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Nowadays, it’s a prerequisite in hip-hop: You blow; you put your crew on. You’ve seen it happen time and time again, so it should come as no surprise that 2003’s Cinderella Story/Rookie of the Year/Top Selling Artist is unveiling his clique.

You know his name: 50 Cent. And if you’ve been listening, you know his crew: G-Unit.

“I’ve been promoting G Unit since before I even had a record deal,” says 50. “All the music I put out music on the mixtape circuit was 50 Cent and G Unit.”

G Unit is 50 Cent flanked by the metaphor-laden rhyme animal Lloyd Banks and aggressive Southern street soldier Young Buck, and supported by the still-incarcerated Tony Yayo, who is scheduled to be released at the top of next year (Free Yayo!). The album is Beg for Mercy. And what separates Beg For Mercy from your typical supporting crew effort is that it reaches the high-water marks of its predecessor, Get Rich Or Die Tryin’.

“I understand that Beg for Mercy will be compared to Get Rich Or Die Tryin’,” says 50. “Even though it’s a different project, many people are viewing it as my second album. I approached this album with the same intensity and applied the same quality control measures that I did with my own record. I couldn’t allow a dip in any of the performances.”

“50 treated this album like it was his own,” concurs Lloyd Banks. “We went hard. We’ve recording constantly since Get Rich or Die Tryin’, but we made sure only the best of the best made the final cut.”

Those “best of the best” includes the first single, “Stunt 101.” Produced by Denaun Porter (aka D12’s Kon Artis, who also produced Get Rich or Die Tryin’s “P.I.M.P.”), “Stunt 101” finds the G Unit bragging, boasting and reflecting on their hard won fame, while maintaining their street ethos. 50 observes that haters “like me better when I’m fucked up and ashy”; Young Buck admonishes that “I can’t even walk through the mall no more”; and Banks thinks forward: “I already figured out what to do with all my features/ decorate the basement full of street sweepers.”

Beg for Mercy bypasses one-dimensional caricatures and hackneyed descriptions of ghetto life. Produced by Chicago’s No ID, “Smile” is a sublime, light groove; an ode to love, dedication and understanding performed solo by Lloyd Banks. “Footprints” interpolates prayer, gospel vocals and astute observations by Young Buck. On the Eminem-produced “Game,” 50 takes a few well-placed shots at high-profile industry adversaries — and not the usual suspects you’ve come to expect.

G Unit was formed by 50 Cent, with life-long friends Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo a few years ago, while 50 was shopping for a record deal. Banks and Yayo—who had established themselves as the premier emcees in their Southside, Queens neighborhood via local mixtape appearances—were more than formidable rhyme partners; they were trustworthy confidantes and road dogs. “Yayo and I were taking all of the meetings with 50,” says Banks. “We came up with the G Unit concept because 50 didn’t want to shop himself simply as an artist. Who better to be in a group with than someone you trust on all levels?”

The G Unit rap troupe has expanded to include Nashville, Tennessee’s Young Buck, a former affiliate of New Orleans’ Cash Money Records who originally struck an alliance with the G Unit while on tour. Buck had impressed 50 and the G Unit during a rhyme cipher to the point where they made a promise: whoever secured a record deal first would come back for the other. “I was always more aligned with Juvenile than the rest of Cash Money,” says Buck. “When his situation stopped working for him over there, I stopped dealing with them as well because my loyalty was to Juvie. And 50 was man of his word. As soon as he got on, he extended an invitation.”

Since 50’s signing with Shady/Aftermath, G Unit has blossomed to include a Reebok-sponsored line of athletic shoes, a clothing company in partnership with Ecko Unlimited and a record label through Intersc
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