Artist: G Unit
Album: Beg For Mercy
Label: Shady / Interscope
Rating: 6 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
First time I heard this I hated it. Couple of tracks that were worth a second spin, but nothing else of merit. That’s why I never wrote it up. Its also the reason why you never saw an A to the L review for “Get Rich Or Die Tryin'”. 50’s Shady Records debut took a LOOOOOOONG time to hook me. A very long time. And despite the fact that I now would go as far as putting it on the list as one of 2003’s best records, I still really don’t rate it THAT highly. I guess that shows how poor last year’s output was from the Hiphop industry as a whole – but that’s another story.
Anyway : I guess you don’t need me to tell you about “Get Rich Or Die Tryin'” or the plan that 50 had from the jump-off for him and his G-Unit homies based on his predicted success with that album. Built around throwaway give-the-people-what-they-want gangsta lyrics (did you know he was shot 9 times? Yawn…), hooks that drilled their way into your brain despite your best efforts to resist, and some truly stunning beats that often made up for the absence of any real substance to the lyrics, “GRODT” was a multi-million selling smash, that let 50 bust down the doors and through subsequent interviews, concerts, and the all-important mixtape freestyles, introduce us to his Gorilla Unit chums – Lloyd Banks, Young Buck and Tony Yayo.
Again unless you’ve had your head buried someone strange for the last year and some change, you’ll know that Lloyd Banks is the gruff one who looks like the hybrid offspring of Craig David and Rakim,Young Buck is from Nashville, Tennessee and used to roll with Juvenile and Cash Money before 50 put him on, and Tony Yayo despite being rated more highly than 50 by mixtape fiends, is never around to prove it on official releases cos he’s always getting his ass locked up.
And so, ladies and gentlemen, after sitting on it for a while to see if it would start to grow on me the way ol’ 9-shots’ joint did, I give you the review for G-Unit and their album “Beg For Mercy”. For all intensive purposes you may as well call this “Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ Part 2” – it’s the same themes, the same style of hooks and half a dozen of the same style of hot beats as the previous release – the only difference this time is that 50 shares out mic time with his homies a little more on this release.
Things kick off with the Hi-Tek produced, ‘G-Unit’ the first of a couple of tracks produced by Talib Kweli’s partner in crime. Here he lays down a simple 4-note horn loop that beats its way into your skull as 50 and company toss out their gangsta credentionals.
“See I’m holding on this cannon and your life I’m demanding
Put the pipe to your melon and your brains on the pavement.”
Inspired. Next 50 will be telling us he got shot 9 times or something. In the background, Tracie Spencer wails dramatically but with no true feeling, making no worthwhile addition to an already average track with her strangled-cat warblings.
As usual leave it the good doctor to perk things up. ‘Poppin’ Thangs’ sees him go to his My-One-Good-Beat-For-Fiddy drawer (aka letting Scott Storch do it) and pull out a disgustingly thick piano roll and a set of spine-jarring drums, and then coaches 50 into dropping one of his trademark sing-song hooks. There’s no denying the result – this shit bangs. As does ‘My Buddy’ despite the cliched Scarface samples – again 50’s hook makes this a rewinder. The ominous way he almost happily sings us his little ode to his piece ALMOST makes you believe all the hype. Almost. 50 ain’t no REAL gangsta. Ja-Rule told me.
The DJ Twinz-produced ‘I’m So Hood’ is a massive stutter – a lukewarm beat that drags along, and makes 50’s hook seem incredibly forced. Maybe this is what makes ‘Stunt 101’ sound even better on this album, than it normally does as a standalone cut. Here the familiar harpsichord lilt and the Denaun Porter-produced bump serve as a welcome relief from the boring Twinz cut. Of course you all should have heard this by now : banger, banger, banger – “I’ll teach you how to stunt”, “I already wear your advance on my neck”, “The ice in my teeth keep the Cristal cold” – y’all know the deal by now. This is already one of the singles of the year – nuff said.
What’s surprising though is that the next couple of tracks actually do a good job of following up such a hot single. Firstly the sugary ‘Wanna Get To Know You’ is obviously aimed at the women, and with Joe crooning how “he really wants to fuck you baby” on the hook, and the superb use of the Marvin Gaye sample by producer Red Spyda it does a great job of hitting the target. 50, Banks, and Buck do their best to appear all romantic and shit – but we know and they know its all just a front to get the panties droppin’. Nice song to do it with though : ‘Groupie Love’ covers the same ground, but in a different way – here they’re still trying to get the women into bed, but they don’t even try to dress it up this time around – they make it plain that the G Unit is open for groupie business. This is also our first introduction to Tony Yayo on this album, and over the bouncy Dirty Swift / Bruce Wayne beat he, Banks and 50 take us from backstage to the tour bus in their tales of debauchery while Nate Dogg-soundalike Butch Cassidy helps out on the hook.
You always get the feeling though that another stutter is never too far away, and sure enough ‘Betta Ask Somebody’ and the Buck solo joint ‘Footprints’ both sound tired as hell. Here are two clear examples of what happens when tired subject matter can’t be hidden cos the beats are wack. There is nothing to distract your attention from the yawn-inducing lyrics and so a quick fumble for the skip button is called for. Hi-Tek’s second track is no better than the first, but because ‘Eye For Eye’ follows the last two sleepmakers it sounds a little better. Listen to it on its own though and you’ll hear another average beat, and the same wack bitch whining on the hook.
Common’s old mucker No I.D. finally manages to pull things out of the doldrums though – think of ‘Smile’ as ’21 Questions’ Part 2. With a similar happy, summery beat as the original, this one has “commercial single” written all over it. Me though would be more interested in an instrumental – as a Lloyd Banks solo joint it really does nothing – his non-excitable flow really doesn’t move me at all. There’s no emotion at all : someone plant a bomb under him or something – I wanna hear a different tone coming out his mouth. He needs to at least SOUND interested on the track.
Things continue with ‘Baby U Got’, a Megahertz heater. Filled to the brim with sloppy funk this cut immeditately leaps out from the turgid last few tracks (‘Smile’ aside). This cut is also a perfect illustration of how when a beat is banging, the emcees all seem to step their game up. Even the pedestrian Banks sounds good here. Buck though is the one who really stands out – his southern drawl flows perfectly over this beat.
The remainder of the album is a mixed bag. ‘Salute U’ is truly horrible – from the 7th Emp beat to the wack chorus to the cliched guntalk – its all shitstains. ‘Lay You Down’ and ‘Gangsta Shit’ similarly suffer from terrible beats, lacklustre emceeing and the most uninspired choice of titles ever. On the flipside though, ‘I Smell Pussy’ is a good look – a Sam Sneed-produced opportunity for Yayo to make another fleeting appearance, on a track where with a few tweaks, this could easily be number one material due to the catchy 50 chorus. The title track is also worth a small mention due to the good work on the boards by Black Jeruz..
This was recorded in 4 or 5 weeks while 50 and chums were on the “Roc The Mic” tour, and at times it sounds like it. In places it sounds rushed, and the presence of so much filler suggests that near the completion date for the project almost ANYTHING could have made it on there. For the most part, the emceeing is tired, cliched, and no better than average – but when its put over some of these beats it barely seems to matter. JUST like “GRODT”. As a showcase for the Banks, Buck, and Yayo solo joints in the pipeline it more than does its job, and after all the presence of Fiddy on this shit already guarantees it big sales. The real test will come when we see if the other three can hold down their own joints largely without Curtis’s help. For now though, as a beginner’s guide to G-Unit this is OK – I wouldn’t recommend running straight out and copping it – there’s too much filler – but if you see it on sale, it might be worth a look.