CD Reviews

If you need a dirty, dirty beat and a little bit of collaboration, 50 Cent’s new album, Curtis, may be the album for you.

The obscenity begins with the album’s inside photography, with photos of 50 Cent and a woman in strategically placed sexual positions.

The tracks are surprisingly varied for a rap album. Everyone and their mom knows that baby-face 50 Cent is the quintessential “”nine-lives”” rapper and retired crack dealer, and although Curtis Jackson III seems to have trouble not mentioning it in every song at least once, it is hard to completely hate it. He manages to successfully create a bridge between the “”gangsta raps”” of his life with the music of other artists. Some of the tracks, like the collaboration Mr. Cent does with Mary J. Blige and Robin Thicke, sound promising, unlike the track “”Amusement Park,”” which fails to mention anything but sex and drugs.

Curtis
50 Cent
Interscope Records
4 stars

The true test for 50 Cent is whether he would attempt to venture away from the remarks about and business of drugs and the exploitation of women, as he coined in his 2005 album, The Massacre. Those elements are still pretty prevalent in his music, but it is more humorous. In the song “”Fully Loaded Clip,”” 50 Cent’s lyrics are actually fairly catchy: “”When Jay And Beyonce was hmm-hmm kissing/I was cooking 1,000 grams in my kitchen.””

50 Cent gains humility in this album when he knows exactly who he is and steers clear of a false sense of ego in his lyrics.

I have to give 50 Cent, who served as the album’s executive producer, some credit for taking a chance and working with an eclectic choice of musicians, such as Thicke and Justin Timberlake. Whether it’s a step backward or forward in his career, it is a step nonetheless.

Perhaps after consumers get an idea of Kanye West’s poor attitude towards mostly everything, 50 Cent will receive more recognition for his hard work and agility. Although 50 Cent may not win over West in terms of new-album sales, he is certainly “”laughing straight to the bank with this.””

Nicky Hamila


Tim Kasher can capture the heartache of a broken relationship in a way most songwriters can’t. This becomes especially apparent on Help Wanted Nights, The Good Life’s fourth album. Omaha’s groundbreaking songwriter proves his power to initiate emotion with stories that fellow Saddle Creeker Conor Oberst lacks.

The band’s 2004 Album of the Year was heavy on narrative songwriting, depicting the demise of a year-long relationship, a technique that continues on this concept album. Kasher’s brutally honest lyricism about failed loves was taken from inspiration for a screenplay he recently wrote.

Help Wanted Nights begins with “”On the Picket Fence,”” which is remarkably simplistic yet refined. The brush-drum and acoustic guitar keep a steady pace with Kasher’s earnest thoughts as he sings, “”Well, things are good/We take it all for granted/We turn that wheel/Back to all our bad habits.””

Help Wanted Nights
The Good Life
Saddle Creek Records
4 stars

The pace picks up with “”A Little Bit More”” and the first single, “”Heartbroke,”” in which Kasher’s niche for storytelling soars with sarcastic commentary about a break-up. He sings, “”I can’t imagine how hard it’s been/On second thought you don’t seem to give a shit.”” The track is once again a testament to Kasher’s candor.

Some of the album’s finest moments are subtle and raw. “”You Don’t Feel Like Home to Me,”” another characteristic Kasher story-within-a-song, takes an outsider’s point of view of a relationship gone sour. Kasher sings, intermixed with echoing guitars, “”He sees her face/The highway signs/The traffic lights/And she’s turning red.””

Break out the tissues for “”So Let Go,”” Help Wanted Nights’ quiet crescendo of two people who can’t seem to get anything right. “”We could set our pride aside/Ignore our egos for the night/And make love/But we won’t.””

Overall, Kasher keeps it refreshingly real. Help Wanted Nights might be good to have around when moving on from that so-called special someone, too, if only to ease momentary pain.

Laura Hassett


With all the hype surrounding the release of Kanye West and 50 Cent’s new albums, it makes it seem like these rappers are comparable. But in reality there is no true competition.

West’s new album, Graduation, shows that his sound has in fact graduated, while 50 Cent is still stuck in the style of his debut release, Get Rich or Die Tryin’.

Graduation is West’s third album, in which he breaks away from the expected and samples with sounds like ’80s electro beats and reggae grooves.

As in his past two albums, 2004’s The College Dropout and 2005’s Late Registration, West shows that sounds are rarely duplicated in his music. Even the tracks on Graduation hardly mirror each other.

Graduation
Kanye West
Roc-a-Fella Records
4 stars

The outcome is an album that delivers songs you will hear at the clubs and others you can chill out to. But with that you get West’s brutal honesty and fearlessness to make music contrary to popular trends.

One of the first singles off the album is “”Stronger,”” which is blaring in most clubs across the country right now. The track samples Daft Punk’s “”Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”” and the mix of electro-disco style makes it a hit.

“”I Wonder”” is the next track, and it will get your head nodding to the beat. With a mix of harps and pianos in the background, West creates a sound that only he could imagine and only he could make a success.

“”Barry Bonds,”” featuring Lil Wayne, highlights West boasting about his talent.

“”Top-five MCs you gotta rewind me/I’m high up on the line, you gotta get behind me/but my head so big you can’t sit behind me.””

With a little help from Coldplay’s Chris Martin, West takes a different direction with “”Homecoming.”” Layered with drums and piano, the song has good rhythm.

West comes off strong in “”Can’t Tell Me Nothing”” with a downbeat tone and dark vocals but lightens the mood with “”Good Life.”” Both are hot tracks but deliver different styles.

With each song on Graduation, West shows his ability to spit out complex rhymes. This, mixed with his bluntness, is what makes him a mainstream star.

West may never take nine bullets and live through it like 50 Cent, but he will keep dropping records that are a success.

Graduation ensures that West is always moving artistically, while other rappers fall behind.

Kara Slack