After years spent putting in work behind stars like Juvenile and 50 Cent, G-Unit’s mouth of the South finally gets a solo shot at rap success. It’s Young Buck time. Let him shine.

Words: Vanessa Satten
Images: Michael Schreiber

It’s a humid Los Angeles day in June 2001. The kind of day where sweat drips uncomfortably down your back and your clothes stick to your skin. As the video crew scurries around the set of Juvenile’s “Set It Off” shoot, the newest signee of the New Orleans rapper’s fledgling UTP Records hides from the scorching sun under a large white tent. Quiet and reserved, 20-year-old Young Buck is a spectator, patiently waiting until he’s needed. “I wouldn’t mind having a couple of platinum albums under my belt one day,” says the shy aspiring rap star in his heavy Southern drawl. He leans back in a folding chair, in a weed-induced haze. His slit eyes dart back and forth between the sights on set and the tape recorder gripped tightly in his right hand. “I want whoever I am with at the time to be successful, so we can enjoy it together. So I can share it and have fun with it. With everybody having the same, everybody doing it, not just one person.”

Fast-forward to June 2004, an LA evening almost three years to the day from when Buck sat back and watched Juvie film his video. Things have changed for the Nashville rapper. No longer a benchwarmer on an underdeveloped label, he’s now a main focus of 50 Cent’s mighty, Interscope-funded G-Unit Records.

Having just finished a photo shoot that’ll put him and fellow G-Unit soldier Lloyd Banks on the cover of XXL, the crew’s Southern rep is in the parking lot of Smashbox Studios, winding down under the fading Culver City sky. As music blares from a parked van filled with security and crew, Buck does a little two-step—a blunt in one hand, thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of jewelry swinging from his neck.

“106, baby!” Buck shouts. “My song’s requested on Power 106 already, and I just gave it to radio!” He’s talking about “Let Me In,” the first single off his solo debut, Straight Outta Ca$hville. Since being plucked out of semi-obscurity 18 months ago by rap’s current King of New York, Buck has made a name for himself through his dark, menacing street rhymes and a vicious Tennessee twang. With the Dirty Dirty hot right now and G-Unit even hotter, the new mouth of the South is primed and ready to take the rap world by storm.

But his rims weren’t always spinning like that diamond encrusted G-Unit piece he wears so faithfully. Letdowns and disappointments have been aplenty for a dude who spent the better part of a decade trying to trade the hustle game for rap fame.