50 Cent, Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2003)
Label: Aftermath, Interscope, Shady
Get Rich or Die Tryin' wasn't just the most anticipated debut record since Doggystyle, it was also a major milestone in pop culture, breaking one of hip-hop's biggest stars, living up to the expectations, and transcending boundaries to become a truly climactic crossover moment for the genre.
The record managed to balance it all: There was its hero's mythos and the backstory that rendered him a kind of hip-hop superhero. There was the flawless production, thanks in part to legendary guiding light Dr. Dre. It was hip-hop without apology, helping to define the parameters of the genre and its widescreen, blockbuster largess.
It's nearly impossible, it seems, for artists to debut with this level of success anymore in a disintegrating industry; for that reason, Get Rich or Die Tryin' also represented the high water mark of hip-hop's domination of mainstream America. — DD
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