The stage is set for the most epic rap battle since the infamous Notorious B.I.G.-Tupac feud of the early '90s. This week, 50 Cent and Kanye West announced that they would move the release dates of their new LPs to September 11 in order to initiate what seems to be slightly unhealthy competition. To add fuel to the already blazing fire, 50 Cent has announced that he will retire from his successful solo rap career if Kanye's album, "Graduation", outsells his album, "Curtis" (from his real name, Curtis Jackson). This seemingly unnecessary ego trip has fans shifting uncomfortably in their seats as they are forced to choose sides and determine whose overly explicit tirade they prefer.
Surprisingly, these albums yield some very noticeable similarities. Both 50 Cent and Kanye have attempted to extend the olive branch to the untapped fan base of middle class suburbia by collaborating with mainstream pop stars Justin Timberlake and John Mayer, respectively. 50 Cent swaps a monotone and frankly boring lyrical rap with Timberlake's signature falsetto and the result is the catchy but unimpressive "Ayo Technology," with the chorus bringing back memories of a certain Red Hot Chili Peppers hit. Kanye and Mayer, however, convincingly combine Mayer's usual upbeat guitar riffs with Kanye's expletive-filled yet aurally pleasing tale of stressful relationships in "Bittersweet Poetry" (available only as an iTunes bonus track).
Equally comparable are the already released singles from each album. 50 Cent's "Straight to the Bank," while possessing a stereo-busting base and the rapper's conventional raspy mumblings, pales in comparison to the addictiveness of Kanye's single "Stronger." With the techno beats of Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" providing the backdrop, this song promises to be the pinnacle of "Graduation" and will probably contribute to the majority of Kanye's album sales.
The low points of each album are inserted directly in the middle of both CDs, presumably to fill empty space with blush-worthy lyrics and weak background beats. 50 Cent's sex-themed "Amusement Park" makes his hit "Candy Shop" seem like a church hymn. Kanye's "Drunk and Hot Girls," featuring Mos Def, is a slow and painful commentary on?you guessed it?drunk and hot girls. These tracks are balanced out by more entertaining songs like 50 Cent's "Follow My Lead." The jazz keyboard and orchestral sound in its simple beat result in a song that is classier than anything else "Curtis" has to offer. The counterpart to this on "Graduation" is "Everything I Am," in which Kanye combines a soulful background piano and vocals with lyrical criticism of his own character.
So who wins? If the judging is based on entertainment value and overall quality, then Mr. Curtis Jackson may want to start early collection on his Social Security checks, because Kanye has got him beat, and badly. It looks as if Kanye's "Graduation" will be the proverbial tenth bullet and 50 Cent's reign as the king of the rap world will have finally come to an end.