I’m going to go out on a limb here. Let’s say that, in America, the peak “turn-up” age is eighteen years old. Sure, bar mitzvah dance floors are packed with nervous middle schoolers looking for that elusive first kiss, and yeah, keeping up with musical trends plays a big role for divorced cougars seeking to rediscover their youth. But generally speaking, the college freshman is popular music’s barometer. Looking back, I don’t understand how I drank and partied that much. Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Every week. Jesus Christ.
Anyway, if you were eighteen back in 2003, you were turning up to 50 Cent and Nelly. You know how I know that? Because I was fucking nine and STILL doing the same thing. The two were inescapable. Whether it was poppy Nelly smashes like “Hot in Herre”, “Shake Ya Tailfeather”, and “Pimp Juice”, or the Biggie-esque rap game domination of 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” and “21 Questions”, 50 Cent and Nelly were in a class of their own. To this day, the legacy of the pair’s legendary early-aughts run is carried on through party-favorite “throwbacks”, in which these same songs somehow serve the same damn function twelve years later.
However, in 2015, those same college freshmen that partied through 50 and Nelly’s heyday are now thirty years old. Some are pushing strollers, some are meeting with their divorce lawyers, and some are probably doing both. So who exactly is keeping these two relevant?
It’s a good question. 50 has miraculously stayed afloat due to a constant presence in the press, association with Eminem, a recent G-Unit reunion, and the anticipation for his almost-mythological forthcoming album, Street King Immortal . Nelly hasn’t fared as well, with Power 105.1 radio host Charlamagne Tha God famously telling him “you’ve gone cold” on-air a few years back. Musically, the pair have been noticeably absent from the Billboard charts for years now.
And yet I fire up my ITunes on this lovely friday morning in Summer 2015, and the first thing I see is new singles from both Nelly and 50: “Fix You (feat. Jeremih)” and “9 Shots”, respectively. Just the sight made me feel old. But music is an even playing field, and I decided to give both songs the fair shot that my nine-year-old self would be begging me to do.
50 Cent’s “9 Shots”: Produced by Frank Dukes, this is the best beat 50 has spit on since Curtis. Aside from that, it’s the SAME played-out topics. For over twelve years now. 50, you’ve been filthy rich practically as long as you’ve been broke – there is no need to utter the words “I’m a hustler” on a record again. I guess I’ll just never understand artists that follow a formula. I feel like that would become so boring and unfulfilling. Shout out to Nas, the greatest MC of all time, for saying the following on his last album, Life is Good: “I’ve been rich longer than I been broke, I confess/I started out broke, got rich, lost paper then made it back/like Trump being up down up, play with cash”. Given 50’s recent bankruptcy issues, I would think Nas’ sentiments are more true to his story. Please, get over your “brand” and make organic music. But all in all, a solid hip-hop track, if you can see past the all-too-familiar lyrical sentiments .
Nelly’s “The Fix (feat. Jeremih)”: Calling all MILFs! Nelly’s over forty, but his sex game is still on point. Ugh. DJ Mustard has made the same beat for the thousandth time, and Nelly and Jeremih could not be more replaceable vocally. Chris Brown, Miguel, Usher…the Mustard tracks all begin to blend together. The formulaic nature of this track just makes my blood boil. At least with 50, the only issue is some played-out lyrics. The depressing part is this one definitely has potential to be a hit. Hey, if it’s gonna be Nelly, at least there’s some nostalgic value in it. And if “The Fix” does pop off, more power to him (and whoever wrote this song for him) for proving Charlamagne wrong.