Though backing posses had become de rigueur for commercially successful rappers by the early 2000s, 50 Cent's posse, G-Unit, is somewhat exceptional, as showcased on its album debut, Beg for Mercy. Following 50's unsuccessful stint with Columbia Records during the late '90s, he returned to the streets and willfully assembled a backing posse, with himself as the superstar and his cohorts as his street-level representatives, thereby ensuring himself future street credibility and enough firepower for entire mixtapes. The plan paid off in spades as G-Unit worked the mixtape circuit, releasing one after another, while 50 in turn blew up in 2003 with his solo debut, Get Rich or Die Tryin', yet maintained his street cred with his well-bred posse, touring extensively and releasing still more mixtapes. All of this made the eventual release of Beg for Mercy a real event -- and all the more so because Murder Inc had announced that they would simultaneously release a new Ja Rule album and go head to head, sales-wise (though they wisely reconsidered), and because Interscope bumped up the release date of Beg for Mercy to November 14 (citing bootlegging concerns) so that G-Unit could contentiously go head to head with Jay-Z and his much-anticipated Black Album. It's thus difficult to distance yourself from the aura of hype surrounding Beg for Mercy and evaluate it as music rather than as an event. Of course, when you deflate the album of its hype, it's not quite as exciting as it probably sounded fresh out of the cellophane first thing in the morning on November 14, but it's still a considerably exciting listen nonetheless. For one, 50 and his cohorts (Lloyd Banks, Young Buck, and on two long-ago-recorded songs, an incarcerated Tony Yayo -- with no guests whatsoever) are sky-high on confidence here -- brash as hell, taunting the world and absolutely reveling in their newfound celebrity. For two, G-Unit get a wide array of fresh beats from a legion of up-and-comers, along with a few former collaborators: Dr. Dre, Red Spyda, No I.D., Megahertz, and Midi Mafia. For three, 50 takes charge like a leader should, lacing pretty much every track with his trademark singsong hooks and prominently appearing on every one of the 18 tracks. And lastly, G-Unit stick to the script -- guns, women, haters, drugs, wealth, and more guns -- and deliver exactly the album their fans wanted. As for highlights, there are a few: the Dre/Scott Storch album opener ("Poppin' Them Thangs"), the flashy lead single ("Stunt 101"), a laid-back Marvin Gaye-sampling pimp anthem ("Wanna Get to Know You"), Lloyd Banks' crossover bid ("Smile"), and a Yayo mixtape favorite ("I Smell Pussy"). For the most part, however, Beg for Mercy is surprisingly solid, sounding very much like a whole rather than the usual hodgepodge of singles and filler. Granted, 50 sometimes sounds like he's unenthusiastically coasting, but Banks and Buck bring the heat consistently, proving their respective worth quite well. Even so, Beg for Mercy doesn't measure up to Get Rich or Die Tryin', but then, how many rap albums do? Surely not many, and when you measure Beg for Mercy against any standard rap album circa 2003, it's very satisfying, especially if you're hungry for some more 50 after having played out Get Rich months earlier.
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
feat: Tony Yayo
feat: Tony Yayo