Season 2, Episode 2: Examining 'The Massacre': 50 Cent's Tribute to His Own Invulnerability
What’s more mid-aughts than 50 Cent’s 2005 album, The Massacre? In 2003, 50 Cent’s album Get Rich or Die Trying became the breakout gangsta rap hit of the new millennium. This album was the quintessentially structured transcendent gangsta rap album. It contained, of course, gritty details from a violent street world, but it also had oddly-placed sweet love songs. It had arguably THE club banger of the decade, “In Da Club,” and other notable hits like P.I.M.P. and Patiently Waiting. This was a time when an entire album could set the tone for a year. we all collectively listened to full albums, knew which songs to skip, and which were the lowkey non-single bangers. Get Rich or Die Trying is full of bangers, while The Massacre, the subject of today’s episode and 50’s sequel to GRODT is much more of that too-long, full of questionable songs interspersed with dope singles kind of offering. The Massacre was the height of 50’s fame and cultural relevance, and as a young white kid in suburban Connecticut, his tales of murder, obscene wealth, and drug dealing really resonated with me. The Massacre represents the most explicit crossover of gangsta rappers into the mainstream in the mid-2000’s before media became fractured and niche.
Commercial Performance: “The Massacre sold 1.15 million copies in its first four days of release, becoming the sixth-largest opening week for an album at the time since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991. This is the second largest opening week for a hip hop album, behind Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP (2000). In February 2020, The Massacre was certified six times platinum for combined sales of at least six million copies in the United States. It has sold over eleven million copies worldwide.”
In conjunction with the release of The Massacre, 50 Cent bought Mike Tyson’s old house in the mountainous woods of Farmington, CT, about 10 minutes from my childhood home. This 21 bd 35 ba 51,657 sq ft home was the site of 50’s MTV House Party, a celebration of 50 Cent, G-Unit, The Massacre, and mid-2000’s hip hop pageantry. He bought the house for 4.1 million dollars in 2004, and it was the talk of our town. In a little aside, when 50 sold the house in 2019, it sold for only 2.9 million, and it’s now listed on Zillow for only 1.1 million. That blows my mind, but no one wants to buy a house this big. It’s truly obscene. It apparently costs $67,000 per month to maintain, and the annual property taxes are $120,000. Pretty much, owning this house sucks. And it’s in Hartford County. Why would anyone want this?
Anyhow, on the night of 50 Cent’s House Party, my mom and her friend Kim, after a few glasses of wine I assume, decided to drive up to the house and “take a look,” in the way that older people like to take a look at things. They asked my friend Dave and I if we wanted to join them on this 10 minute drive, and we said, “No, security is just going to turn you away. They have a specific guest list and we’re not on it.” They said OK, and peaced out. The next morning, I woke up to a gold VIP bracelet on the kitchen counter, and my Mom, who never sleeps in, detailed her infiltration of 50 Cent’s House Party. Essentially, she and Kim told security that they were “the neighbors” (pretty much no one lives on this street), and they were allowed to park. Then the head of security waved them in and they walked in with her, where she escorted them to the VIP section, and they partied into the wee hours of the morning. It pays to be a middle-aged white lady. They drank Cristal and interacted with Lloyd Banks and Young Buck. They saw professional dancers on these giant swings, and they saw 50 perform live in his gigantic living room. In 2005, this was a badge of honor for me (it still is). My mom snuck into 50’s house party and hung out with G-Unit. It’s all I talked about that day in school, and she still happily regails anyone, 18 years later, with the tale.
This was the cultural cache that 50 Cent had. He was transcendent even though, ultimately, he didn’t give us very much of himself despite the hours of art he provided. He was never vulnerable or human. He was, like the image he presented, indestructible. This is the kind of robotic consumption and hit-machine that we, the predominantly white audience, wanted, and he leaned into it. What did we need to know about 50? He was once a drug dealer, he was jacked, he was shot nine times, he liked sex and parties, and now he was incredibly rich. I want to say there was something innocent in all of this, but obviously the roots of this have a lot to do with race. 50’s image was the hiphop reincarnation of Mike Tyson: he was scary because he was black, seemingly fearless and impervious to damage, and was richer than most people could fathom.
The Massacre brings these elements of the mythology of 50 into a crescendo of club anthems, money songs, diss tracks, and street life snapshots. The name of the album is evidence of that: It was originally titled The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre because its release date was scheduled for February 15th, 2005, but due to some delays it couldn’t go out until March 3rd, so the title was shortened. The idea behind the title implies a few things. There is the obvious reference to the 1929 massacre of seven members of Chicago’s North Side Gang, but it also has its roots in 50’s sense of competition. He sought to massacre the various competitors within and beyond the genre. This was an album that represented the takeover of popular culture and hip hop. 50 loved beef, and he loved winning. Many of us were along for the ride.
Part TWO: The Tracks that Bang, even now
The Massacre is a LONG album, and if you add the two bonus tracks, “Window Shopper” and “Best Friend,” this is a nearly 90-minute album. 24 tracks. If you want something the length of a film (your MONEY’s WORTH), The Massacre gives it to you. However, we all know that shorter is often sweeter. Some of my favorite albums are half this length, because they show restraint in production and selection. But restraint isn’t the 50 Cent brand, is it? 50 Cent is all about too much, all the time, and the length of the album represents that. It was Executive Produced by Dr. Dre, Eminem, and 50 Cent. A “Special Edition” was rereleased in September 2005, made it to third on the Billboard charts, but was beaten out by Kanye West’s Late Registration.
Because of this, there are plenty of trash songs amidst the good stuff. Let’s look at the tracks.
Intro (The Massacre)
“In My Hood”
This is the opener and the scene-setter, and it really highlights the contrast between the extravagant wealth displayed in the second half of the album. This is supposed to be a slice of life for 50, I think, but he doesn’t do a great job of illustrating anything in his life other than violence (I'm from Southside motherfucker, where them gats explode, If you feel like you're on fire, boy drop and roll). The song has a hard and gritty beat and a hook that does a good job of placing you in 50’s world of ultra violence without mixing in the standard flaunts of wealth.
“This is 50”
This song sucks.
I’m Supposed to Die Tonight
The infamous diss track of The Massacre, Piggy Bank, is an awkwardly assembled but catchy list of disses to various rappers and artists. In the song, which features the onomatopoeic chorus “clickity clank, clickity clank, the money goes into my piggy bank” he disses Fat Joe (My shit sold 11 mill', his shit was a dud), Shyne, Kelis, Nas, and Jadakiss. In classic 50 fashion, he manages to provide descriptions of sex (Yayo bring the condoms, I'm in Room 203) and how wealthy he and his friends are (Banks' shit, sells; Buck's shit, sells. Game's shit, sells; I'm rich as - hell). Honestly, I love this song. It’s so stupid and unnecessary, which is why I loved it then, and why I’ll still listen to it now. His disses aren’t particularly good (he calls Fat Joe “Fat” and says that Nas is a “sucker for love'', which sounds okay to me).
Gatman and Robbin (feat Eminem)
We have to praise this song for its punny title. I don’t like the song, however. The beat is kind of annoying, and the lyrics are simplistically violent on 50’s end. The song posits a world where 50 Cent is Gatman and Eminem is Robbin (with two B’s, for robbery!), a crime-committing duo. This is an incredibly violent song. 50 states “I react like an animal and tear you apart, If a masterpiece was murder I'd major in art.” Eminem’s verse is arguably better than 50’s, and it takes a more nonviolent approach to conflict resolution: “There will be no peace discussions with me, There ain't gonna be no friendly debates over crumpets and tea, Just quit fucking with me and I'll gladly quit fucking with you
Just spit your sixteen and do what you gotta do to get through.” I’m not a big Eminem fan (I don’t like his voice), but I feel like this collaboration is a must for this album.
Candy Shop (feat. Olivia)
The second single from The Massacre, Candy Shop is an homage to random sexual encounters. It features the artist Olivia, who did a lot for this album and then not much else afterwards. To understand the pervasiveness of this song, just know that my mom still breaks out in her own rendition of Candy Shop to this day. Her lyrics involve “Hop on Pop'' rather than “Lick the lollipop.” Is this song objectively good? Not really. It does start with a beat that has a whimsical quality coupled with bass. This song contains some pretty cringeworthy sexual innuendo (not because it’s sexual but because it’s bad): “After you work up a sweat, you could play with the stick, I'm tryin' to explain, baby, the best way I can
I'll melt in your mouth, girl, not in your hand, ha-ha” It also says “hot as a tea kettle” which is a lazy simile. Candy Shop also provides an interesting understanding of the irony when 50 says, “Isn't it ironic, how erotic it is to watch her in thongs? Had me thinkin' 'bout that ass after I'm gone” I’m not sure that is ironic…
This is the fourth and worst single of The Massacre. The beat is genuinely annoying, and I don’t know if the track really served the purpose of getting people “out of control.”
Get in My Car
What a strange song.
Ski Mask Way
A Baltimore Love Thing
Maybe 50 was inspired by the Wire? Anyway, this is a narrative tale that personifies heroin, and 50 Cent speaks to a woman addicted to heroin as though they are in a relationship.
‘I'm not that genie in a bottle, I'm in a bag
Take one hit and slide off to the Land of H man
When we first met, I thought you'd never doubt me
Now you tryin' to leave me, you never live without me
Girl I'm missing you, come and see me soon
Tie your arm up, put that lighter under that spoon’
Now, I won’t say that this song is entirely successful, but it does represent an artistic risk on 50’s part, and for that I appreciate the song. Parts work better than others in this extended metaphor. He sort of slips back and forth with the personification thing being effective and hokey.
“Push me inside you, no other man can love you like I do
Call me daddy, I'll make you feel good, I mean real good
I find pleasure in pleasing you like a real man should
It was written long before us, it was carved in a tree
Forever me and you baby, we were meant to be”
Some classic hodgepodge gangsta rap stuff. You have homophobia, murder, sex, cars. Take it or leave it.
The Quintessential and nonsensical club banger from the album. This song was unavoidable in 2005. If you listened to the radio, which you probably did, Disco Inferno was played every hour at least. This is a relatively senseless song manufactured to get you on the dancefloor. The lyrics are inconsequential, though there’s one lyric that always stood out to me as particularly cute.
It's hot, disco inferno
Let's go you're now rocking wit' a pro
I get doe to flip doe to get mo fo sho
Get my drink on then get on the dance floor
Look homie I don't dance all I do is this
It's the same two step wit a lil' twist
I love to imagine all of the members of G-Unit performing what 50 describes as “a two step with a lil’ twist,” especially because he just said he doesn’t dance.
Just a Lil Bit
Gunz Come Out
My Toy Soldier (feat. Tony Yayo)
This is my low-key banger of the album, and a song that I still listen to today. It’s got that classic G-Unit style where the two collaborating artists have a cute little relationship within the world of the song, and it’s based on BLOODSHED. The premise of the song is that 50 has a “toy soldier” aka a hit man of some sort that he can tell what to do. 50 opens the song by describing his toy soldier, and then the final verse is Tony Yayo AS the toy soldier, describing his exploits as an employee of 50 Cent. This is the chorus: I put that battery in his back
I'm the reason why he move like that
That's my muh'fuckin toy soldier
I tell him pop that gat, he gon' pop that gat
You don't wanna play with my toy soldier
I say it's on then it's on until your life is over
Fuckin' with my toy soldier
If he's a casualty of war, trust me I got more
You don't want it with my toy soldiers
Yayo’s verse injects some power and energy to close out the song, ending with the lyrics:
In a whip masked up, lookin' for his enemies
Riled and gassed up, off double D batteries
His last casualties, is hooked to them IV's
(50 gimme the word) That's when I squeeze (yeah!)
Click-clack, take that, fall back
It's a contract, 50 grand, I'm 50 man
Position of Power
Build You Up (feat. Jaimie Foxx)
This is one of my favorite aspects of any gangsta rap album from the aughts. It’s the classic love song that has no place on this album. This song attempts to display some humanity in 50, and it does better than any other song on this album. If you only heard this song, you might be convinced that 50 Cent is a hopeless romantic who just wants to settle down with a nice lady. He admits some faults, specifically his inability to communicate clearly: “But on some real shit, communications could be better / So I'm writing this song instead of a love letter.” He then goes on to propose cohabitation with his love interest: “If you wanna play house, we can play house then / But wait, why pretend when you can move in? / Before I be your buddy in bed let me be your best friend.”
God Gave Me Style
Boastfulness. Kind of reverses his position from the previous song.
So Amazing (feat. Olivia)
Another love song. It also demonstrates 50’s inability to display vulnerability, even if it’s just to pretend. Olivia’s hook offers some sensitivity with “I adore you” and “you’re so amazing” but 50’s verses display much more of an interest in sex than in the object of his affection.
“Then I don't wanna be right
Matter of fact, I'd be on the next flight
Trying to get it on with you tonight
Do the things you like
Touch the right spot, have ya piping hot
While the wind blow through ya hair in the drop
Just lay back, relax to the sounds of the sex
And let me do what I do until you climax
You can go straight to sleep after it's all over
In the morning, roll over and we can start over”
I Don’t Need Em’
Hate it or Love it (G-Unit Remix)
I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, what you did, as long as you like “Hate it or Love it” and its many incarnations.
BONUS “Window Shopper”
BONUS “Best Friend” (feat. Olivia)
Part THREE: Critical Reception of the Massacre
The Massacre received a range of reviews from incredibly positive to abhorrent. The positive reviews tend to focus on 50’s ability to make catchy club anthems, while the negatives criticize the manufactured image that tries to appeal to too many sensibilities. Essentially, the curated image of a street-hardened yet hard-partying-dandy killing machine 50 Cent was just right for some critics, and a visible stain for others.
It holds a metacritic score of 60%, which isn’t the worst thing in the world.
From The Guardian’s Alex Petridis: “The album is devoid of any of the factors that make the best gangsta rap disturbingly compelling: the nihilistic self-loathing of the Geto Boys, Snoop Dogg's sly humour, NWA's social anger. There's nothing except a string of cliches so limited that repetition is unavoidable, as evidenced by the opening trio of tracks. In My Hood, on which he threatens to beat someone's girlfriend up, is followed by This Is 50, on which he boasts about his arsenal of "clips" and "hollow tips"; this precedes I'm Supposed to Die Tonight, on which he throws caution to the wind and threatens to beat someone's girlfriend up, then boasts about his arsenal of "clips" and "hollow tips".
The Massacre sounds like the work of someone for whom music is merely a sideline, a distraction from the serious business of perpetuating a violent, ghoulish side-show. Depressingly, you suspect 50 Cent knows exactly what his audience wants.”
“Jackson is no big shakes as a rapper, but as a lyricist he's a disaster. He can't do metaphors - at one juncture he claims to have the dancefloor "hot as a tea kettle" - and his idea of humour involves referring to fellatio as "licking the lollipop". “
Part FOUR: Does The Massacre have any relevance?
I wonder if this kind of phenomenon could ever happen again…an invulnerable superstar becoming more of a superstar in a time when we uncritically consumed whatever we were spoonfed? 50’s downfall (which honestly wasn’t much of a downfall) was years away.
Many of the songs in The Massacre won’t be played at the club unless the crowd is older. There are fun songs here, but this album is NOT Get Rich or Die Trying. It’s not even close. Whatever Lightning in a Bottle that 50 Cent had in 2003 had metastasized by 2005 into a monstrous terminal growth.
Do I still recall this album fondly? Of course. Am I excited to listen to a few of these songs again, sure. But The Massacre is more of a cultural accomplishment than a musical one.