexterity, he grins through whole verses, entire songs, e.g., "Like My Style," where he launches: "On ya mark, get set, let's go, switch the flow;/ Teach ya how to turn yayo into dough;/the original Don Dada: nobody bomb harder;/ya heard what I said boy, I'm hot! I'm hot!" As if his skating the dust and goring the bull was preordained, by Satanic rite: he's unconquerable. "You ain't got to tell me [that] you feeling this shit," 50 Cent raps on "Gotta Make It to Heaven," the album's outro. "I hear what I'm saying, I know I'm killing this shit."
Despite the album's panning wide—the entire G-Unit's in the house, plus peak Eminem, plus free agent Young Buck—50 is Get Rich's prevailing, bullying force, no matter the beat or feature. Eminem delivers a signature assist on "Patiently Waiting," yet it's 100 percent 50's track, confirmed by the seething rage of that hook and the bleak severity of 50's songwriting: "I'm innocent in my head, like a baby born dead;/Destination: heaven. Sit and politic with passengers from 9/11." On "Heat," what's the more worrisome excess: the looped gunshot as punctuation of the church organ beat? or 50's bragging, "I don't care if I get caught; the D.A. can play this motherfucking tape in court"?
From "How to Rob," to "Life's On the Line," and then eventually "Wanksta" and "Back Down"—these were songs as much as they were updates on the life and drama of Curtis Jackson.
There are few rap albums that have so entirely, inescapably swarmed radio play and DJ rotation for nearly a year. If The Massacre was the first hint of 50's going overboard, and Curtis was when the captain sank, Get Rich Or Die Tryin' was the departure so flawless that not a single one of its lead singles has lost its sheen in the decade since. ("Candy Shop," not so much.) Breakout singles and disses aside, Get Rich or Die Tryin' is an album as bold as its mogul maestro, a man who teased the reaper, then teased his rivals, snickering as rap came crashing down around him. The year was 2003, and 50 Cent was invincible. —Justin Charity