Rap Battle Ends up Lose-Lose for Fans

REVIEW – For one day last week, hip-hop music was similar to the 2004 presidential election. But instead of Bush vs. Kerry, it was 50 vs. Kanye. Sure, the results did not affect an entire country, but there were other stakes on the line.

Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson declared that he would not drop another solo album if Kanye West sold more albums than him on Sept. 11.

So, for those who dislike 50 Cent, all they had to do was go out and purchase Kanye’s Graduation. Sound familiar to the presidential election? Many people made sure to hit the polls and vote for Kerry just so that they wouldn’t see Bush reelected.

Of course, that didn’t work. And because 50 took back what he said about leaving the game, it won’t help eliminate him either.

And 50 Cent fans must be happy that he decided against that idea. If patterns follow day one – 437,000 copies of Graduation were sold to only 310,000 copies of 50’s Curtis – 50 will be looking up at Kanye on the Billboard charts.

No matter who sold more, there was something more important, at least to the avid hip-hop listener, when the albums dropped: the actual music. At the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards, two days before the higly-anticipated CDs were to be released, Kanye told MTV reporter Sway that Sept. 11 will be “the biggest release date in music history,” so good music couldn’t be too much to ask for.

Or could it?

Apparently, it was too much. Both parties dropped nothing more than mediocre, disappointing records. With the No. 1 spot on their minds, both “rappers” forgot to worry about the fans.

What got Kanye into the limelight was his production talent, clever lyrics, catchy hooks, political controversy and uniqueness – a uniqueness that has helped the Atlanta-born musician appeal to a variety of music tastes. Often, this includes people who do not like rap music.

Maybe it was because he rushed to get Graduation out the same day as Curtis, but Kanye, who released three solo albums, undeniably just dropped his worst. Late Registration, the respectable 21-track album released in 2005, earned him numerous Grammy Awards, including Best Rap Album. Graduation, though, with its meek 13 songs, could arguably fit into a store’s pop music section if it wasn’t for the explicit content sticker on the bottom.

Undoubtedly, with its annoying beat and pointless lyrics, the worst song on Graduation is “Drunk and Hot Girls.” It’s hard to decide if the title or the song is worse. And Barry Bonds may hold the best record in Major League Baseball – the home-run record – but even Lil’ Wayne can’t save the song “Barry Bonds” from sounding like a three-pitch strikeout.

“Good Life,” with T-Pain, has a decent beat and is definitely catchy. Kanye can pass as a rapper on “The Glory,” which isn’t a bad song if you can get over the squeaky voice in the background.

Overall, though, a majority of Kanye’s beats on Graduation are weak and his choruses are trite and repetitive. His lyrics are nothing to boast about, not even on his best single, “Stronger.” Kanye has been known to reuse music from the past, but a so-called rap album should not make the listener continuously think of Burt Bacharach, who had a greatest hits album in 1974.

50 Cent’s music, on the other hand, is generally only for the hip-hop crowd. This crowd questions his ability to release anything close to his 2003 debut album, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, which went straight into hip-hop classic classification.

But whose beats did numerous songs on Curtis remind me of? 50’s own. “Amusement Park” is another “Candy Shop,” just not as good, and “My Gun Go Off” is a duplicate to the already weak “Gunz Come Out.”

As expected, Curtis focuses mainly on guns, murder and money. 50 always has at least one risqué song, but he made sure to include more than one on this album. The most sexual is “Ayo Technology,” in which he performs a duo with Justin Timberlake. The track, produced by Timbaland, was originally slated to be named “Ayo Pornography,” but 50 decided against it. 50’s mentors, Dr. Dre and Eminem, also got in on other sexual tracks.

With Dre on “Come and Go,” 50 came up with one of the worst choruses on the record – “bring ’em in, kick ’em out” repeats over and over, in reference to their disposal of females. Perhaps “Peep Show,” featuring Eminem, was aimed to be another “Outta Control,” but it doesn’t compare.

More wasted talent is apparent in “I’ll Still Kill,” featuring Akon. 50’s rapping isn’t too bad, but the moaning of the “convict” is terrible.

Curtis does have a few more hot singles – “I Get Money,” “Straight to the Bank” and “Ayo Technology” – than 50’s last CD The Massacre, but it should not be mentioned in the same breath as Get Rich. Each of the aforementioned singles has already been on the radio for months. And only one of the three – “I Get Money” – has seen any quality time on the radio, in clubs or blaring out of cars. 50 had to be worried when his released tracks weren’t making it big.

That is, unless the “stanky rich” rapper didn’t care. “I ain’t even got to rap now, life is made,” 50 raps on “Straight to the Bank.”

He said it. We didn’t listen. Now he’s just “laughing straight to the bank with this.” Even if Kanye sells more.

So which album should you get? Because Graduation can entertain more music connoisseurs, I have to lean toward Kanye. But I’d also say that a true connoisseur would save his money and not buy either. Not if he’s looking for a rap album. Looking for pop music? Kanye is decent. If not, keep playing T.I. vs. T.I.P.

Jeff Appelblatt can be reached at the.jeff@temple.edu.

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