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G Unit

Beg for Mercy (Interscope)

It's been almost a year since 50 Cent told us we could find him in da club with a bottle full of bub. Since then, he's become rivals with the increasingly ubiquitous Snoop for the title of nation's favorite gangsta. He's got a lot going on -- at times it looks like he's trying to cram the sum of Russell Simmons's and Diddy's whole careers into 12 months. He's unveiled a clothing line, given the magic stick to Lil' Kim, bought Mike Tyson's mansion and given the magic stick to Vivica A. Fox. And now he's rapping again, this time with his crew G Unit on their debut, Beg for Mercy.

Unlike Simmons and Diddy, Fiddy is neither a peacenik nor a pussy. He's not lifting a finger for the kids, much less running marathons. What he's doing is making a mint -- simply because he's uniquely able to wrap his verbal mayhem and misogyny in sing-along choruses that for some strange reason don't make white people nervous. On his debut, Get Rich or Die Tryin', he mixed the sugar of tunes like "21 Questions" with the medicine of "Many Men Wish Death." Hell, the steel drums of "P.I.M.P." are so damn catchy I've even caught my mother singing the lines: "I spit a little g., man, and my game got her / Hour later had her ass up in the Ramada" and "My pimp hand's strong." Grown white women rapping along to women being beaten and pimped? This hustla has some otherworldly David Blaine-type shit going on.

With Beg for Mercy that jig may be up -- it's going to make parents wonder where it all went wrong. And they should. The first words on the album are "I'll invade your home / I'll break your bones," and songs like "I'm So Hood," "Eye for Eye," "Gangsta Shit" and "G'd Up" are much nastier than anything Eminem ever wrote. He rapped about killing his wife. G Unit is rapping about killing you.

This is flat out the scariest crew record of the recent past. Eminem's D12 sang about popping pills, but, man, those horns! Eminem practically invented the sugar-with-medicine formula. Nelly's St. Lunatics -- are you kidding? Nelly was almost a pro shortstop. 50 Cent, on the other hand, claims to have bought five grand worth of crack with his first ever record advance from Columbia, and one can't help but think that G Unit is anything but serious with the lines "I'm a gangsta and you'll find out for sure if you ever step on my toes / When I'm hanging out the window with my AK filling your fucking ass with holes."

50's old corner man Eminem had nothing to do with Beg for Mercy, and Dr. Dre participates on only the catchy "Pop Them Thangs." Both are now seasoned vets of the game, and G Unit could have moved more units -- and avoided terrifying 50's suburban female fan base -- had their guiding hands been more in the mix. But perhaps that's not why G Unit made this record. As Dave Chappelle said at his Verizon Wireless Theater performance earlier this year, "50 Cent? He gets so much airplay he oughta be worth at least a buck thirty-five by now!" Maybe he's more intent on keeping it real.

 
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