Tuesday, June 14, 2016

"2 in 1" --> G-Unit

Welcome to another "2 in 1" session on the blog. This post will focus on the the two studio albums from G-Unit, 2003's "Beg For Mercy" and 2008's "T.O.S. (Terminate On Sight)." In addition to the music, I'll also talk in depth about how the crew went from riding such a respectable wave of momentum at first, only to see that same momentum seemingly come crashing down as fast as it emerged. And speaking of G-Unit, if you haven't done so already, you can revisit the blog archives and check out my "50 Cent Journey", where I highlight all of 50's solo albums from the unfortunate shelving of "Power Of The Dollar" up to "Before I Self Destruct", and all of it is quite the interesting read I must say! As we head into "Beg For Mercy", allow me to talk about the crew for a bit. Looking back at '03, this was the year of G-Unit. 50 was one of the hottest MCs in the game with his "Get Rich Or Die Tryin" album becoming massively successful, along with "Wanksta", "In Da Club" and "21 Questions" enjoying lots of radio and TV play. Joining 50 on this mission were Lloyd Banks, who has credited the mixtape scene (and how 50 changed it) to getting him his start, Young Buck, former member of UTP Playas crew, representing Nashville, Tennessee and Tony Yayo, who was incarcerated at the time "Beg For Mercy" hit stores. I also recall Yayo being an interesting factor at this point, because even though he was briefly heard on the aforementioned "Get Rich Or Die Tryin" and BFM, somewhat of a buzz surrounded him in terms of the role he would play once he got out of jail, and we all know how that turned out. So, now that we got that out the way, the first part of this "2 in 1" we're heading back to '03 in the form of "Beg For Mercy!"


Release date: November 14, 2003


1. "G-Unit"
Young Buck, 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks, Background Vocals by Tracie Spencer
Produced by Hi-Tek

I remember a few people I knew at the time thought this was a Dr. Dre production, and I chuckled at that a bit, however, that's a great compliment to one Hi-Tek, because the keys and drums he provided this opener with would make you think it was a Dre production (it's that good). You couldn't have asked for a better start to this album and over the course of 3 verses, 50, Banks and Buck give you what you would expect from them.
*4 out of 5*



2. "Poppin' Them Thangs"
50, Banks, Buck
Produced by Dr. Dre and Scott Storch


On a Mobb Deep mixtape, hosted by DJ Whoo Kid and released sometime in '04, featured a DOPE song with the Mobb and 50 with a variation of this same title, check it out below:



I'm not sure if this was before or during the Mobb's tenure with G-Unit, but it remains quite the banger, which brings us to this Dre and Storch produced joint, another apply titled banger itself. All 3 men were feeling it on this one and that certainly wasn't new when it came to aggressive, gunplay flows.
*5 out of 5*

"I preach a sermon bout the paper like I'm Creflo Dollar/I pop you punk niggas like I pop my collar" -50

"Now take a look at how my lifestyle changed up/I'm on now, goddammit, I done came up" -50

"I got a fetish for the stones, I'm heavy on the ice man/If I ain't got a pistol on me, sure I got a knife fam/Get out of line and I'll lighten yo ass up/Semi-automatic's spray, I'll tighten yo ass up, what!" -50

"Slow down lil nigga, don't exceed your speed/Cause I'll put G's on your fitted like the Negro League" -Banks



3. "My Buddy"
50, Banks, Buck
Produced by Thayod Ausar

The lyrical gunplay talk continues with this one, as 50, Banks and Buck use the g-u-n as a running metaphor, which in turn is their "best friend/buddy." We certainly have heard songs like this before, but when they're done right, the results are usually very good and that's what we get here.
*4 out of 5*



4. "I'm So Hood"
50
Produced by DJ Twinz

No matter what the situation is, you can't take the hood out the man and that's the impression I get with this one, another appropriately titled song. To say 50 was hood is a complete understatement and this song, along with others before it, explains why he feels he's more hood than anyone he knows. Oh, and I'm going to deduct points for him needlessly taking a shot at Mr. Cheeks from the Lost Boyz.
*3 out of 5*


5. "Stunt 101"
50, Banks, Buck
Produced by Denaun Porter



"My royalty check's the rebirth of Liberace/Stunt so hard, everybody gotta watch me" -50

"When it comes to stuntin, there's nothin you can teach us/We're in a different time zone, your records don't reach us" -Banks

"Come on now, we all know gold is gettin old/The ice in my teeth keep the Cristal cold" -Buck


Remember when stuntin, aka "showin off", was the order of the day, along with spinning wheels and the like to match, lol? It definitely seems like a long time ago, but there was a point when you would hear some form of stuntin in a song, especially those that were played on the radio. This G-Unit joint hasn't aged all that well, but it's still a good song for what it is.
*4 out of 5*



6. "Wanna Get To Know You"
Buck, Banks, 50, Additional Vocals by Joe
Produced by Red Spyda



Joe's hook here tells you all you need to know about this Marvin Gaye sampled ("Come Live With Me Angel") song, truly intended for the ladies. 50 said, "all you need to do is love me and be loyal", and I'm thinking, would your lady get that in return 50, lol, just saying. Again, this one is for the ladies 100 percent.
*3 out of 5*


7. "Groupie Love"
50, Tony Yayo, Banks Additional Vocals by Butch Cassidy
Produced by Dirty Swift and Bruce Waynne

The crew shows "love" to the groupies, you know, the countless number of females that grace their shows, literally wanting to do any and everything to get next to a celebrity, especially ones with the (then) star power of 50. This song also marks the first of two appearances by Tony Yayo, which wasn't impressive to say the least but he did stay on topic, which shouldn't be too difficult on a song like this.
*3 out of 5*


8. "Betta Ask Somebody"
50, Banks, Buck
Produced by Fusion Unltd and Jake One 
If you don't know, you betta ask somebody, and at this point, you had to have been living under the proverbial rock if you didn't know who the G-Unit click was. Standard fare here.
*3.5 out of 5*


9. "Footprints"
Buck
Produced by Nottz

Even though 50 does the hook, this was essentially Buck on the solo tip. Good song, nothing more.
*3.5 out of 5*


10. "Eye For Eye"
50, Banks, Buck
Produced by Hi-Tek

Make no mistake about it, these men ain't turning the other cheek for nobody, that's for sure. Hi-Tek brings another pretty good beat for the 3 man team to bring forth their aggressive flows.
*4 out of 5*



11. "Smile"
Banks
Produced by No I.D.

Backed by a mellow, well worked sample courtesy of "I Too Am Waiting" by Syretta, Banks, with 50 on the hook, comes with a joint for the ladies and it's more smoother than "Wanna Get To Know You", something the ladies and the fellas can enjoy I think.
*4 out of 5*



12. "Baby U Got"
50, Buck, Banks
Produced by Megahertz

There's never anything wrong with showing LOTS of love to the woman and "what her mother gave her" and this song was just screaming for a verse from Snoop Dogg. Those are the only two things I can say about this song.
*3 out of 5*


13. "Salute U"
Banks and Buck
Produced by 7th EMP

"We'll try to take up them lanes from around you/He'll get shots for free like I flagrant fouled you" -Banks


You can take this as Banks and Buck showing true loyalty to 50 and the G-Unit cause, military style with a hip hop twist, also saying that they were ready for combat, anytime, anywhere.
*4 out of 5*


14. "Beg For Mercy"
50, Buck, Banks
Produced by Black Jeruz and Sha Money XL

This dope title track was short, sweet and to the point, featuring the lyrical aggression one would come to expect from G-Unit.
*4 out of 5*



15. "G'd Up"
50, Banks, Buck
Produced by Dr. Dre

The production provided by Dre along with the 3 verses from the crew ultimately give this one such a gangstafied sound, almost as if they were trying to go the epic route, but just kept it gangsta, if that makes sense. I like this one right here.
*4 out of 5*



16. "Lay You Down"
50, Buck, Banks
Produced by Khalil 

At this point in the album, if you have no idea what this song is about, I don't know what to tell you outside of it being the standard G-Unit fare.
*3 out of 5*


17. "Gangsta Shit"
50, Buck, Banks
Produced by Needlz

This seemingly continues on right where "G'd Up" (and honestly "Beg For Mercy") leaves off, such a dope, apply titled song with three aggressive verses.
*4 out of 5*



18. "I Smell Pussy"
50, Banks, Yayo
Produced by Sam Sneed

The two most notable things about this song is 1) it was produced by Sam Sneed, best known for the classic "You Betta Recognize" from the "Murder Was The Case" soundtrack, and 2) the opening part, in which 50 took shots at Murder Inc. and I'm sure you've heard that intro before. It's somewhat all over the place, because on one end you'd think this song was a Murder Inc. diss, and on the other end, it focuses on the crews adventures with women. Either way, history has not judged this song to be a classic in any form and while it was hot at one point, it hasn't aged all that well and it comes off as an anti-climatic close to an otherwise very good album. (The song will be posted for the intro and its beat.)
*2.5 out of 5*




Overall, this was a very good, 3.5 star album. As mentioned, this was about what you would expect from 50, Banks and Buck at this point, and while I'm not wishing Yayo was still locked up or anything, I feel any additional contributions from him on this album would've brought things down. "Stunt 101", "Poppin' Them Thangs" and "Wanna Get To Know You" graced radio and TV in '03 heading into '04, and the results spoke for themselves, leading to 377,000 units moved in its first week (and remember this was released the same day as Jay-Z's "The Black Album"), achieving Double Platinum status with 2.7 million units sold (5.5 million worldwide). Recommended.

After this release, the momentum continued for G-Unit. In 2004, Banks and Buck dropped their debut solo albums, "The Hunger For More" (moving 433,000 units in its first week, Certified Platinum) and "Straight Outta Cashville" (361,000 units moved in its first week, Certified Platinum), both very good albums. 50 was still on such a roll, as he released "The Massacre" in 2005, with a highly impressive 1.14 million units moved in its first week, achieving 6X Platinum status and also a very good album, Yayo released his first and only album to date that same year, "Thoughts of a Predicate Felon", but outside of a few highlights ("So Seductive", "Drama Setter", "Live By The Gun" and "I Know You Don't Love Me"), the album was simply not very good and the last I heard it somehow went Platinum. After all of this success, things would drastically change all around for the crew, I would say starting in 2006, which leads into a nice segue as I head into the second G-Unit album, "T.O.S. (Terminate On Sight)".


With 50 taking somewhat of a hiatus, things continued on with Banks and Buck releasing their second albums. The former came with "Rotten Apple" on October 10, 2006, and while decent (and Certified Gold), it was nowhere close to the quality of his debut and the released singles had less of a buzz. It also didn't help that in the midst of a sexual encounter with two women, an original copy of the album, originally titled "The Big Withdrawal" (no pun intended, lol), was leaked, leading to Banks to scrap it and apparently record new material for "Rotten Apple." Buck would release "Buck The World" on March 27, 2007, and again, while a good album, it was a slight step down from his debut and the singles has less of a buzz (see a pattern here). It was clear that the momentum G-Unit had previously was slowly diminishing. Things would rebound slightly when 50 released his third album, "Curtis", on September 11, 2007, head to head against Kanye West's "Graduation." I've talked about this before, but even though 50's album moved a respectable 691,000 units in its first week (later going Certified Platinum) and "I Get Money" making noise, he was soundly defeated by Kanye and the follow up singles to "I Get Money" missed the mark. All of this brings us to "T.O.S.", but there's more. The actual year escapes me, so in either '07 or '08, Buck was unceremoniously dropped from G-Unit after the release of "BTW", and this may or may not have had something to do with the beef between 50 and The Game (depending on who's telling the story), and in what could be considering either a highly questionable or highly punk move, 50 released a recorded phone conversation with himself and Buck that featured Buck in an emotional state of mind and apparently begging to back with the crew. This didn't help matters because on the "TOS" album, they still keep Buck's verses intact, but he's listed/credited as a "featured artist." ALL of this, loyal reader, brings us full circle to 2008 and the release of "TOS", some 5 years after "Beg For Mercy." (The album title was changed three times, from "Shoot To Kill", to "Lock & Load", then to "TOS.")





Release date: July 1, 2008


1. "Straight Outta Southside"
Banks, Yayo, 50
Produced by Ron Browz

Wow, this opener is actually better than I remembered, and at 2:36, it doesn't overstay its welcome. As a nod to N.W.A.'s classic "Straight Outta Compton", this was very acceptable, featuring hardcore verses from all involved, even Yayo.
*4 out of 5*



2. "Piano Man"
50, Yayo, Banks
Featuring Young Buck
Produced by Tha Bizness

Bizness came through with a West Coast styled, piano laced beat, can't say that all involved do it justice though. I applauded 50 for apparently interpolating Jay-Z's "I move keys... you call me the piano man" from Freeway's "What We Do", but so much more could've been done with this one. And man, I hate to say it, but Buck sounded so out of place here, which is remarkable considering how effective he was on "Beg For Mercy." It's ok, nothing more.
*2.5 out of 5*


3. "Close To Me"
50, Banks, Yayo
Produced by Teraike "Chris Styles" Crawford



If the allure of money, nice cars, etc, was to get the women to come a little more closer, it may have succeeded in that regard. Aside from a pretty forgettable verse from Yayo, 50 and Banks were feeling it here and I attribute that to the thumping production by Mr. Chris Styles (also the album's third single).
*4 out of 5*



4. "Rider Pt. 2"
50, Banks, Yayo
Featuring Young Buck
Produced by Rick Rock



The album's second single, featuring a beat that was originally used by 40 Glocc on "Where Them Hammers At", is ok, but missed something to make it standout. Furthermore, I could've done without 50's autotuned hook (that was the "in thing" at this point as I've alluded to many times on the blog) and the truly uninspired verses from Yayo and Buck (the latter's verse was cut out of the video that was released).
*2.5 out of 5*


5. "Casualties Of War"
50, Banks, Yayo
Produced by Ky Miller

When I think of the title "Casualties Of War" in a hip hop form, I immediately think of Eric B. & Rakim's song from the "Don't Sweat The Technique" album, not this one from G-Unit. 50's hook is laughable at best, plus with a slightly busy beat, this one does nothing for me. Bring in another beat, plus a DIFFERENT hook and an aggressive tone from 50 and Banks, you'd have a much better song in the process.
*1.5 out of 5*


6. "You So Tough"
50, Banks, Yayo
Produced by Ky Miller

I like this one right here. Granted, it's nothing we haven't heard before, but this one works. Also, I'm beginning to notice that Yayo, who brings a surprisingly decent verse here, seems to base his performance on the production. If the beat is dope, he seems to try a little more (I'll give him that), but if the beat is underwhelming, he follows suit, intentional or not. 
*4 out of 5*



7. "No Days Off"
50, Banks, Yayo
Produced by Dual Output

They still "put in work" when they're not in the studio, that's what this is about right? I guess, but then again it all adds up to it being your standard G-Unit fare here.
*2 out of 5*


8. "T.O.S."
50, Banks, Yayo
Produced by Ty Fyffe

Man, this is SUCH a dope title track, featuring an aggressive opening verse by 50, with Banks right behind him with a show stealing verse of his own. Even Yayo's forgettable verse can't interrupt the flow of this one. It may be the best song on the album.
*4.5 out of 5*



9. "I Like The Way She Do"
50, Yayo, Banks
Featuring Young Buck
Produced by Street Radio, Inc.



Since this was the choice for the album's first/lead single, I can see why reception was largely lukewarm to say the least. simply because we have heard this done before and better (did 50 not learn anything from the less than enthusiastic response to "Amusement Park") and the beat, outside of the hook and bridge (the best parts of the song) was annoying. And don't get me started on Yayo and Bucks verses, smh. Let's move on.
*1.5 out of 5*


10. "Kitty Kat"
50, Yayo, Banks
Produced by Hit-Boy

Um no, hell no. Could this song be any worse than the previous song? Well, the answer is yes. I don't even want to waste your time by posting the actual song, it's not worth it. This mess is right up there with Fat Joe's "Porn Star" as one of the worst songs I've heard in recent times, even though both songs are not new.
*1 out of 5*


11. "Party Ain't Over"
50, Yayo, Banks
Featuring Young Buck
Produced by Damien Taylor 

I can see why plans to have this released as the 4th's single were cancelled: the song itself, again, is something that has been done before and better and the underwhelming sales of this album certainly didn't help matters either. And do I even have to comment on the verses? 50 is 50 and Banks tries to bring some life (and laughter) to this, but man, the production and the "shake your head" worthy verses from Yayo and Buck just throws this one off the rails (was it a coincidence that Buck's verses on this album were last). Do me a favor: do not play this at any party unless you want an empty dancefloor and/or your guests leaving in droves.
*1.5 out of 5*


12. "Let It Go"
Banks and Yayo
Featuring Mavado
Produced by Don Cannon

The underrated Don Cannon brings a real reggae/dancehall type vibe to this one. Add in the guest spot from Mavado and a tight opening verse by Banks, you have a winner here. (Yayo's verse was merely ok, but all things considered, this should've been a Banks solo spot.)
*4 out of 5*



13. "Get Down"
50, Yayo, Banks
Produced by Swizz Beatz and The Individuals

50's opening verse and Banks verse save this one from being such a forgettable song, plus Swizz could've came with something better for these men to rock over.
*2 out of 5, for 50 and Banks verses*


14. "I Don't Wanna Talk About It"
50, Yayo, Banks 
Produced by Jake One

Right off the bat, Jake One's production sounds JUST like something out of the Timbaland playbook. After ALL the success these men enjoyed since '03, it was a little too late to say "they didn't want to talk about it", especially since a good portion of their songs, individually and collectively, featured them talking about the same things they claim they don't want to talk about in the hook (their overall success), so right there the song loses credibility points, and they proceed to talk about those very things in their verses, smh+lol. I may be taking it more serious than I should, but work with me here.
*2 out of 5*


15. "Ready Or Not"
Banks and Yayo
Produced by Jake One

"Cause niggas get hit and call they lawyer/And try to sue you, that's a bitch nigga for ya" -Banks

"I think God spent a lil extra time on me/Pop planted a miracle seed my mom ain't see" -Banks

"My paranoia rolls wit my bullet holes/Givin me a 3rd eye, my foes can get a magazine full of those" -Banks

"Me without my gun in the streets is like a Muslim eatin pig feet/Fuck the pigs on the street/They all wanna off a nigga/And when these rappers get shot, they ain't gangsta they turn into corporate niggas" -Yayo


If the title track is the best song on this album, this one is right behind it. Not only does Yayo comes with a nice verse, probably his best ever, Banks simply OWNS this one and showed why he was likely the most underrated out the crew. TIGHT stuff here.
*4 out of 5*



16. "Money Make The World Go Round"
Yayo and Banks
Produced by Ron Browz

Again, when I think of this particular song title, what comes to mind is Scarface's song from the "Untouchable" album, not this one. Banks once again saves this one, while Yayo comes with verse that are less engaging and more generic.
*2 out of 5*



Ok, ok, let's get to the bottom line, lol. The highs here, the title track, "Let It Go", "Straight Outta Southside", "Ready Or Not", "You So Tough" and "Close To Me" are great and they save this album from complete and utter mediocrity. The lows are just that, LOWS, and it's some of the most underwhelming material you would ever hear coming from this crew. I won't even put the blame solely on Yayo, because the bloom was already off the rose with G-Unit and the momentum was probably (all) gone way before this album hit stores (no one was interested, not even the hardcore G-Unit fans). In addition, 50 was basically on cruise control this entire album, trying hard to hold things down mostly/mainly with his star power, Banks seems like the only one trying and as far as I'm concerned, he is the star of "TOS", Yayo was more miss than hit, but that was expected and possible breach of contract aside, they shouldn't even bothered with including Buck's verses on any of the songs because those uninspired contributions served NO purpose. Compared to "Stunt 101", "Poppin' Them Thangs" and "I Wanna Get To Know You" in '03, "I Like The Way She Do It", "Close To Me" and "Rider Pt. 2" saw LESS attention and failed to sell this album. Speaking of which,  the sales was a disappointment, because while "Beg For Mercy" was a Double Platinum success, "TOS" moved 102,000 units in its first week, only to have a total of 272,000 units moved as of February 2010, which is a massive drop and a dare I say a flop. I'll say this, based SOLELY on the aforementioned highlights, this album gets a 2.5 star rating because said highlights are worth your time. Unless you have some extra time to kill, need a good laugh or want to see how things fell for G-Unit as a crew, don't bother with the remainder of this album. 

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