Three years ago, 50 Cent was a struggling rapper with a permanently shelved major-label debut (Power Of The Dollar), a widely publicized violent past, and a single ("How To Rob") that seemed to piss off half of rap's biggest stars. Eminem obviously saw more than a little of himself in that song's blithe put-downs of rap's elite, and after he publicly endorsed the rapper and signed him to his label, 50 Cent went from never-was to instant superstar. He was ubiquitous on the 8 Mile soundtrack, where he engaged in the sort of pop-star bashing that Eminem has relegated to the occasional single. To understand the enormous hype behind 50 Cent's official debut album Get Rich Or Die Tryin', it's important to know the backstory. Otherwise, 50 Cent looks like just another post-2Pac thug wallowing in Dionysian excess and gangsta nihilism. A ready-made superstar, he comes with all the pop-gangsta accessories: scuffles with the police, important connections, a high-profile beef with another pop-gangsta superstar (Ja Rule), a prominently displayed physique, a pitch-black sense of humor, crossover ambitions, and the requisite sexism and homophobia. The only thing unique or interesting about him is his raspy voice and woozy flow, both of which suggest the meandering ramble of a prizefighter whose speech suggests a lifetime of being punched in the face. The rapper has already scored a pair of hit singles, 8 Mile's weirdly hypnotic "Wanksta" (included here as a bonus track) and "In Da Club," produced by Dr. Dre. "In Da Club" is the sort of song DJs and publicists like to refer to as a club banger, but the grim, joyless track is better suited for sullen staring than dancing. "Like My Style" is a livelier stab at luring folks onto the dance floor, with 50 Cent's punch-drunk flow finding an ideal match in producer Rockwilder's futuristic ping-laden minimalism. While "21 Questions" unconvincingly tries to refashion the rapper as an LL Cool J-style loverman, the none-too-subtle title of "P.I.M.P." seems more typical of his attitude toward women. A handful of Dr. Dre-produced material and three inspired bonus tracks provide clues as to what Dre and Eminem see in 50 Cent, but Get Rich Or Die Tryin' only intermittently justifies the buzz surrounding the rapper's career.