RC: Hi, I'm the Rap Critic. Let's talk about Ja Rule. Now, as previously stated in another episode, Ja Rule was the biggest rapper out for a while in the early 2000's. Platinum records, features, number one singles, babes, bucks, Ja Rule had it all. But, as time went on, people noticed a pattern with him, which was the constant usage of the "thugs need love too" formula to make hit songs, and for a long time, he was on top with it. Hit song after hit song, his "pop gangster" persona was blowing up, but then, there came a man who saw fit to call out this "pop rapper" for what he felt that he was: "a studio thug" who purely used his hardcore image to appeal to a female audience. That man was Mr. Curtis Jackson, a.k.a. 50 Cent. He'd call out Ja for not being a heartless thug, and instead being a punk, a softie! *footage of 50 calling out Ja* Sure, there's some origin about 50's friend stealing his chain and Ja Rule seeing that dude and 50 hanging out, but the main thing that people heard about was 50 calling him out for being a fake gangster, and sure enough, when 50 cent came into prominence, he would stamp out all of Ja Rule's club songs and love songs, and replace them with… *"In Da Club" and "21 Questions"*… with club songs and love songs… Well, to 50's credit though, he did explain himself when releasing "21 Questions", the love song I wanted to look at today
When asked by Dr. Dre: "How you goin' to be gangsta this and that and then put this sappy love song on?"
50 Cent responded with: I’m two people. I’ve always had to be two people since I was a kid, to get by. To me that’s not diversity, it’s necessity
And you know what, I can get behind that, that's the dichotomy of man. you DO have your moments of anger, and you do have your softer sides. You can talk about wanting to kill at one point, and talk about wanting to be loved the next… well, wait a minute, if that's true, Mr. I'm so enlightened to the different aspects of humanity, why did you rag on Ja Rule so much when HE made love songs? What is HE not allowed to have his own dichotomy? That seems a little unfair. Reminds me of when he was in that whole thing with Kanye West, where he was a total sore loser about not selling as many records as Kanye, and decided to randomly taunt him for years, especially for using auto tune *clips of him performing Kanye's song, "I Line Niggas'*, but then, wait, what was that song he did the next year with G-Unit?
Clip of G Unit Rider, Part 2
50 Cent: Oh yeah, yeah...
RC: So you see, my thing about 50 Cent is that he's always come off as a bit of a hypocritical bully, and with other rappers that I might like, yeah, they may be jackasses, but they do something that makes me look past it, like, yeah, Eminem's an ass, but dammit, he sure knows how to combine lyrics and flow to create masterful verses, and yeah, Kanye's an ass, but dammit, he sure does know how to make good beats and throw in a little socially conscious messages every now and then. But 50 Cent? Yeah, he's an ass, but he sure does, uh… spit typical gangsta rap lyrics over dark beats, because… THAT'S what everyone was waiting for!
But i dunno, if one of my favorite rappers of all time signed him, maybe I should give him a chance. After all, it's not just making a "thugs need love too" song that makes me not like a song, it's making a BAD song that makes me not like one, so let's check out "21 Questions" by 50 cent, and see how it fares
RC: Oh yes, but first we must have awkwardly rushed character establishment. Okay, so how do we establish a rapport between two people in in love in only 20 seconds?
*50 kisses money, laughs, girl in the back laughs*
RC: *Laugh* Yes, I echo your thoughts concerning the hilarity of money
RC: Oh no, the cops! Maybe making all those songs in which I publicly admit to selling crack wasn't such a good idea!
*cops come in, song starts*
*video shows 50 riding in the back of an cop van*
50: "New York City! You are now riding… with 50 Cent!
RC: Well, according to this video, you're riding in the back of a cop van. I wouldn't exactly call that your finest hour
50: You gotta love it!
RC: Personally, I think riding in the back of a police vehicle kind of sucks, but whatever
50: I just want to chill and twist the lye Catch stunts in my 745
RC: I just wanna let you know before this love song starts that I'm still totally a gangsta by smoking weed and showing off my expensive cars!
Nate Dogg: Girl, it's easy to love me now
RC: And, of course, 10 points for including the closest thing the new millennium will ever get to Isaac Hayes, Mr. Nate Dogg on the hook
Nate: Would you love me if I was down and out? Would you still have love for me?
RC: And I gotta give this song a few more points for actually being about something other than the general theme of "i'm a thug, and you're my main bitch". Instead of just that, it centers around a sense of doubt about his girlfriend's faithfulness that understandably stems from being really famous and having people around you that only care about you because of your money. He wants someone who's interested in more than money… despite what the intro may lead you to believe
50: If I fell off tomorrow would you still love me?
RC: And he starts off by asking directly: if all of his fame was over tomorrow, would you still care about him? It's straight up and to the point. And I wish he would have started with this instead of the "riding in my car, smoking weed" nonsense
50: If I got locked up and sentenced to a quarter century Could I count on you to be there to support me mentally?
RC: You know, for most "thugs need love too" songs, they only dwell on a surface level depiction of a relationship, but to ask someone if they'd be willing to be emotional support if they were in jail for 25 years, that requires some reflection. And the delivery makes me feel like it really means something when he says it
50: If I was hit and I was hurt would you be by my side?
RC: Also, factoring in the realization that this man has actually been shot at 9 times, this is an alarmingly real possibility he's giving this girl to think about
50: If it was time to put in work would you be down to ride?
RC: Okay, that's kinda vague. You might want to elaborate what you mean, because, you know, one might confuse...
50: I get out and peel a nigga cap, chill and drive
RC: Okay, no confusion here, you're asking her to help you kill somebody. Got it
50: I'm asking questions to find out how you feel inside
RC: Yeah, he's asking questions about how you feel INSIDE, specifically about being an accomplice to murder
50: Now would you leave me if your father found out I was thugging?
RC: Would that be before or AFTER you convinced his daughter to be an accomplice to murder?
50: Are you mad cause I'm asking you 21 questions?
RC: Uh… does that count as one of the questions? Because now it sounds like you're trolling her. You mad I'm asking' you 21 questions? Yo mad, bruh?
50: Do you trust me enough to tell me your dreams?
RC: Now THIS is a deep question, and the wording is important. Do you TRUST me enough to reveal your inner aspirations, the silly pipe dreams that fuel your motivations, or maybe he's talking about the actual dreams that she has every night, the ones that reoccur and haunt her, the ones that subconsciously unpack everything about her fears, joys, and---
50: I'm staring at ya trying to figure how you got in them jeans
RC: …and… and that was a bad transition. I don't even think that was a question, you just said, "Baby, tell me about the intricate inner workings of THAT apple bottom ASS… also, ya dreams, and shit...
50: If I was with some other chick and someone happened to see
RC: Okay, this couplet always throws me off, no matter how much credit I try to give this song. Listen to the whole thing
50: If I was with some other chick and someone happened to see And when you asked me about it I said it wasn't me Would you believe me or up and leave me? How deep is our bond if that's all it takes for you to be gone?
RC: Yeah, this always got to me. He says, "If someone saw me with another girl, NOT if someone just told her he was with another girl, and it was ambiguous as to whether or not it actually happened, no, IF IT WAS TRUE that he was with another women and someone told you about it, will you believe him when he says it wasn't him." To be clear, part of this song's in-depth compatibility quiz about your integrity as a human being in a relationship fundamentally involves you just kind of accepting the fact that he's eventually going to lie to you.. And what's oddly worse is that, after admitting to being the one who would lie and cheat on her in this example, he shifts the problems of the relationship back on HER
50: Would you believe me or up and leave me? How deep is our bond if that's all it takes for you to be gone?
RC: Yes, 50 Cent's girlfriend: after lying and cheating on you, it's clearly YOU who needs to evaluate how seriously you're taking the relationship!
Yeah, these are the lyrics that almost ruin everything this song had going for it. Not the gangsterism's, not the singing intro by 50 cent, not even the line about cake and fat kids
50: I love you like a fat kid loves cake You know my style, I'll say anything to make you smile
RC: Yeah, it's corny, but by itself, it's kinda endearing, because in relationships, you're gonna have stupid little things you say to each other, and in the context of a song, if you don't overdo it, it can be fitting, but what ruins this for me is that this lyric comes immediately after the aforementioned lyrics, and sure these questions are mostly hypotheticals, and these scenarios may not have actually happened yet, but in this specific hypothetical situation, he has shown a blatant willingness to shift the blame on her despite him being the one that screwed up, succeeding these lyrics with limp backpedalling
50: We're only humans, girl, we make mistakes To make it up, I'll do whatever it takes I love you like a fat kid loves cake
RC: And THAT'S what makes this line bad to me: in this instance, after accidentally showcasing a possible warning sign of things to come in their relationship, he acts like a corny joke will be the thing to make her let it go, and that just doesn't gel well with me
Overall, though, I'd give this song a 3 out of 5. Never underestimate the power of Nate Dogg's vocals, my friends. And in addition, 50 Cent does actually give a realistic and tangible depiction of his aspirations on relationships, and for about 80% of it, it's relatable and understandable. Yes, it has parts that turn me off of it, but I say in the end, this songs gets a pass from me. And to his credit, at least he didn't pull a Ja Rule, *play "Always On Time"* and make a quote unquote "love song" that, in a sickening revelation, was ultimately just about a pimp-ho relationship. No, 50 Cent was pretty upfront when he made THAT song
*"Cause I' m a mothefuckin' P.I.M.P.!"*
Well, I'm the Rap Critic: You don't have to like my opinion, but I don't have to like your song