A creative writing professor once imparted a treasure of wisdom on his students. Instead of using a generic word like “love,” writers should paint picturesque images that for the reader to better relay these complex feelings. As he would describe it, love is the scene of two people salivating over a bucket of KFC on a couch while Skyfall plays in the background. A synthesis of passionate kisses, saliva, and honey mustard is interrupted only when a lover reaches to fetch a lone piece of food in the corner of their lover’s mouth. In short, this is the feeling of real love put in imagistic scenery. Similarly, when G-Unit decided to put away a decade of petty squabbling, tearful phone calls, and name-calling to reunite, the widespread abundance of excitement was impossible to sum up in mere four letter words, or even KFC makeout sessions for that matter.
But once that initial excitement cooled, a few incontestable facts emerged. It’s not 2003 anymore. When 50 Cent made a name for himself in the late ‘90s and early Aughts, he was propelled by a hunger to show and prove not witnessed since Nas rhyming at the BBQ. Filthy rich nowadays without having to risk dying to achieve it, his last few mainstream releases are a far cry from the tenacious Power Of The Dollar, Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, and the quintuple-platinum The Massacre. Swapping musical ingenuity for relevancy at all costs, a surplus of gimmicky (albeit hilarious at times) shenanigans surfaced while 50 simultaneously bowed to modern music trends like a follower or hashtag personified. Conversely, Lloyd Banks had pre-reunion removed himself from the stigma of 50’s wingman to blossom into a purveyor of perennially consistent mixtapes with releases like The Cold Corner series. Unfortunately, with legal issues tying his hands, Young Buck hasn’t been as active as one would hope. And while a G-Unit reunion with Game would rival a KFC order with a complimentary lemon cake because the employees were a little slow with the order, beggars can’t be choosers. Beg For Mercy, mainly featuring the incarnate group of 50, Banks, and Young Buck is undoubtedly the creative and commercial pinnacle of the core trio, and it is this group along with an emancipated Tony Yayo and newcomer Kidd Kidd that form the new G-G-G Unit on The Beauty Of Independence.
In this publicly opinionated modern world, Kidd Kidd’s inclusion in the group was met with an onslaught of pejoratives discharged from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and probably even a few startup companies in Silicon Valley to receive licensing yet. But Kidd Kidd proves himself worthy of his counterparts, and it is his stubborn confidence and deep-rooted hunger to be recognized is exactly the same ambiance that the preeminent versions of G-Unit engulfed themselves in when they were flooding the streets with G-Unit Radio mixtapes, culminating in an unshakeable street devotion. Kidd Kidd is a newcomer, but his mentality is vintage G-Unit, and he sounds right at home with his more famous counterparts. Every breath seems to suggest that he is fully aware of his distinction, so his bars are as meticulous as they are entertaining, like his verse on “Changes,” where he rhymes, “I ain’t rich like 50 but I know the man / Red emjoi faces in your text / I know you mad.”
Young Buck has always played the role of spark plug within the group, and it’s by no random act that his energetic flow is the first we hear on the instant street banger “Watch Me.” The instrumental gyrates around the same sort of accelerated, punchy drumline that dominates the likes of 50 Cent’s “What Up Gangsta” or Lloyd Banks’ “Shock The World.” Not surprisingly, the Unit stockpiles here with agile flows; torch oscillating from member to member. “I Don’t Fuck With You” slows the pace and relies heavily on the emcees. Aside from stray bullets, the main issue involving The Game and 50 Cent involved was a dispute about who wrote better hooks. Minister Louis Farrakhan was unable to get to bottom of it during the sit down, but on paper 50’s hooks don’t reek of ingenuity. But paper can’t be listened to via SMS headphones, and in prime form, 50 is able to provide just enough in the way of catchy head-bop material that doesn’t overtake nor interfere with the overall flow of the song. “I Don’t Fuck WIth You” and “The Plug” are perfect examples, and with so many eager emcees all vying for mic attention, most of the memorable moments here are realized through bars. Even Tony Yayo is better than expected, making his presence felt both on the chorus and an above average verse on “Digital Scale.”
No one following Banks’ resurgence will be surprised at his strong performance, but 50 seems like a man reborn, imbued with hunger once again. Possibly because he is back among comrades, and not standing alone getting ready to make an errant pitch like Animal Ambition, 50 is impressive throughout the six song EP. Never one to mince words, 50 speaks frankly about the dissolution of his relationship with Interscope Records CEO Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre. While the story of contract overhauls and headphone rivalry is interesting on its own merits, it is the same sort of unbridled emotion and introspection that belied tracks like “Many Men” and ultimately make “Changes” the gem that it is. The track reads like it was crafted for therapeutic reasons in begrudging fashion rather than contrived, gimmicky ones. With the old band back together, it remains to be seen if the respective members of G-Unit will be able to rival the quality of music that rocketed them into the limelight, but with The Beauty Of Independence, they’re clearly in sync.