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The sirens of two of hip-hop’s titans

Two of hip-hop’s largest egos take off their gloves in this battle of multiplatinum titans.

How many inflated, hip-hop egos can you fit into one release date?

Apparently more than one, but less than two of the biggest heads in hip-hop. Things got cozy Sept. 11 when 50 Cent (a.k.a. “Fiddy”) and Kanye West both released their third albums, sparking a lot of sh!t-talking and strutting.

The drama all started when Fiddy reportedly said he would end his solo career if his “Curtis” didn’t outsell Kanye’s “Graduation.”

Although this “beef” is all about the publicity swirling around their shared release date, the fake feud forced fans to choose a side and pick a winner.

Both albums are solid, featuring tight, well-constructed tracks. Production errors won’t keep either of these albums from beating out the other.

Where the artists differ most is in the sound itself, which is probably the main reason “Graduation” is schooling “Curtis” in sales.

West has always had a less confrontational sound than 50 Cent, which makes him more marketable to those who don’t normally listen to hip-hop.

West has clearly matured musically, with “Graduation” featuring a wide variety of sounds, tempos and guest spots. He also cut out all the corny skits that dropped his previous collegiate-themed albums below 4.0.

Kanye’s fame is based on his ability to be hip-hop while not embodying stereotypical hip-hop. “Graduation” accepts and flaunts this juxtaposition. Songs like “Everything I Am,” exemplify this introspective vibe. Kanye is anything but self-conscious, but he is definitely thinking about his image and his being throughout “Graduation.”

Kanye raps in a laid-back voice rarely heard by the fast-paced thinker and sayer: “OK, fair enough, the streets is flairin’ up/Cause they want gun talk, or I don’t wear enough/Baggy clothes, Reeboks, or A-di-dos.”

West, like most commercially successful rappers, is all about the “stadium statement,” those songs that pack the club floors and fill the stadium seats on tour.

“Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” a heavy, swaggering beat with a one-in-a-million chorus is the epitome of why Kanye will beat out 50 in the charts. The lyrics are catchy and easily remembered, but the song still maintains some street cred through its boastful, cocky attitude. It’s poppy enough to transition well into heavy rotation on top-40 radio, while still being hood enough to get play on hip-hop stations.

From the first skit on “Curtis,” which talks about buying the kind of gun that demands respect and turns the holder into a man, this is Fiddy being Fiddy, ghetto-fabulousness that doesn’t necessarily mesh with top-40 playlists or listeners. “Curtis” is raw, with confrontational beats and in-your-face lyrics reminding listeners that 50’s still in the club, still sipping bub and still wearing a vest.

“All of Me,” featuring Blige, is perhaps the best track on the album. Miss Mary’s voice is strong and confident enough to counteract Fiddy’s ridiculously sexist lyrics, like: “I’m soakin’ it all up while your girl suckin’ me/It meant the world to her/It’s nothing but a nut to me.” Blige speaks up for all the women wondering if degrading females so badly actually works for Fiddy’s game. Blige asks, “Now if I give you all of me/ What you gonna give me back?”

In contrast, the album’s other songs for the ladies are horribly sub-par. Fiddy falls flat on “Follow My Lead,” featuring R&B singer Robin Thicke, and “Amusement Park,” with lyrics like, “Watch me as I pull a rabbit out my hat/ It won’t be a rabbit, it’ll be a gat.” These songs are as cheesy as Kanye’s skits.

The worst tracks on “Curtis” are the ones where he is blatantly trying to create a cross-over appeal. “Ayo Technology,” the album’s third xsingle but first success, features Justin Timberlake and Timbaland. But not even these two kings of pop can save this digi-stripper bomb.

In the end, although the battle-of-the-Titans thing works to push album sales, the importance of the clash of the egos is that it pushed both artists to step up their game.

Regardless of who sells more albums, they can both back up their egos with rare talent, which has been missing from hip-hop for a while now.

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