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CURTIS

50 Cent

Shady/Aftermath/Interscope/

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Universal

**

On his third effort, the 'hood hero who revived gangsta rap before retreating to a Connecticut mansion to sip bub and count his money wants to assure you he's still hard. To wit: the opening triumvirate My Gun Go Off, Man Down and I'll Still Kill (featuring a fiery Akon vocal). But Fiddy doth protest too much.

He has long since lost his shot-nine-times edge and though still boasting that menacingly slurred flow - best evidenced on standout single I Get Money - his lyrics come across even emptier than usual. Despite titling the album with his real name, Curtis simply amps the gun-toting, sexed-up, money-making caricature.

In the past, impeccable beats made 50's formulaic words almost irrelevant, but even Dr. Dre's contributions are average (except for the synth-fuelled Fire) and though Timbaland and Timberlake add their juice to stripper anthem Ayo Technology, 50 sounds like a third wheel on his own track.

His persona may be dangerous, but Curtis plays it safe. If Fiddy truly wanted to best Kanye West's ambitious new album Graduation, he should have considered a creative writing course.

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