If there is one thing you can habitually count on in hip-hop, it’s crew love. Once a member explodes onto the solo scene, it’s almost a right of passage for that artist to put his crew on and let them shine as well. Think back. Minus a few exceptions, almost every emcee that has managed to create space from the rest of the pack, has attempted to bring his crew along for the ride; Notorious B.I.G. & Junior M.A.F.I.A., Nas with The Firm and soon Bravehearts, Big Pun & Terror Squad, Nelly’s St. Lunatics, 2Pac had the Outlawz, Eminem has D12 and Wu-Tang Clan’s fall from grace culminated with a slew of B-level projects. So it’s only right that after being dropped by Columbia and blitzing the mixtape circuit with their help, 50 Cent would christen his fledging imprint by releasing the proper debut, Beg For Mercy, of the G-G-G-G Unit (50 Cent, Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo, and Young Buck).
Aside from the hotter then fish grease buzz that 50 Cent roasts in, Lloyd Banks promised ascension to “The Next Shit” and Em’s promotional tactics (wearing a “Free Tony Yayo” shirt while at the Grammys), G-Unit does have history working against them, as the majority of these “Super Group” unions have failed to meet expectations—and Beg For Mercy is no different. Though the crew is not lacking reinforcements, Lloyd Banks proves his hype is warranted on the blingly lead-single “Stunt 101″ where he weaves in a subtle Ja Rule diss, proves he has the make-up to generate palatable radio fare with his solo-excursion “Smile” and over a dark and ominous track from Dr. Dre steals the show on G-Unit’s most cohesive team effort “G’d Up”—”I put an end to your career bitch/before you speak on 50/buy 40 and a spare clip/these ni**as gassed up/getting to used too rap/like I won’t give em more blood clots then Supacat.”
But with 50 leading the way, G-Unit incurs the same problem that’s plagued previous crew efforts; as with one dominating member at the helm, there is always a tendency to subconsciously tune everyone else out. And minus flurries from Lloyd Banks, that trend continues on Beg For Mercy, as 50 delivers impressive forays on Hi-Tek’s “Eye for an Eye”, shows his gift for crafting catchy hooks on “My Buddy” and sets the tone on “Gangsta Shit” and Dr. Dre and Scott Storch’s sinister “Poppin Them Thangs” where 50 breaks down his appearance with Vivica Fox at the VMA’s with the coolness of Ike Turner “After the VMA’s my baby mama cussed my ass out/I kicked her ass/we back friends like Puffy and Steve Stoute.”
While one of AfterMath/Shady Records’ staples has always been alluring production, one of the first things that jumps out about Beg For Mercy is that the majority of the production duties are outsourced here, as Dre chips in a mere two tracks (which just happen to be the strongest cuts on the LP) and Eminem is credited with only two co-production nods. This leaves a void that is filled by ten other producers, which yields little continuity; exemplified by the monotonous “Groupie Love”, “Baby U Got”, and the slow eloping “Better Ask Somebody”. And with the incarcerated Tony Yayo reserved to a very limited role (two solo cuts), his spot is occupied by former Cash Money Millionaires member Young Buck, whose southern tinged drawl occasionally sounds misplaced aside the NY mentality of 50 and Banks.
On “Salute You” G-Unit members pay homage to 50 and salute the general for the financial windfall (#1 on the Billboard charts, shoe deal with Reebok, cell phone deals) he has placed before them “50 got us right/got us caked up right now.” At least they have their cake to fall back on, as Beg For Mercy falls to meet expectations.
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