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This year has already featured its share of mediocre G-Unit-related product, so it was hard to expect the soundtrack to 50 Cent's rags-to-riches film to be any different. But this collection of short, punchy songs is 50's most consistent project since his debut, giving small nods to the maturity he self-consciously attempted on The Massacre and improving significantly on that disappointment.

One good decision was to limit the exposure of 50's one-dimensional G-Unit partners. This would be a stronger disc without their unaccompanied solo turns, but the additions of M.O.P. and Mobb Deep, as well as the underrated Spider Loc, provide the necessary variety.

Of course, this is really all about 50. He'll never be a great rhymer, but his sing-song nasal hooks have become a powerful asset, and occasionally, as when spelling out his "Hustler's Ambition," he attains a certain rude eloquence. However, he says it best on "What If," a more benign follow-up to his debut hit, "How to Rob." Imagining himself copping the style of almost every name in hip-hop's pantheon, he finally concludes, "Niggas can't do me better than I do." On this album, 50 does himself better than he has in some time.

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Dan Leroy

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