Crew Love
They made history selling millions of records as hip-hop’s most successful crew and then broke up. Now six years later, the G-Unit brothers are back together and ready to take over hip-hop again.
Compiled by Vanessa Satten, Eric Diep and Miranda Johnson

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the October/November 2014 issue of XXL Magazine.

The May 2008 issue of XXL featured a cover story with hip-hop's ultimate crew, G-Unit. Led by 50 Cent, G-Unit served as both a rap clique and a record label that housed the three other core members of The Unit, Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo and Young Buck. From 2002 to 2007 G-Unit ran the rap game with their overly aggressive attitudes, energy, actions and rhymes, selling over 20 million records as a group and as solo artists. They dominated hip-hop with hit albums and a constant flood of mixtapes while traveling around the globe to perform for fans anywhere.

But their success and familial unity was too good to be true. By 2008, G-Unit was plagued with whispers of dissension and disloyalty within the group and rumors that Buck was on his way out as he was noticeably absent from the G-Unit’s then newest mixtape Return Of The Body Snatchers. He’d also recently squashed beef with some of 50’s enemies such as Jadakiss and former G-Unit member The Game. In addition, Banks stayed uncharacteristically silent during 50’s then-recent skirmish with Cam’ron. To everyone, G-Unit didn’t have each other’s back anymore like they used to and it looked as if they might be on the brink of breakup.

The cover shoot for the May 2008 XXL happened earlier in the year in February. The shoot went down early in the day in Manhattan and the interviews happened at 50’s famed 52-room Farmington, Conn. mansion that night. Both acted as somewhat of an attempt by Fif to get the guys back together, as did their mixtape Elephant In The Sand, which they also recorded that night. Return Of The Body Snatchers h the first time the core four weren’t all featured on a G-Unit release. The goal was to have all of the artists on the tape since Buck had been absent on Return Of The Body Snatchers.

The feeling in the air was hostile as the guys, mostly Buck, went out of their way to avoid each other. Ironically that frigid February night was the last time they were all together for the next six years. Less than two months later, 50 announced on New York’s Hot 97 radio station that Buck was no longer part of G-Unit. By 2012, Banks and 50 weren’t communicating, and Yayo and 50 were on the outs. But since Yayo, Banks and Buck were still contractually signed to G-Unit Records as solo artists, they couldn’t go too far.

Yet the relationships weren’t over for the rap brothers. Sure the fans had given up hope of seeing everyone together again. So had the media. Things had all gotten messy and complicated for the artists, which made it seem like the idea of a reunion was impossible.

But that all changed when 50 hit the Hot 97 Summer Jam stage this past June and surprised the thousands of hip-hop heads in attendance by bringing Buck, Banks and Yayo out onstage with him along with new member, Kidd Kidd. New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium erupted with excitement. G-g-g-g-g-g-g-Unit was back.

On this sticky August afternoon, almost six-and-a-half years since that awkward and estranged February night, XXL is once again with G-Unit at 50’s house in Connecticut. Over the next 12-plus hours, they pose for photos and answer hard questions about the drama that temporarily broke The Unit.

Spirits are high as the guys seem genuinely happy to be together; a complete 180 from that night back in 2008. They eagerly talk about new music and the release of the newest EP, The Beauty Of Independence and the upcoming EP, The Beast Is G-Unit. It seems like the real deal, like despite all the drama this true band of hip-hop brothers has found the unity once again. —Vanessa Satten

Photo Credit: Tom Medvedich

50 Cent
The Big Homie
Interview by Miranda Johnson

50 Cent is the boss, the man in charge and he has been since he created the crew G-Unit in 2002 (and G-Unit Records in 2003). It was the Jamaica, Queens native’s intense drive and passion mixed with the monstrous success of his debut solo album Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ that ultimately opened doors for the crew. But as The Unit broke apart, 50 didn’t back down and instead pushed ahead with new ventures in the film and technology worlds. Fif still remained in control of his disgruntled artists as they were contractually signed to G-Unit Records. That layer of complication might’ve been just the thing that kept the guys attached over the years enabling the recent reunion. It was Fif who decided it was time to bring everyone back together. He wields the power. Today the big homie sits on the edge of his hot tub, across from his indoor pool and reflects on what happened with his team. —Interview By Miranda Johnson

XXL: Why do you choose now to reunite G-Unit?
50 Cent: The timing actually was what it took for it to run its course. Me and Buck’s situation happened a long time ago. With me and Banks not communicating, he still didn’t say anything disrespectful to make me feel like I had to go get him or I had a problem like that. But with Yayo, his frustrations set in and there’s no basis behind it. It’s really like there’s really no true reason that they can look at you and tell you. They didn’t explain, “I was going through feelings,” or, “Someone asked me what’s up with this and I responded by saying [something like], 'He doesn’t rock with us no more.'” It comes to Banks’ attention and he’s like, “I ain’t got nothing to do with what he’s saying.” See ’cause now Banks didn’t want to be included with what Yayo was saying, ['cause it could seem like] everything Yayo was saying, [Banks] was in agreement with. So he was reaching out to make sure that I didn’t think or feel that way.

So Yayo makes the comment on Instagram saying, "50 ain't rocking with me and Banks the same." And Banks calls you to clarify that he’s not involved in what Yayo said?
He calls me like, “Yo, I got nothing to do with that shit.” He comes to see me to talk to me about that and I’m like, “I don’t get anything out of destroying things that I built.” These are things that I built from the beginning so I just don’t really understand where that miscommunication came from to begin with. What happens is people don’t miscommunicate when you’re not talking.

We weren’t speaking to each other because there was a point where I looked at [Banks] and saw that he wanted his independence or space. This was my assessment of what his actions were. When you get to a point where he could look and say, “Nah, I don’t know if I felt that way,” but what he was doing said that to me. It’s interesting because everyone could be your boss but I could care less about running the show to this actual point. I’ve done it for Lord knows how long. Running the group, what is that versus running a Fortune 500 company? It’s a whole thing when you look at it, and say what do you want to do. Do you want that responsibility for these people? Or do you want to give yourself a different function? Do you want to crunch numbers as the head of Universal Music Group or do you want to run artist relations? Which part is a more functional part for you? Looking at these scenarios, I keep going to position things back the way they are supposed to be. I put out the EP, The Beauty Of Independence and then let the momentum from that build for the second half The Beast Is G-Unit. We recorded these records and we’re still recording at the same time.

I always feel like my new idea is greater than things that I’ve done in the past, but music marks time so if you have an idea, you make it right away and you put it out so people understand the thought, why you did it.

How did you find yourself able to forgive and move on with a reunion?
They are still my brothers so if you said something and I didn’t like what you said, it’s just like, “I ain’t like that.” But with the whole scenario, it doesn’t make you not my brother anymore.

Is it hard to be the boss?
I have a lot of people that I’ve worked with on things that even if I was their employer at that point, I was personally brought to the point where I started to feel like there was a friendship in connection to the work taking place. That’ll make a person feel like the moment that you have to make business decisions or you have to make cuts, that’s the wrong discomfort for you to feel after with the person, because you have to fire them, there’s zero communication. That means you was paying that person and they developed a presentation for you as if you were friends. But in all actuality, they were just doing their job and they felt like they had to do that to keep themselves employed at that period. You can’t look at it like it was an actual relationship if it stops easy after your check stops.

When I get mad, I don’t give a fuck about none of that shit. Especially when you go back to what got you here to begin with. What would give me the responsibility to hold a group together, being the head of it? It’s the crew’s responsibility to hold themselves in place so I could do what I have to do, comfortably. They’re supposed to aid me in continuing success, not me stopping what I’m doing to make sure everybody else is functioning. That ain’t the crew to have if that’s where you’re at. I know for a fact now that they’re in the mental space for them to be successful. You have to think the right way before you can actually make anything happen that you need to happen.

If you watch the guys that at some point want their independence, I don’t have a problem with that. I want it to be so big that when it grows out of this, it commands a lot of respect. Not only for you, for me too.

Eminem gave me the shot that I needed at a point where he was so influential that there was nobody more influential than him. I don’t have value for a lot of the relationships that I developed coming up on this journey, but Eminem is the guy. He’s the one. He’s been consistent with me the entire time and I love him to death. I’d fuck all the way up for him. I’d do some shit that just wouldn’t allow me to come back into a comfortable space because somebody was doing something to [Eminem] that was inappropriate, to this day.