There's a five-year gap between the unleashing of G-Unit
's debut album -- 2003's Beg for Mercy
-- and the more casual dropping of the follow-up, T.O.S.
, as in Terminate on Sight
. Even so, 50 Cent
's crew remains the thing that anchors his hip-hop career, connecting him to the streets through mixtapes, guest appearances, and venomous beefs with other rappers, including two of its own. The war with former member the Game
is ongoing, but what's new here is the dismissal of Young Buck
, a complicated matter that had Buck
playing the thoughtful thug in turmoil while 50
acted as the unforgiving hard boss, G-Unit
's supreme capo. As the album dropped, Buck
was out and his five T.O.S.
tracks are relics from the mixtape world, albeit worthy ones that deserve their aboveground status. Throwing its guns in the air and making the club rumble, the addictive "Rider, Pt. 2" is quintessential G-Unit
, and when Buck
declares "Even if 50
drop me/I still wouldn't sign" on the cut, it's a drama-filled bonus for fanboys. Buck
also figures into "I Like the Way She Do It" -- a typical 50
club track in a "Candy Shop" style -- and the thug pledge of allegiance "No Days Off," a track where he feels the odd man out. Without him, the trio of 50
, Lloyd Banks
, and Tony Yayo
is a lean and tight attack unit with Banks
as cool and cold as ever, while 50
come off as newly inspired. 50
's return to form finds him delivering sly lyrics like "I'm a work of art/A ghetto version of Mozart
/I move the keys/They call me the Piano Man" and making the hood rock like it's 2003 all over again. On the other hand, Yayo
has never sounded so good, stepping his game up with a faster and more urgent style dropping wittier lines like the title track's "I kick Game
like Pele and Beckham." The minimal, Dre
-influenced beats are back in abundance, most supplied by those promising unknowns 50
always seems to discover, save superstar productions from Don Cannon
for "Let It Go," with gun-talking dancehall superstar Mavado
as guest vocalist, plus Swizz Beatz
, who brings the blitzkrieg to "Get Down." If there's a reason to be disappointed it's that the broken promises -- the announced Eminem
, Dr. Dre
, and Lil' Kim
tracks are missing and "Straight Outta Southside" isn't really a commentary on the Sean Bell shooting after all -- could have made this a more well-rounded effort. T.O.S.
isn't an around-the-world affair, and with the Buck
tracks included -- as good as they are -- it isn't thematically sound either, with 50
, and Yayo
one minute, then re-creating Beg for Mercy
the next. Even with its wobbly mix of yesterday, today, and a better tomorrow, T.O.S.
is much closer to classic than failure and should reassure fans that this slow-moving tank is pointed in exactly the right direction.