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A tame CD from 50 Cent: 'Before I Self Destruct'

Since 50 Cent gambled and lost the last time he released an album - remember The Bet with Kanye West over who'd sell more albums? - this time, he's leaving little to chance.

"Before I Self Destruct" (Aftermath / Interscope) essentially collects all the examples of what made Fitty one of the decade's biggest stars in one place. He brings the hard songs to maintain the image, the soft songs to woo radio and the ladies and, of course, the beefs to generate publicity - a combination that has worked before, but with decreasing effectiveness each time.

On "So Disrespectful," Fitty takes on Young Buck, Young Jeezy and his archrival The Game. ("Come on, Game, you'll never be my equal, your homies shoot dogs, my -- shoot people.") He needles Jay-Z, saying, "Jay's a big man, he's too big to respond," and he slams his ex-girlfriend Shaniqua Tompkins, who lives in Dix Hills with their son, Marquise.

>> BACKSTAGE PASS: Hear new music from 50 Cent, John Mayer and Norah Jones.

But that all feels kind of tame compared to other rap battles he's launched. He's far better on the brash "Death to My Enemies," riding Dr. Dre's distinctive beat masterfully, as the insults pile up and the body count rises.

Where Fitty has improved most is in showing his softer side - teaming with R. Kelly on the crude-but-catchy "Could've Been You" and truly shining with Ne-Yo on the unstoppable current single "Baby By Me." It's only a matter of time before 50 Cent realizes these kinds of songs are where the big money is for him.

50 CENT

"Before I Self Destruct"

THE GRADE B

BOTTOM LINE Fitty rolls out another slab of prime beefs.

>> BACKSTAGE PASS: Hear new music from 50 Cent, John Mayer and Norah Jones.

>> MORE ARTISTS DROPPING CDS:

John Mayer's "Battle Studies"

Leona Lewis' "Echo"

Norah Jones' "The Fall"

"American Idol" alum Kris Allen's debut CD

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