Shady Records/Interscope - 2003 - 69 mins

Your best mate (named Marshall Mathers) gets you a record deal. Then rap svengali Dr Dre chimes in with promises of production wizardry. Things are looking pretty sweet for 50 Cent. With friends like these, the odds are stacked towards getting rich, rather than dying tryin'.

50 Cent is muscle-bound and heavily-tattooed, with a vulgar eye for jewellery and a dental assistant's eye for headgear. He pulls moody faces for the camera. He used to be a drug-dealer. Mummy - I'm scared.

When gangsta rap originally blew up, its studied amorality seemed outrageous. Until then, no-one had dared to deliver ghetto stories in such a cynical, cold-hearted way. Unfortunately, the shock of the new soon gives way to dull complacency; before long rappers with criminal backgrounds became a cliche. Gangsta rap has already travelled from the Sex Pistols to Sigue Sigue Sputnik.

50 Cent has rolled straight off a production line marked "MTV hip-hop star" and could be regard as typical of the current crisis in mainstream rap music. There is no sign of new musical or lyrical territory on 'Get Rich Or Die Tryin'. Instead 50 Cent's debut is a skilfully-marketed and utterly predictable commercial hip-hop album. By the genre's recent toilet-level standards it is just about acceptable.

Dr Dre actually contributes a couple of tracks, despite splashing his name on the front as "Executive Producer" (normally a sign of a hands-off, name association sales ploy). The hand of the master is obvious from the first bars of 'In Da Club', his trademark predatory prowl lending much needed urgency to 50 Cent's indifferent delivery. 'Heat' sounds like an out-take from Dre's 'Chronic 2001', with a nagging keyboard and effectively echoing snares, but 'Back Down' treads dangerously close to self-parody. Elsewhere, the melodica and strings-driven excess of 'Life's On The Line' is pleasingly over the top.

There may be the odd engaging musical moment but lyrically we're in desperately familiar territory. Hustling, drug-dealing, getting paid and popping caps. The same tiresome clichés are trotted out for an audience of white suburban teens. Track 17's title says it all. It's called 'Wanksta'.

Luke McManus

Tracklisting: Intro - What Up Gangsta - Patiently Waiting - Many Men (Wish Death) - In da Club - High All the Time - Heat - If I Can't - Blood Hound - Back Down - P.I.M.P. - Like My Style - Poor Lil Rich - 21 Questions - Don't Push Me - Gotta Make It to Heaven - Wanksta - U Not Like Me - Life's on the Line