Get Rich or Die Tryin’, the first full-length from rapper 50 Cent, isn’t so much a debut as an entry wound. Having been shot nine times, 50 Cent is plenty familiar with the latter. But despite all the spent rounds, death, and suffering that serve as this album’s very marrow, Get Rich is less about broken hope than broken teeth.
Summer days wouldn’t be special if it wasn’t for rain/Joy wouldn’t feel so good if it wasn’t for pain, 50 rhymes on “Many Men (Wish Death),” which delivers this disc’s thesis: If it weren’t for sorrow, we wouldn’t know happiness. So 50 brings the hurt with a tongue as sharp as a box cutter and a scowl as icy as a Missouri winter. I don’t smile a lot/’Cause ain’t nothin’ pretty/Got a Purple Heart for war/And I ain’t never left the city, he spits on “If I Can’t,” a cut as cocky as bottled testosterone. Throughout Get Rich, 50 Cent backs up such bravado with an album as rock solid as his pecs. Dr. Dre’s spectral keys turn the Ja Rule-bashing “Back Down” into a hotheaded highlight; “Like My Style,” a combustible blend of gin and gunpowder, rides a bass line as funky as morning breath; and album closer “Gotta Make It to Heaven” is Mean Streets set to wax. It’s a fittingly violent climax to an album as indelible as scar tissue.