Ranking G-Unit’s Albums From Worst To Best: Before I Self-Destruct Edition
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By 2009, 50 Cent's moment had passed. He had already suffered an embarrassing loss in 2007 to Kanye West when Graduation handily outsold 50's Curtis. But that only told half the story. Kanye didn't just make a better album (50 admitted as much in a recent GQ profile) but made 50's sound feel old and outdated—like a superstar athlete who ruined his knees and just didn't have the same lift anymore. By '09, all the seeds of Kanye's influence began to blossom as rappers like J. Cole and Drake began their ascent, creating a new paradigm in rap that left gangsta rap in the dust. Yet, even hobbled, 50 was still kicking that "aggressive content" as a reminder that street rap would always have a place in hip-hop.
To top it off, 50's rapping on here is a marked improvement from many of Curtis' mailed in bars. On the aforementioned "Death To My Enemies" he raps, "That 4-30 Spider, carbon fiber/And my dog is like Al-Qaeda natural fighter/Rapid fire, you're sweet like apple cider/The Mack'll fire, mask like Michael Myers." Even when he's revisited tired topics of guns and drug dealing, 50 sounds more invigorated than ever before, so much so that even when he's rapping about being "so laid back" he's growling. Meanwhile, on songs like "Days Went By," he manages to tell previously unheard autobiographical tales from his horrid childhood (the story of him pistol whipping his uncle for smoking his stash is unforgettable) when it seemed like he told every story he could possibly tell already.
The album isn't without its missteps; "I Got Swag" shouldn't have happened, "Get It Hot" did anything but, and "Baby By Me" wasn't the right single for an album that was meant to be a back-to-basics course correction. And after Eminem and Dr. Dre slowly stepped away, 50 didn't have any producers to center his sound. But when his songs did work, they proved that even if 50 had already self destructed and was too myopic to see it, he could still pick up the pieces and make weight. —Insanul Ahmed