50 Cent’s shift to an independent label for his first record in five years intimated he was attempting to reboot his career by returning to his creative roots. Not quite. The MC-entrepreneur smartly eliminates the bloated production that marred his latter-day work, yet the disc is undermined by a dearth of imagination and, ironically, ambition. As with many MC’s turned multimillionaires, Fitty seems to have run out of compelling, convincing stories beyond his insular bottle-popping world. Instead of returning with fresh perspectives, he’s still peddling his hustler persona, “stacking paper like I’m trying to fix the national debt.” Paul Ryan might be the only person to find that thrilling. Thankfully, 50’s surrounded himself on some tracks with Styles P, Jadakiss, and protégé Kidd Kidd; if they don’t quite bring him back to the streets, at least they manage to reach the sidewalk. A tersely produced “Irregular Heartbeat” is infused with a menace missing amid the self-congratulation elsewhere. But while some of these hooky, singsong tracks are undeniably tuneful, they sound disappointingly insubstantial and familiar. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “Irregular Heartbeat”Ken Capobianco can be reached at email@example.com.