With any band of brothers, there’s always going to be a certain adversarial aspect to the dynamic. Predicated on ambition, upward mobility and pride, the high velocity world of music does little to deter the combustible nature of close allegiances between artists. This treacherous industry has torn apart families, childhood friendships and romantic entanglements without a semblance of remorse. Burdened with the weight of expectation and mounting fame, it can be a pollutant into the bloodstream of a group that had once seemed inseparable. While hip-hop is filled with groups that have colourful histories– think Wu Tang, Terror Squad or The Geto Boys to name a few– no outfit has been plagued with as much internal conflict as G-Unit.
G-Unit on MTV’s TRL, 2003 – Scott Gries/Getty Images
Never known to back away from any kind of skirmish, their willingness to embroil themselves in battle is by no means limited to those removed from their inner-circle. Amid all of their beefs with rappers from across coastlines and fraternities, the self-styled Guerilla Unit has endured countless internal quarrels that varied greatly in terms of severity. Split between verbal and physical altercations, the latest conflict between its de-facto leader 50 Cent and Cashville import Young Buck is just the newest instalment of the tumultuous relationships between the two.
Waged over social media, the current spell of bad blood between Buck and the newly rechristened “Fofty” has reached a fever pitch over memes, accusations of 50 hampering his southern counterpart’s career, music video removals and monetary disputes.
Once synonymous with hip-hop’s upper reaches, it’s hard to equate the G-Unit that we see today with the austere, black-clad united front that was depicted on the cover of 2003’s Interscope debut Beg For Mercy.
With this in mind, the resurgence of this feud gives us the perfect window to explore the laundry list of internal incidents, and examine why beef has been such an integral cog and overarching presence in the careers of 50 and his G-Unit soldiers at large.
An interview with AllHipHop way back in 2005 gave Fifty a chance to clarify the ethos that propels G-Unit forward:
“My intentions when coming up with the [original] name came from the History Channel. That’s why this is so exciting to me because I’m a dreamer. The only way you can get to where I’m at is through dreaming, because there was a point where no one believed I’d get here but me. So, if I didn’t have that in my head, I wouldn’t be able to make it happen.”
50 Cent, Tony Yayo, and Lloyd Banks, 2008 – Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images
Brought into existence by his unwavering self-belief, it’s no surprise that 50 would talk so impassionedly about the burgeoning empire that he’d constructed since linking up with fellow Queens natives Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo in the early 2000’s. However, what is more incongruous with both G-Unit and the 50 that we’re accustomed to is another soundbite from the same article. When asked how he’d like to spend his days, 50 adopted a pacifistic approach that is at odds with a man who’ll routinely fight numerous people online at the same time:
“[My ideal world] would be peaceful. It’ll be hella boring, I think after experiencing what I have, it’ll be interesting.”
Known for his business savvy and shrewd investments, it’s impossible to know whether this was a genuine sentiment he felt at the time or a way of retconning his reputation for lyrical and physical warfare. But as is often the case, the “ideal world” of serenity that he sought and the life that he leads have been irreconcilable with one another. Never one to suffer fools gladly, his unyielding thirst for prosperity has led him to rule every aspect of G-Unit’s enterprises with an iron first. For evidence of this near-dictatorial zeal, you’d need only look at the testimony of DJ Whoo Kid. The turntablist at the helm of the prolific G-Unit Radio mixtape series, the man that was drafted in after “the first DJ got stabbed and left town, went to Tennessee or somewhere” has spoken about 50’s unconventional approach to constructive criticism and staff motivation:
“It’s up to 48 [times being fired] now. I don’t mind getting fired because I guess he’s so used to doing it so much that he gotta keep firing me. You could go on YouTube and see all the countries I got fired from. I didn’t want to fuck up with 50 on stage because during those days, he was ruthless. He was smacking everybody. He was smacking people per day. He was smacking everybody on the bus. If he had nothing to talk about or to do, he would smack random people on the bus.”
Given this alleged penchant for physical reproach, it’s no surprise that the first inkling of G-Unit’s inner turmoil that ever emerged quickly escalated to life-threatening proportions. As a fellow Dr. Dre protégé, The Game’s affiliation with G-Unit always seemed to be more of a contractual obligation than a case of kindred spirits. After his sophomore album The Massacre was postponed to accommodate the west coast MC’s debut album The Documentary, ill feeling and disharmony quickly bubbled to the surface and resulted in 50 infamously sitting in the backseat during the “Hate It Or Love It” video shoot. During an interview with Vibe, Fif conceded that things had a tendency to get out of hand between them and that it all came down to indignance on Game’s part:
“Only between me and him. He’s real opinionated. He hasn’t been around long enough to know that he needs to listen. Everybody else knows that.”
50 Cent and The Game, 2005 – Peter Kramer/Getty Images
Not content to abide by 50’s every word, tensions would come to an all-time high after 50 publicly dismissed the Compton rapper from the group’s ranks on-air at Hot 97. 10 minutes later, a shootout would ensue and pave the way for the most notorious beef between 50 and any of G-Unit’s expatriates. The catalyst for over 100 diss tracks, countless reconciliations and a fight between The Game and latter day G-Unit soldier 40 Glocc, it remains one of the biggest incidents in 50 Cent’s career and the repercussions are still felt today.
After Game’s acrimonious departure, the next dissenter would come in the shape of their southern stalwart Young Buck. Announced two months before their sophomore major label record T.O.S back in 2008, the one-time Cash Money and UTP member would receive similar treatment to The Game and had his services relinquished on-air at Hot 97. As outlined to DJ Envy on the morning show, Fif spoke openly about the hierarchy in the group and why Buck’s mindset is endemic of how the other members conduct themselves on the whole:
“I think you have to give them something to blow it out of proportion. Buck did that. I think that what he was saying, in order to validate himself as a man, he feels he has to go against what I’m doing, similar to some of the things we’ve seen from Game. … [But then] he’ll back off of it, when we’re in direct conversation. When he’s out in public, he’ll say something. They’re like my younger brothers, but they’ll do s**t for attention. They’ll do things, then when I look like, ‘What are you doing?'”
Although they’d eventually reconvene in 2014, 50’s depiction of what goes on behind closed doors provides us with a clear-cut insight as to why conflict is so hard-wired into the crew’s genetic make-up. Considering he once aired a taped conversation in which Buck cried over his financial woes, it’s clear that 50’s unscrupulous business tactics know no bounds.
Known to flit between amicable terms and long periods where they no longer speak, the career trajectory of G-Unit’s most loyal soldiers– Tony Yayo and Lloyd Banks– has seen them regularly languish in the hulking shadow of 50 Cent. 50 once declared both G-Unit members to be “spoilt milk,” adding that he had “enabled them” to enter a creative malaise. Banks decided to finally rescind his membership to the crew once and for all in 2018. With 50 extending his blessing to the “punchline king,” the only man to seemingly remain at 50’s side from those glory days is Tony Yayo.
Much like DJ Whoo Kid, Yayo has been quick to acknowledge the tempestuous nature of being in 50 Cent’s orbit. However, he’s portrayed it as nothing more than an integral and accepted part of the group’s dynamic:
“Loyalty is my biggest thing. 50 helped all of us eat. We all had mansions; we all had Bentleys; so if Fif is in a bad mood or feels a certain way that day, you just eat that. You learn to judge your friends for who they are.”
Tony Yayo, 50 Cent, Young Buck, Kidd Kidd and Lloyd Banks (the new era of G-Unit)at iHeartRadio Music Festival, 2014 – Bryan Steffy/Getty Images
To conclude, it only seems right to extract one final bit of evidence from the group’s epicentre himself. While 50 doesn’t go so far as to suggest that their relationship is subject to his frame of mind at that moment, he does concede that mistakes were made on his part. A 2014 interview with Rolling Stone saw 50 point towards a design flaw within the formation of the Unit.
“I wouldn’t have built something that required me as their center,” he told Rolling Stone. “I would’ve built it so it functions on its own. When you look at it, they’ve sold millions of records on their own. If they weren’t so strongly associated [with G-Unit], they’d probably have crews under them. They didn’t really have an interest in doing that because they [already] had a strong association and had so much fun in the position they were in at that point.”
Above all else, this remark encapsulates what led to G-Unit’s downfall and why tensions remain high between its original members to this very day.
A tale of tragedy and triumph, the sordid history of G-Unit is one of the most fascinating of any group over the past 20 years. It all boils down to the needs of the business conglomerate taking precedence above even the most tight-knit of friendships.