Is the ceiling the floor? Have horses become cows? 50 Cent has released a good song, and I don’t know what to do.
I mean… it’s been a long time, y’all. Fiddy hasn’t had a top ten hit has a lead artist since 2007, and even that was the forgettable “Ayo Technology.” The last time he seemed relevant—like an artist making urgent, interesting music instead of Vitamin Water ads—was way back in 2005.
But now we’ve got “My Life,” featuring Eminem and Adam Levine. The team debuted the song on The Voice this week, and the video has already been released, so clearly, there’s going to be a huge promotional push to make this record a comeback sensation. Fortunately, it’s worth the trouble.
Most obviously, the beat on this song is just sick. Produced by Symbolyc One, who also worked on Kanye West’s “Power” and Beyonce’s “Best Thing I Never Had,” it blends an anxious, repeating guitar riff with a slinky drum loop. This is not a thundering, club-obliterating track. It feels jittery and hyperactive, like someone anxiously tapping his foot. When stray piano notes pop up halfway through, they’re like nervous little mumbles in the background.
The lyrics match the mood. Both Fiddy and Eminem rap about how hard it is to stay relevant and/or invested in the rap game. And, yes, rappers love to rap about the perils of rapping, but for 50 Cent, this feels like new territory. After a decade of explaining how hard and horny he is, he’s finally getting vulnerable.
At this point, I guess that’s another cliche. Ever since Eminem and Kanye West became superstars by bluntly discussing their craziness, every rapper has made a “darkness of my soul” record, but honestly, I don’t mind. I’d much rather hear from artists who are risking something, who are talking about fear and doubt instead of glorifying their anger or lust. When 50 Cent bragged about getting shot or getting lots of ladies, I just never cared. That kind of macho posturing is for insecure straight dudes, you know? I’ll save my time and attention for rappers who can drop that bullshit and be thoughtful or questioning or maybe even soft. (I’m sure I’m overlooking some of the subtleties of 50 Cent’s early material and unfairly dismissing an entire section of hip-hop, but I’m okay with that. I’ll just never connect with that kind of music.)
ANYWAY… I’m intrigued by the story 50 tells here, and I like the husky, bouncing flow he uses to tell it. He sounds really present and energized on the track, which is a bracing change from his sleepy affectation on songs like “In Da Club.” I guess you have to bring your best flow, though, when you’ve got Eminem in the middle of your song. This is not Em’s best verse—there’s an awkward metaphor about spaghetti, and he has to change the pronunciation of several words to make them scan—but he sounds so committed that he’s still exciting to hear. And I will give him credit for talking about the suffocating bubble of rap music, then calling it “bubble wrap.”
Now that 50 Cent has a great new song and MC Hammer is back in the good books, what’s next? I hope it’s Salt-n-Pepa reunion.
Like all right-thinking people, Mark Blankenship knows that Eminem’s best spaghetti reference is in “Lose Yourself.” He tweets as @IAmBlankenship