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Classic Album Reviews: G Unit | Beg for Mercy / Westside Connection | Terrorist Threats

Two rap kingpins try to keep it real — but end up keeping it really predictable.

This came out in 2004 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


It’s the eternal conundrum of gangsta rap: After you become rich and famous, how do you keep your street cred? Easy — you make an album with your posse of homies.

Nelly did it with St. Lunatics; Eminem did it with D12. Next up: Rap’s newest flava 50 Cent does it with G Unit, and old dawg Ice Cube does it again with his Westside Connection crew. And, as you might expect, both of them do it rather predictably.

Beg for Mercy, the debut disc from 50 Cent and his three amigos, is the usual set of lurching beats, whomping basslines and starkly sinister soundscapes — hell, there’s even a Scarface sample — with Fitty dominating the mic to spin banal tales of guns and drugs and playas and haters and beeyotches.

Still, it comes off as cutting-edge next to the old-school sound of Westside Connection’s long-overdue second CD Terrorist Threats. Over a mixed bed of slow-rolling chronic grooves, bouncy P-Funk beats and tolling bells, Ice Cube and his homeboys cock their Glocks, check the locks and talk the talk about the post-9/11 gangsta nation.

When it comes to lyrics, you obviously have to give Cube the edge for his intelligent, politicized rhymes. But G Unit win the battle of the beats hands-down, thanks to the presence of kingpins like Dr. Dre — whose absence from Cube’s disc is both ironic and sad, considering they used to be partners in N.W.A. Nowadays, it seems Cube has to get by with a host of second-stringers whose work is a faded Xerox of Dre’s originals. But hey, Cube can always claim all those no-names are how he’s keeping it real. And keeping his street cred.