50 Cent On G-Unit, His Relationship With Eminem And His Beef With Floyd Mayweather
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
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.
What's the moment that if you would have done something different, you wouldn't be here? Is there a moment that would have affected everything?
50 Cent: I had a lot of moments like that, actually. Like what happens is just the lifestyle is so unstable that any minute you could be sitting on the block feeling like it could happen any time. I kind of expected it not to [happen] on some notes. [I did] not build a huge anticipation for it. I remember specifically because I just saw something that came on TV One with Chris Lighty, The Crime Files. There was a point when I was coming to visit Chris, [I went] a couple times and he didn't want to commit to management. He was like, “Yeah, we’ll do something.” And I was like, “Aight, well cool.” Then there was a point that the music started working. It was on the air. It was playing. And then he called and he was like, “Yo, I wanted to talk to you, ’cause”—he had been getting requests for shows [for me to perform]. I was in the neighborhood when he called. I'm like “Aight, wait, let me call you back.” It was really—because [beef] was present. Like, we could [have] run into it at any moment.
That's what you were saying the other day. Like when you go down South, you're just waiting for something to happen.
Right, that was in Nashville. It's culturally different. Like, then they'll be in the parking lot, the cars will be out and the music will be playing.
’Cause they like have parties in malls.
You can't do that out here. You do that in Queens—
The cops will shut it down before it even happens.
No, they'll shut it down because it's better for them to come and tell you to get the fuck out of there before they have to come clean [a body] up. If [the locals] just sit on top of each other, if they're just there—I'm going to tell you what happens. The cops and the people are never the problem. A muthafucka that got confidence is even coming to the mother for them to say “no.” So he can try again because his confidence won't allow him or her saying “no” to stop him from trying again. What happens is when they get into those circles of people where they know people, they have to assert themselves because they have to establish why they mean something. And then the trouble at some point will break out. A lot of time it's because they are not doing well.
They get tougher when they're not up, they don't have the money to have something in front of you to make them cooler than anybody else. Put them in a parking lot and [the police] will clean somebody up off the floor because they're going to get tough. When Banks—9/11 just passed and—
That was the shooting anniversary for Banks, right?
It was the anniversary of [Banks] standing outside a nightclub, when [the people with the guns] are there. You don't stand around, you're waiting for the tough shit to happen. The guys that are standing around are not going to stand around comfortably without hammers on them. They'll put the pistol in the car and [after the club] they'll go get it.
But in our neighborhoods, there's people that you can't just be around. Like when you see me and you feel like you know me—Don't play with me, I don't know you like that. I didn't come outside and be like, “Oh, I'm going to be social today.” We ain't hustling [together]. We ain't fuckin' with each other on the money tip. If we ain't doing nothing together then what exactly would we be talking about? Then it just creates that separation based on that. ’Cause you know my name don't mean you know me, boy. On the street level, it just makes it like that.
Like, I jumped on Floyd's ass the same way. I don't have bad intentions for Floyd. I don't want to see him lose. I don't go to sleep and wake up like, “I hope you fucking lose, stupid.” No, I already got past that when I said what I said. I'm already done dealing with that right there. I want him to win as much as he can in his life and also change the shit that he got going on. So he can continue to be productive. But what I'm saying to him is right and he's going to figure that out over time. The lifestyle that is going on at the present moment is just not sustainable.
Is that why you've been kind of going at him?
No, you've seen me quiet down. It's because we're close to the fight. He's got to focus. But they don't notice that I stopped because we're getting closer to the fight.
Because that's you caring, and I don't think anybody thinks that you're caring at this point. Do you think Floyd Mayweather thinks that you still care about him at this point?
I think he knows better. When he's feeling the response from me, when he's feeling the sting of the slap publicly, it doesn't feel like my intentions are what they are. But when I say something it will run across CNN. When he says something, it will go to a blogger that's really passionate about boxing. And someone has to see it on that blog and mention it on radio for it to even make it to a place where we could take note of it. He didn't do the right things to present him to the public properly, so there’s a limit as to what he can do for promotional purposes. They keep it in that little pocket of things that they would do for traditional boxing stuff. Because where he's at right now in boxing, there should be no one that you can look at that should be comparable to him.
He does not seem likable. That's what holds him back...
People acknowledge how good he is because they watched hoping for him to lose. And then when he wins, they go, “Damn, that muthafucka is good.” So they accept that it is what it is. There won't be a fighter that's at the top of the hill forever. It's impossible. But while on top, in that top position, it hasn't been the most exciting journey for Floyd. I don't understand how you get to that point and it still be so fucked up with the girls and shit like that. There is no woman that I fucked with that I wasn't finished with before I finished the situation, since I had been successful. I don't lose people to another person. For the nigga to lose the girl [Ms. Jackson] at this point. Nelly took the bitch, Nelly took the bitch, man. I know Floyd, so I know he wasn't finished emotionally with the situation. He ain’t like that, not with girls. Champ is not that way.
Did you think that shining light on his inability to read, that you needed something of that caliber to get him to change?
I know people love tragedy. They have to support it for it to be important. There's no 50 Cent without them supporting it. You get to a point where they see you up there and it's great, [but] they would love to see you not acquire the information to continue success and fall down. Think of how great a time people had creating pictures of Manny Pacquiao after he was knocked out. It was so fast, it was wild. It was all over the place. And he doesn't have the character or persona that Floyd has. It will be a bigger field day to watch him fall. The marketing didn't even work. Pretty Boy Floyd didn't even work. Money Mayweather worked. That came when I started coming around. We became The Money Team.
Do you think that you guys will ever be back to where you were?
Nah, but it don't matter though. See, the difference between me and everybody else that he fell out with is that I'm rich. And I don't care about being around. I had a period of time carved out where I can actually be around. People didn't know we were friends like that; we've been friends since 2002. [But] I don't care if I ever talk to him [Floyd] again.
With Eminem, what's the flip side?
I got a phone call not too long ago because they were asking to use Eminem's music in All Access. He was calling to make sure that I was okay with him approving his music because it was going to be under the bed with something with Floyd in it. I go, “It's cool, Em, tell them to put it.”
For him to reach out and find out if it was okay—that's a business transaction. You don't have to figure out what that man's got to do with what you're doing, that’s your business. Just one of those things that happens when someone is conscious of it. He's not even going to point out that I'm not on the label anymore. He's saying it doesn't matter that I'm on the label for our relationship to be exactly the same. Anything that he asks me for, I'm going to look out for him. There's not a lot of real relationships. The fact that he didn't have to ask, the fact that he just thought to—how he felt about it, that lets me know the relationship is still intact. There's no disconnect between us and our friendship. That's a clear indication that it's still the same.
You're going to him. He's in a shelter, a bubble.
That's the bubble that keeps him hot though. He's been the number one rap artist for eight years.
Since 2001 or something like that. And he's consistent; every album has been tremendously large.
The only thing strong enough to make an Eminem record not work is the possibility of it hurting Beats [By Dre] and helping SMS Audio. It's the record with me, Eminem and Adam Levine. That one is the only one that Eminem has that you could technically look at and say it didn't work, because it was confusion for the Beats brand. It makes sense now that it's a billion-dollar move and it was important to the point that it couldn't work.
Like, look at Russell Simmons. He feels like he created the category with that Phat Farm Clothing. Then Roc-A-Wear, Sean John, G-Unit, Apple Bottom—like the Beats thing, you can understand where my passion for the music would be. It would be organic to want to be associated [with] high audio product. Also as far as being a marketer like that—[Dr.] Dre's in the studio, he's not gonna go out and market it and be vocal to the public. The reason why we worked together on projects is because I can actually go door-to-door and make people like it, which we did at the studio. That's why it was G-Unit/Aftermath and the last successful project from him was the Game record. Then Kendrick comes, but the footwork that they did at TDE was responsible for Kendrick's sales, not what they did for him at Interscope. Because they didn't catch up to the record ’til after the sales surpassed the radio picture. He got all the fans doing the footwork, running around doing shows, and it actually paid off.
What are you thoughts on the whole Apple merger?
It's phenomenal. I don't understand why there was so much motive to attack it. The only thing that could cause things to be the way they are now, is if I have someone around me that buys a company or creates a business opportunity for themselves that—it happens in corporate America all the time. They acquire a company, they buy it so that they don't have to fear that person will become a competitor. The problem with the concept of buying an actual company is you would be feeling like you're actually buying a nigga that you actually own. If he feels like he actually owns you because you're an artist on his label—I'm the cause of the 360 Deal. Vitamin Water selling it and he doesn't get a piece.
Why didn’t you get on the Beats board?
We were selling sneakers and the idea was to sell speakers. Dre was going to follow and sell sneakers. G-Unit shoes made $80 million in that timeframe. After he seen it, he was like, “You doing what selling sneakers?” I sat in a meeting with Jimmy [Iovine] and Steve Jobs. Was there for about 10 minutes and we were talking. I told them, “You think you could sell like that—an iPod, I can sell an iPod, are you kidding me?” [Jobs] looked at Jimmy, and Jimmy was like, “Strangely enough, the kid is telling the truth.” At the time, I'm the first person to do Apple product placement with the iPod inside a music video or anything that they spent money on at that point. That dude gave me $175,000 that went against recouping the budget for "P.I.M.P." The remix, me and Snoop, you see me get up with the girls with the white hats, the iPod is there. That's the first time they ever did that and they did it because I convinced them that I could sell an iPod. From there, Jimmy and Steven built a good relationship.