Author Michael Partis has written a good retrospective look on how G-Unit rose to stardom and how the failure of their recent album (by mainstream standards at least) has signaled the demise of a once powerful crew. Read the full article with pics after the jump.
All good things come to an end. G-Unit’s run of being rap’s most influential crew is over. Let’s make it clear though. This NOT about 50 Cent’s personal career. This is about G-Unit the rap group; G-Unit the brand name. But before they fell off, hate it or love it, G-Unit revolutionized the game. “G-Unit nigga/that’s what’s up.” That was our first introduction to Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo, and 50 Cent as “G-Unit” on 50’s mixtape “Guess Who’s Back.” The key: it came on a mixtape, not hosted by a DJ. 50 Cent and his G-Unit crew were the first to successfully pull off their own mixtapes as a way of providing new music & generating new fans. They took the idea to another level by introducing the idea of recreating popular songs: keep the beat, change the words, and create a melody. Artist had been freestyling over hot beats forever; but they weren’t remaking the songs. When 50 & his crew began to do this on their mixtapes they provided themselves with a crucial advantage: they made radio-friendly music, but maintained a street presence. That is the combination every A&R, music executive, manager, or artist in the business craves for. G-Unit mastered this. In fact they had all the componant’s needed to be a dominant rap crew. The slick rhyming MC with crazy punchlines (Banks). The goon who provided “street cred” (Yayo was in jail when “Beg For Mercy” dropped). And the leader who had a superior business IQ, knew how to make records, and straight-up personified the “Hustler’s Ambition.” They had their catch phase that everybody knew (G-G-G-G-G-G-G-Unit). And best of all, they were from New York. We all know how much the industry loves to promote New York cats, and we know how much New York loves to hype New York cats. With this foundation, G-Unit attempted to create an empire that would run the rap world & stand out in the hip-hop scene. This required regional expansion, and cross-over appeal. Thus 50 scooped up a former Cash Money soldier in Young Buck to cover the South; he added Game, a Dre-protege straight from Compton. They brought on Oliva, the team’s R&B and female presence. They teamed with Marc Ecko for a G-Unit clothing line. They did collabos with R&B acts like Mary J. Blige & Avant, and Pop superstars like Justin Timberlake for commercial appeal. Then in 2006 came the real power moves. Remember this cover: It felt like the day G-Unit took over the world. It was a major movw. Not because the signings were Hip-Hop superstars, but it was like the top team in the league signing the best free agents in the game. They signed a legendary duo (Mobb Deep), one of NY’s most underrated groups (M.O.P.), brought Harlem back from church (Mase), and even got another West Coast cat (Spider Loc). It was G-Unit’s exercise in “strength in numbers.” These were the soldiers to aid the G-Unit takeover. But it never happened. In fact, it failed miserably. Even before this move, there was the Game/50 beef and fallout. And over time, most of these acts disappeared one by one (with the exception of Mobb Deep). Without making an impact once so ever. No albums, no singles, no nothing. The team’s mainstays even felt the pressure. Banks dropped a brick with his sophomore album; Yayo hasn’t put out any albums since his first, but has got the group plenty of bad press with “alleged” incident with a 14 year old. The ugly situation with Young Buck put more of the group’s business out in the street and ended with Buck exiting the group. And then, there were three.
And they could only push 102, 000 in their 1st week. They couldn’t sell more in their 1st week then Weezy sold in his 4th week. The irony is that 50 built the G-Unit brand based on his idea that they produced numbers. He pointed to hit singles, radio spins, albums sold, anything that could be counted. Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t. The lack of a hit single, the poor album sales, and the overall lack of buzz about the album all point to common theme with G-Unit over the last year: people don’t really care. At least, they don’t care about G-Unit the brand, G-Unit the Hip-Hop crew.