Animal Ambition opens with a double, but it could have been a home run. Thanks to an expertly underplayed Frank Dukes beat, “Hold On” will have 50 Cent fans reminiscing of a world where G-Unit called the shots and new episodes of Chappelle’s Show were still gracing Comedy Central. It reeks of New York City.
And it does so despite 50’s struggle rapping:
I woke up this morning
This is insane
Rich as a motherfucker and ain’t much changed
Open my eyes, no surprise I’m with a different bitch
Different day, different ass, different tits
He says he’s impressed by his lavish life, but intonation betrays lyrical content. Curtis sounds bored. After half of a year of promotion (some intentional, some not, but if there’s a rapper capable of flipping bad press into good press, it’s 50 Cent), Animal Ambition was supposed to signal a resurgence. And while it isn’t the dumpster fire that it could have been, it falls far from planting a G-Unit flag in 2014, thanks to a combination of uninspired bars and multiple (failed) attempts at giving his style a facelift.
Not that Fif was ever really known for his clever wordplay. As he worked the game in his heyday, the best of Animal Ambition occurs when he plays nice with the producers, adjusting his cadences and providing a good hook. Weak opening bars aside, “Hold On” is a damn good way to start an album and remains consistent with the style that G-Unit stans want and expect. “Pilot” features an incredibly bombastic backdrop and addicting chorus, and the back-to-back “Everytime I Come Around”/”Irregular Heartbeat” combo paints Curtis as a no-good predator. And that’s definitely a complement.
It’s just too bad that we have to sort through all of the filler here to get to the juicy stuff. Enough songs here miss their mark to significantly detract from what could have been a very good album. “Don’t Worry Bout It” is almost comically bad, smelling dangerously like an old artist pandering to the tastes (in this case, EDM) of the youths. A tired Yo Gotti verse can’t save it. “Animal Ambition” follows and it’s very good if you enjoy elephant sounds and 50 Cent barking like a dog as an ad-lib. “Smoke,” the album’s clearest attempt at a radio grab, isn’t nearly catchy or infectious enough, considering the people involved with it.
Credit where credit is due, though: for an independent album pushed without much help, 50 Cent managed to put together something with enough juice to keep his name in circulation. It fails to deliver on its would-be mission statement of getting 50 back on top, but maybe it bridges the gap between years of nothing and what could be a very interesting G-Unit reunion. Picking out the gems, deleting the rest, and looking towards the future would seem to be the smartest course of action.