Revisit one of hip-hop's dopest crews.
Last night, Young Buck announced that a new G-Unit mixtape called Power would be dropping "anytime," and anybody born in the late eighties or early nineties was instantly hit with a nostalgic wave. While G-Unit has undergone a few roster changes over the years, it's hard to dispute that the crew was at their prime during their run from 2002-2005. When 50 Cent, LLoyd Banks, Tony Yayo & Young Buck joined forces on a track, the end result was often an exceptional blend of high quality gangsta rap, punchlines, fire beats, and unapologetic charisma.
Their 2003 album Beg For Mercy stands tall as the group's finest project, and may very well be a near-classic (or a classic, depending who you ask). Before that, the Unit were killing industry beats without mercy, dropping mixtape after mixtape of pure bars. While Lloyd Banks has since become somewhat of a musical recluse, there was a time when he was basically the craziest rapper out, impressing legions with his flow and punchline finesse.
With nearly thirty mixtapes, two studio albums, and several solo projects, it's pretty difficult to narrow down a list of ten. The Unit's legacy runs deep, and while they may never return to their glory days, it never hurts to go back in time to relive some of the crew's finest bangers.
10. My Buddy
This Scarface-inspired ode to heat all but kicked off Beg For Mercy, and 50, Banks and Buck make short work over Eminem's eerie production. With haunting choirs, sirens and gunshots ringing off throughout, "My Buddy" pulls you into G-Unit's shady underworld, where packing heat is not only necessary, but fun.
9. Stunt 101
By the time Beg For Mercy dropped, 50 Cent was no stranger to mainstream success. The question was, could it carry over to his crew? "Stunt 101" quickly confirmed that G-Unit would be carrying on where 50 left off. Over some futuristic production from Denaun Porter (aka D12's Kon Artis), 50, Banks & Buck channel their inner professors and provide some valuable life lessons.
8. That's What's Up
Admittedly, this might be a personal bias, as "That's What's Up" was the first time I ever heard Lloyd Banks. His scene stealing verse came with relentless punchlines, including the hilarious "pussies love Nelly, he made it look cool to wear band aids." For once, it seemed as if one of the crew could hold their own with the leader, and while Lloyd Banks never really reached 50's commercial plateaus, this mixtape classic solidified him as one of hip-hop's most underrated lyricists.
7. Victory Freestyle
Not unlike the previous cut, "Victory" finds Lloyd Banks putting on another lyrical clinic. 50 Cent channels his inner Diddy over the iconic Notorious B.I.G. beat, serving up the warmup before tagging in his general for the fatality. "I know the watch bothering your vision, but reach and I'll put a dot on your head like it's part of your religion." Yikes.
6. Bad News
From the moment the Sha Money XL instrumental kicks off, G-Unit's opening hook showcases everything that made them so effective - camaraderie, melody, and charisma. With verses from Banks, 50, & Tony Yayo, this underrated 50 Cent Is The Future joint definitely stands the test of time. In fact, it feels like a time capsule of sorts, capturing the inherent tension of the era where mixtapes were still burned and peddled on the street. You know this album came in a jewel case with some one sided artwork, and we wouldn't want it any other way.
5. Hate It Or Love It (G-Mix)
While The Game's G-Unit run ultimately ended rather catastrophically, at least we got this banger as a result. While the original featured a back and forth between 50 and Game, the remix added the welcome presence of Banks, Buck, and Yayo. While Yayo's time in jail distanced himself from the group he helped found, it was nice to see him back rhyming with his collective. There was something special about hearing Tony Yayo and Young Buck back to back, as if uniting two disparate era's of the Unit.
4. Banks Workout Pt 2
They simply don't make music like this anymore. I mean, listen to 50 Cent's opening chorus, the iconic "G-UNIT" ad-libs, and the classic Whoo Kid gunshot sound effects. As evidenced by the title, this one is basically all Banks, but can you really hate on that? Honestly, it's almost crazy how many bars dude has in the repertoire, and he keeps them coming with consistently impressive flows. And while the lyricism is certainly on point, it wouldn't be the classic it is without 50's hook, which no doubt had people everywhere stuttering their g's.
3. We All Die One Day ft. Obie Trice & Eminem
I was torn about placing this one on the list, let alone this high. While it's technically an Obie Trice track, the song features verses from both Lloyd Banks and 50 Cent, as well as some dope ad-libs from the talk of New York, Tony Yayo. Lloyd Banks shows off his own penchant for catchy hooks, delivering a threatening message in a singsong baritone. With a top-tier verse from Shady Records Capo Eminem, "We All Die One Day" is one of the definitive tracks of the Shady/Aftermath/G-Unit era. The mere fact that Eminem is rapping on a track with G-Unit makes this one monumental.
2. Poppin' Them Thangs
"Poppin' Them Thangs" was one of the earliest collaborations between G-Unit and (in my opinion, GOAT) producer Dr. Dre. Luckily for fans, Dre and co-producer Scott Storch (don't sleep) brought his A-game for this one, lacing the Unit with one of their signature minor-key piano bangers. It's one of those tracks that hooks you in from the get-go, with a classic 50 hook and some mainstream accessible gangster rap. While G-Unit eventually drifted away from Dre and Em's musical direction, the former ultimately provided some of G-Unit's finest production, capturing a vibe that was at once foreboding and hard.
1. G'D Up
Dr. Dre and G-Unit collide once again for their magnum opus, the melancholic, ice-cold "G'D Up." Over a beat that emulates rolling through the hood at four in the morning, 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks, and Young Buck spit poetry about their visceral reality. Young Buck closes off the track with a standout verse - "my fingernails still filled with cocaine residue, I still got the heart to go and bust me a head or two" - and "G'D Up" stands the test of time as one of the Unit's darkest efforts. One can only imagine what an entire G-Unit & Dr. Dre album might have looked like.