Beg for Mercy, the debut album from multiplatinum rapper 50 Cent’s group, G-Unit, has monster written all over it. Certainly, its themes are pretty monstrous — or they would be if a decade-plus of gangsta rap hadn’t already rendered subjects like homicide, beat-downs, and down-and-dirty casual sex business as usual. The foursome, which features 50, his fellow Queens homeboys Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo, and the Atlanta-bred Young Buck (not pictured), functions as a sort of barbershop quartet — the kind that frequents those barbershops where straight razors are used for purposes other than shaving. Most of these tracks — produced by a variety of knob twirlers, including Dr. Dre — are rife with trashy tough talk. ”My Buddy” even uses gangsta’s hoariest cliche: the ”say hello to my little friend” speech from ”Scarface.”
Amazingly, 50 and his crew are able to imbue such crassness with a sort of rough-and-tumble charm, winning you with their sheer boisterousness and the fun-house spirit of the music. And, truth be told, they sometimes let their sensitive sides show, as on perky R&B-styled numbers like ”Wanna Get to Know You” and ”Smile.” But perhaps the most touching moment comes when 50 waxes spiritual on ”Footprints,” a retelling of a popular parable: ”First there were two sets of footprints in the sand/Then there was one set of footprints in the sand/When times get hard and s— hits the fan/God don’t walk with me, he carry me, man.” Hmmm. Guess that old saying ”God don’t like ugly” might not be entirely true.