G-Unit is a brand name. Anyone with his eyes near a television in the past year could see their cavalcade of albums frittering their time in the greasy spotlight. Lloyd Banks disappointed, Young Buck actually succeeded (though no one seemed to give a damn), The Game got ex-communicated and now Tony Yayo, the often-imprisoned, marginally skilled wingman, gets his turn to handle the rock.

Music Reviews
A gangster with puppy eyes? Never a good sign. (Courtesy of G-Unit)

The clothing line is in stores, the video game and movie are coming out this fall and the cover art and liner notes on Thoughts of A Predicate Felon — our hero off to one side of the photo, caught in a hustler’s repose — look exactly like Lloyd Banks’s Hunger For More. 50 Cent has taken all of his friends and put them in the rap world’s “Groundhog Day.”

But considering Yayo is far and away the least charming, most maladroit rapper in the stable, Predicate Felon could be heaps worse.

“So Seductive,” the serviceable first single, is an open-palm slap of a tune, stuffed with cracking, unstable hi-hats and a weird static effect that numbs Yayo’s pride: “My waves keep spinning, my charm get major women / You know them black and them white and them Asian women.” 50 Cent wisely takes a verse of his own and laces the track with an easy, Richard Scary hook.

Fresh out of the joint, Yayo wisely lets his impressive (frightening?) experience do most of the talking for him. He knows women don’t love him, he knows what it’s like to watch a man die (“Homicide”), etc. This is all fine work, and the cinematic, rumbling production that appeared on all of the other G-Unit releases as well make a nice, albeit temporary, aural impact.

But oh, oh the missteps. Concealing Yayo’s weak points is exactly what a musically boring, big-budget vanity project is supposed to do. Putting a dude whose last name means coke in a wart-riddled, thug-love jam about a girl with an abusive husband (“Curious”)? Eh, not the move I had in mind. Let Eminem and his increasingly pathetic production ability (big, confrontational strings; unoiled, Abrams Tank percussion) make a song about how dangerous he and Yayo are together (“Drama Setter”)? More than a little expected, and little more than fast-forward fodder. He did it for The Massacre and it stunk, so why again? But hey, it worked for Banks, Game and 50. Goose and gander are inseparable in the disturbing oligarchy of G-Unit. Forfeit your name; get some bills; repeat with new guy.

Why? Because this is fast-food rap, McThugs and McHustlers all around. No skits, no concept and tracks ordered without any particular aesthetic effect in mind.

It’s not screamingly bad, just musically the same buffet kids have been slurping from since ’02. Angry, angry drums and the creaking blades of Pro-Tools noise. If you liked the weaker tracks from Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (which is clearly the golden mold for all 2kwhatever rap) you’ll have no trouble tolerating this.

Predicate Felon doesn’t spelunk any new depths in foulness for the genre, it just sort of hovers near the cave entrance. Yayo’s genuine enthusiasm for the dank keeps “I’m So High” off the ground, but it’s the same old story: quiet, tinny effects on the verses leading to the achy-breaky keyboard synths in the chorus. Yayo’s old mix-tape career gets cannibalized for “Pimpin’,” one of the few charming songs. Thankfully, it doesn’t do much more than a few tiny digital-guitar frets and his boasts about forgettable women of all shapes and sizes. Simplicity kind of works for Tony but it’s not the real G-Unit manifest destiny.

Hey, this might sell four million copies, but toss it between anything else from the G-Unit Limited Outfitters, and you try and tell the difference.


Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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