On the soundtrack for his first cinematic starring vehicle, 50 Cent attempts to reconcile gangsta rap's tendency to antagonize listeners with R&B's genius for silky seduction. That might seem like a tall order, but rap's biggest icons, superstars like 2Pac and Eminem, are the artists who most compellingly embody the contradictions of making sneeringly violent, aggressive music for a huge crossover audience.
To placate the Murder Dog contingent and squealing teenyboppers alike, 50 tries a few different strategies on Music From And Inspired By Get Rich Or Die Tryin' The Motion Picture. Sometimes there's a canny disconnect between a song's style and substance, as when 50 croons prettily enough to make listeners forget his lyrics' hardcore content. Elsewhere, he alternates between smoothed-out sex jams and sneering, belligerent odes to bloodshed. On his 12 contributions, 50 seemingly spends as much time singing as rapping, but while Get Rich reeks of commercial calculation, its best moments masterfully navigate the conflicting demands of the streets and the charts. "Things Change" is an appropriately bittersweet homage to Notorious B.I.G.'s "Everyday Struggle," with an emotional, attention-grabbing contribution from new G-Unit recruit Spider Loc. On the perfect pop single "Window Shopper," 50 Cent endearingly strains to hit the high notes, while the bitingly sarcastic posse cut "I Don't Know Officer" oozes film-noir malevolence. Get Rich feels safe and conservative, but its glossy, appealing texture suggests that maybe it's time 50 embraced his pop instincts instead of clinging to his waning street credibility.