“G-g-g-g-g Unit!” You should all know that phrase by now, but here’s the first actual album from the Guerrilla Unit – individually known as 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks, Young Buck and the currently incarcerated Tony Yayo. Beg For Mercy was put together this summer during Jay Z‘s showcase Roc The Mic tour and it’s been almost impossible to escape the torrent of promotion – but has it all been worth it?
These four “soldiers” set the tone with opener G-Unit and its military march beat, but it’s a slow start to the album. It happily mills along with other average songs until first single release Stunt 101 comes in with its almost comic like melody and lyrics. Okay, so Stunt 101 is a track teaching you how to be a gangsta, or more accurately how to live large. Unfortunately there’s not too many of us who have the capital to buy 20″ chrome rims, let alone the Bentley to stick them on.
Time for some smoothing then – after all 50 Cent’s 21 Questions was a massive success. Wanna Get To Know You sort of fits the bill; slow paced and very rhythmic. Joe, of Stutter fame, lays down the chorus and makes it painfully clear that this isn’t a sweet serenade: “I wanna be your lover / I really wanna f**k you.” Smile is in very much the same vein and begs the question of whether G-Unit are R ‘n’ B wannabes keeping up a hip-hop fa�ade?
Groupie Love continues where P.I.M.P left off, almost. The theme is the same, but Butch Cassidy‘s vocals keep it softer, slower and frankly less good. There’s room for a sly dig at R Kelly here, and you’ve got to laugh at it: “You on the R Kelly s**t / Your bitch is barely grown.”
Footprints takes on a Negro spiritual feel and is an extension of a famous Bible verse. It would appear that those diamond crosses aren’t just for show. Thankfully, it’s not exactly an example of a “holier than thou” philosophy, more like a token “this track’s for the Big Guy upstairs” kinda thing.
Redman‘s Smash Sumthin’ showed there is space for classical samples in rap. With that on board, G-Unit take a Bach sample and make it bling in Salute U. However, the song doesn’t have much effect and would it take too much for artists to stop using text message slang in their song titles?
The two best songs on Beg For Mercy are lumped together towards the end of the album. The title track has a heavy beat and tight rhymes, but it is 50 Cent’s hook that “rips it up”. The undoubted stand out track, however, is G’d Up. Dr Dre‘s production here shows why he is regarded as the best in the game. The beat is haunting with its harmonic piano loop, and it’s blissfully bass-ful. Slow but hard hitting, gangsta lyrics rapped with heartfelt and perfect execution – you can’t ask for too much more. One listen is all it takes for G’d Up to leave an impact.
After that, the album meanders to a disappointing end. Unfortunately, G-Unit look destined to join the ranks of famous hip-hop crews leaching off one star’s fame. It will take something miraculous to avoid them slipping into the same category as Tupac‘s Outlawz, The Notorious B.I.G‘s Junior Mafia, or even Eminem‘s D12. It’s not like Beg For Mercy is awful. However, without 50 Cent’s prominence on the album it may well have been.