Animal Ambition is 50 Cent’s first proper album in almost five years, and it has been even longer since he has sounded as focused as he does now. On the Ky Miller-produced “Winners Circle,” he raps, “Consider this the theme song for victory / The s**t you say to yourself when you make history / I’m trying to make it feel like the first time / Like a junkie, I’m sort of chasing my first high.” And it is precisely that juxtaposition of accomplishment and aspiration, as well as everything which comes with it, that makes Fif’s latest release a captivating listen.
Take, for instance, the records “Hold On” and “Twisted.” On the latter, the song plays like a 2014 version of Biggie’s “Juicy” in that an individual’s success is also a metaphor for Hip-Hop as a whole. “This is more than champagne, this is more than just a glass / This is a symbol of accomplishment we rarely ever had.” But then, on the flip side of that, “Hold On” is all about how a byproduct of success as a hustler is that one becomes a target for all those around them: “These n****s, they watching every dime we make.” While 50’s earlier albums found him contradicting himself (e.g. “P.I.M.P." and “21 Questions”), Animal Ambition finds him discussing opposite sides of a subject. It’s a fine line, and 50 Cent walks it well.
The rest of the album finds Curtis Jackson between the two aforementioned extremes of prosperity and paranoia. Tracks like “Chase the Paper,” which feature Prodigy, Styles P, and Kidd Kidd, and “Hustler,” with its brass stabs in the beat courtesy of Jake One, are self-explanatory in terms of subject matter. However, they do a good job of depicting the middle ground where so many people are on their grind - whatever grind that may be. 50 Cent has been criticized for being a multimillionaire who still talks about hustling in the streets, but how far out of touch can one really be with his or her own own story? Lots of music on this album will reaffirm 50’s credibility to naysayers and introduce it to people who have only ever known him as a mogul. Along those same lines of more aggressive content, Jadakiss delivers a solid verse on “Irregular Heartbeat” atop minimalist production from G Rocka and Medi and Schoolboy Q keeps up the tough talk on “Flip on You.”
For as much direction as Animal Ambition has, that’s not too say it doesn’t fall short in some respects. The song “Don’t Worry Bout It,” a track with Yo Gotti, is nothing more than the two of them talking about material possessions. In the context of the overall album theme, “an untamed desire to win,” it makes sense. But the song itself has little to offer and feels like the commercial type of music that he was eager to get away from at Interscope. “Pilot” too falls victim to a similar fate, and the lyrics in the chorus, “Me, I’m like a pilot, G5 Jet I’m fly as s**t / You cannot deny it,” say it all. Even though it is a bonus track on the deluxe edition of the album, “The Funeral” should have replaced either of those two songs on the official track list because it's simply a better record.
The other thing that should be changed about the album is the sequencing. It could play like a chronological rags-to-riches story, but it instead jumps around a bit. Fortunately, the project’s message isn’t lost, yet the shaky song order does leave room for some things to get missed as a result of how material is delivered. Then, there’s Kidd Kidd. He appears on three songs, but only makes a lasting impression on one of them. With “Everytime I Come Around,” he spits, “ If I get caught I don't boo-hoo, I pick up the phone call BooBoo / He gonna bail me out in seconds, please don't let this rap s**t fool you / I send shooters to your home, see I don't need no songs to move you.” Therefore, he has promising skills; they just haven't been realized enough yet for him to fit comfortably on this album. It’s a mere 11 tracks, and so Kidd Kidd’s contributions carry a significant weight.
One of the songs which does break away from the project’s motif is “Smoke.” Dr. Dre’s synth-driven instrumental for the Trey Songz-assisted record sounds a little dated, but the song still succeeds because of its smooth hook and 50 rapping lines like, “But when she get to working her hips, you know the temperature rise / Oh lord, soon as she see the d**k in her thighs / She like the stones in my cross, she flawless / I'm thinking, ‘Damn, why would God give one woman all this?’” It certainly isn’t breaking any new ground, but it again shows improvement on 50’s part, this time lyrically, from other sexually-oriented songs in his past.
Even with the few missteps, Animal Ambition is still a good album. In this writer’s opinion, it’s 50 Cent’s best one since GetRich or Die Tryin’. It’s vintage 50, and, just like how Guess Who’s Back? set up Get Rich so well, this set of songs has the potential to do the same for Street King Immortal. 50 Cent may have struggled for relevancy the past few years in terms of his music, but this new independent release is the sign of a strong second wind. Hate it or love it, the underdog’s on his way back to the top.
Replay Value: 7/10
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