50 Cent

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 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)." That's also where he delivers this disc's thesis: If it weren't for hurt, we wouldn't know happiness.

And so 50 brings plenty of the former via a tongue as sharp as a box cutter and a scowl as icy as an Ohio 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 cocky cut that's like 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; album-closer "Gotta Make It to Heaven" is Mean Streets set to wax. As such, it's a fittingly violent climax to an album as indelible as scar tissue.

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Jason Bracelin