Read XXL’s Entire G-Unit Reunion Cover Story
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.
The Wild Child
Interview by Vanessa Satten
If any of the G-Unit members had it rough over the last six years, it’s Young Buck. The first to fall out with 50, Buck had been the most vocal against 50 after the breakup. But his own unfortunate luck took precedence over beef with Fif. Though Buck continued to perform and release music during his G-Unit hiatus, bad luck plagued him. In 2010, the Nashville native filed for bankruptcy after the IRS raided his home and seized a bulk of his possessions due to $300,000 in unpaid taxes. During the raid, police found an unregistered gun. Since Buck was already a convicted felon, the discovery of the weapon led to a parole violation, which landed Buck in federal prison for 18 months. Following his release from Yazoo City Low Security Federal Prison in Southern Mississippi last October, Buck has focused on putting his life back in order. Part of that included making amends with his brothers. While relaxing in the mansion’s recording studio, Buck looks at his hard times and breakup of the crew.
XXL: How do you feel about everything so far?
Young Buck: I feel like I’m in a good place. G-Unit, overall as a group and as brothers, we’re in a better space than we’ve ever been. Period.
I think everybody had their own individual situations that they experienced once we were separated. Everybody’s situation kind’ve took a toll on each individual in some kind of way and I think the separation of us...everybody wanted to be back together.
Your biggest outlet for making money is together, right?
Yeah [but] I think our relationship is beyond money. We have a real brotherly, family-connected type of relationship, so it wasn’t the money. It was the destruction of the family part that was more detrimental than anything. But with us being back together and being that we done went through all of that, I think it made us stronger because we know what it’s like to be apart, and separate and go against each other.
So your second album Buck The World came out in 2007 and you started linking with people that 50 wasn't so cool with, right?
It wasn’t that I was linking with people that 50 wasn’t cool with, it was basically individuals that had problems with 50 were basically making their way to me and pushing the line and saying, “We ain’t got a problem with you but we just don’t get along with dude.” That right there was the mix up.
Being part of G-Unit, it would seem like it would be, whoever 50 says "fuck you" to, I say "fuck you" to also. No?
True [but] I was never friends with somebody that didn’t get along with 50 or some shit. It was just more that I was going off into a lane, you know, there were different individuals that were looking to work with me.
So how much could you say no because of his beef, when you didn’t have it?
Right and I got caught in the middle of it.
Did you handle it right?
I think I did handle it right, to the point where...in a sense, my loyalty to 50 and G-Unit is already understood, but at the time when I was entertaining any conversation with someone who didn’t get along with 50, it was in the midst of me and 50’s disagreement.
So what was you and 50’s disagreement over if it wasn’t about loyalty?
Me and 50’s disagreement was pretty much a small thing. I’m a pretty impulsive dude. I’ma do what I wanna do. It was more or less 50 saying, “Don’t do this” and I feel like, “No, I’ma do this.”
You split from G-Unit then struggled with tax and financial issues and went to prison for over a year. What were you thinking while locked up?
I’m thinking, “What the fuck am I doing sitting in here? I’m a fuckin’ platinum artist, I got all this success and now I’m layed up in this fuckin’ prison?” It sank in after two or three months, “I’m not goin’ nowhere, I’m here. [But] I’m gonna be able to get out of here. So let me go ahead and change my mind, my mentality of just sitting in here and being upset, and try to make this time that I have work for me so when I do get out I got something new to give the fans with the music.”
Now you’re finally back with G-Unit, but you have to start rebuilding your own brand. How?
I’ve matured so much from then to now that it’s almost like two different people. As far as the individual, the person that I am, you’re gonna always get that energy, that Young Buck feel from the music. But as a person, I’m just more off into the business side of things. I’m more mature all the way around.
The music content has shifted since G-Unit dominated. It’s not as street as it was and that’s what you specialize in...
It’s a lot of watered down music, you know what I’m saying? Believe it or not, the watered down music is what seems like the record labels are trying to put the marketing dollars behind. But it’s not a day that goes by that I don’t pay attention to that. It’s in the streets, but not no more. This shit is everything other than what it really was built from.
We drove the street, you know what I’m saying? So then when you get G-Unit back together it’s almost a feeling for the streets like, Okay, now we ’bout to get back into position and now we can get the shit back to where it was at. I think that’s what G-Unit does. We provide hope for the streets in a sense and for the guys who are like us, as well as the guys who are not like us that’s just off into G-Unit because they know it’s the real over here. They’re able to get what they getting visually. They might not come from the environment we come from but we’ve become their favorite because they get to hear the real deal of what’s going on.
So I think as far as G-Unit goes, we rebirthed the streets. It’s almost a rebirth to hip-hop and the streets. We’ve been gone for a minute and being away allowed all these demographics, all these different types of artists and their music to get in middle, and some of these guys...I don’t knock ’em, but some of the music that’s out is just not the type of music that I’m a fan of. In the same breath, I think a lot of those guys that are even winning with the watered down music, they’re even excited for G-Unit.
So, for you, was it really ever, “Fuck G-Unit? Fuck 50?” At your worst, was it, “Fuck him?”
Honestly, I never blamed 50 for my financial problems. I ain’t never felt like, “Fuck that nigga,” because he actually helped me a couple times dealing with the tax situation before I even got into that. So I never looked at it as like, “Ah, fuck him.” Nah, I looked at it like, “That nigga told me this shit would happen.”
So what happened with you and money? You’ve been through money troubles over the past seven years...tax issues, you spending too much, what happened?
My money issues came about...I had created a tax debt and, at the time, the tax debt that I created... Me and 50 were separated. My income was lighter. So I get hit with the tax thing after. I just ain’t have money coming in that much to the point it was like, “Oh shit.”
But also let’s be real, you were spending money, living the rapper life. Did that catch up with you?
Of course! At the time, I was young, I got a lot of money, quick. The experience that an individual would have that never came in contact with a million dollars... For me it was like, boom. When I got a hold of the money, I wild the fuck out. I went and bought cars, houses, mom’s stuff, bought everything I should’ve had and bought all the stuff I shouldn’t have had, too.
I went to your house in Nashville and you had clear furniture. You had an all white room with a spinning display case holding a bag with fake diamonds cascading out.
You feel me? My furniture cost a $100,000 just alone. Like I said, my whole thing at the time was, “Man, I made it.”
So you did 18 months in federal prison. Who held you down there?
I held myself down in prison. Of course you got your Crips, they gonna always be where I’m at and then the Bloods too, they held me down. I was an individual where, you know, it’s kinda crazy but, especially being in prison, but overall niggas fuck with Buck, you know what I’m saying? So I didn’t have to go through the bullshit in there and all that shit. Niggas know what’s up.
So you’re out a year. Are you impressed with the moves you’ve made in 12 months?
Ya damn right. I think I’m doing damn good.
What do you chalk that up to?
The reason I say [that] is because I came home to pretty much nothing.
Literally though, what did you come home to? Did you come home to a house? Did you come home to a car? The day you got out, what did you come home to?
The day I came out, I went to my partna’s spot.
So who picked you up?
My partnas came and got me from prison, my homeboys. My homeboys brought my mother and my children. But from there, even then I didn’t have a home. I lost everything. I lost my house. My mother lost her house. I lost everything. So coming out of prison, I didn’t have nothing. I had a lot of dudes in prison before I was goin that was saying, “I’ma do this, I’ma do that.” The reality and the truth of me going to prison, I didn’t receive no kind of individual support from a rapper or whatever, a Free Buck [campaign] or none of that shit. I wasn’t lookin’ for none of that shit.
Well, you weren’t gonna get the Tony Yayo treatment; you weren’t cool with the Big Homie.
Nah, I don’t look at it like that. Not just because of Big Homie. I’m from the South, he from here, it’s a whole ’notha market of artists that play a part in my career and life even before G-Unit, and a lot of people and artists that I had real relationships with at that time that I valued that I thought would at least…
You realized it’s a bunch of bullshit?
Yeah, and I’m cool with it, you know what I’m sayin? I know now. But 50 used to try to tell me this shit then...I just didn’t get it. I get it now.
People are disappointments?
Right. I’m not gonna say anti-social but it’s just that I fuck with my brothers. I fuck with 50, Banks, Yayo, Kidd Kidd and I got a few other partnas that’s in this rap game.
So you have a lot of pressure. You’re 33, you’re not going to get another shot, probably. How do you handle the pressure? How do you keep yourself from going back to the way you were?
It’s simple, for me. That’s the simplest thing. The character of who I was and what I was, it has a lot to do with age. I’ve matured in age, but at the same time with saying that, a lot of people, a lot of different types of individuals I choose to just disassociate myself with. So a lot of things like that play a big part. Making smart moves, better decisions and just being more on the business side. But I’ve been out of prison not even 12 months and I’ve already got a restaurant, three, four day cares and four or five different properties.
When you were young with the money, none of that was in your head? It was just fun?
It was just the fun. But now, it’s about tomorrow. It’s about building for tomorrow. For me, I’m off into that kick.
The Quiet One
Interview by Miranda Johnson
He might be the quiet one but there’s a lot going on in Lloyd Banks’ head. That’s usually the case with the lyrically dexterous MC who stood out in G-Unit partly because of his aloofness. Soon after Buck and 50 stopped communicating, Banks and 50 followed suit. They made up for a while before falling out again around 2012. Most recently, about two years had gone by since the two Queens artists had last talked to each other. In that time, Banks continued to tour and release new music, while becoming more jaded by the changes in the industry. When Yayo made his comments on Instagram in February, Banks reached out to 50 to explain that he had nothing to do with what Yayo had said. It was that call that got Fif and Banks talking again. While hanging in the strip club in 50’s mansion, Lloyd Banks looks back at the drama.
XXL: So what was it that made you part ways with 50 Cent and G-Unit?
Lloyd Banks: I can’t say that any issue I had caused the group to split up because there were four people in the group. I think that all of us had our spots. It’s not coincidental that most of them were with 50; he’s the boss, the person that put everything together. Everything from confusion to compromising—all those things ended up being based around the artists and the boss at the end of the day. Everybody had their own reason as to why it didn’t work out. From moments with me and 50, to Buck and 50, and Yayo and 50. It was a point where me and 50 weren’t talking. It got exhausting, then it got frustrating to the fans. People would have been more mad if we didn’t get back together, as opposed to just doing our own thing.
So you were in contact with Buck and Yayo during the rift?
Me and Yayo always remained in contact. That kind of kept things balanced for me. You got that friend, a friend who understands the street shit and the industry. So we’ve been there, done that. So that was cool. Me and Buck didn’t keep in contact, we didn’t speak. We were never in the position to. I never bumped into him along the way or anything like that. I’ve done promo and stuff like that in Nashville but I never saw him. But it would always be that question like, “Why you don’t call Buck?” Even at that time, I didn’t understand. Buck was going through what he was going through with 50, but we were kind of like incorporated into that. You just assume at the time that it’s us against [him].
Me, personally, I’ve never been like a social network type of guy so I don’t put that business out for nobody, and not just music business, my personal business. People say things they don’t mean sometimes. My family members, my parents, sometimes they say shit and [I’m] like, “Damn why you say that?" I think that the stronger the relationship is, the more you’ll see the dysfunctional parts because if you don’t give a fuck about somebody, it’s gonna show. But if you really do and it’s irking you that it’s not right then, it’s never really going to go somewhere.
You’ve been out of the picture for a minute. What motivated you to want to fully get back in the game?
Being around [G-Unit] to be honest. I wouldn’t participate in a lot of the things I do, as fast as I do, without them. At the end of the day, I enjoy being around the members and putting music together. I’m able to be ignorant when I’m with G-Unit. And I got older; I’m 32-years-old. The things that I said earlier, the shock value type of lines, now it’s moreso like I’m saying shit that you can hold onto. [Things] that you can tattoo on your skin.
I’m seeing that the response is crazy. There’s people everyday that listen to music to get through something and then you got that music that you just enjoy. I want to do both. I want to do that shit that you’ll go back because it had subject matter opposed to just hot line after hot line. When I’m with the group, there’s eight bar cadences, it’s not too much time, so it keeps me writing more. Just on my toes and it helps me be able to go out there and get the visuals that people want to see. There’s a method to my madness. I would rather drop my video without you seeing behind the scenes.
While you were away from the group you put out some mixtapes. What was going through your head? Were you thinking about leaving the Unit for good?
Nah, my mind wasn’t on the music [business] for a point. I always make music, so I can’t be like I was zoned out because I never got out the zone. It was more about the game. When you think about the issues people have with me, they’re like, "He doesn’t shoot music videos enough," or do this and that, but there’s been periods that I put out five mixtapes in one year. I didn’t get praised five times. It was just like, that was a productive year for him and it’s whatever.
"There’s a lot more political relationships, as opposed to just saying, 'I like this person, he’s dope.' That shit frustrated me. It frustrated me that if I don’t do step-by-step what [they] want me to do, then I don’t get the praise."
So I just realized after a while, and then watching the comments, that music is changing. This is not what made me fall in love with music. So if I’m watching all the pieces that made me fall in love with it not be relevant anymore... Like it don’t matter what’s being said but [it matters] who did the beat. Status, or anything like that. I didn’t fall in love with that. I’ve been watching hip-hop since graffiti and breakdancing. Even the artists that influenced me are lyrical and I always watched them. Snoop made me know that I didn’t have to be no jump off the table-type of nigga. That’s not my character. Artists like Nas, he’s cool as a fan. He let me know that I can be who I am as opposed to being animated if I’m not.
With that being said, they don’t even do the interviews that everybody do. If I want to talk, it’s to the point where I want to talk about what I enjoy about the craft, how much I put into it, or how this felt when you made this record with this person. [As] opposed to just shit that doesn’t have to do with anything. So I became just frustrated with the business.
There’s a lot more political relationships, as opposed to just saying, "I like this person, he’s dope." That shit frustrated me. It frustrated me that if I don’t do step-by-step what [they] want me to do, then I don’t get the praise. Does that also mean that the people that get the praise don’t actually deserve it? How do you gauge that? If you’re an artist that’s successful—like look at Kendrick Lamar. He dropped a body of work and it was so good that people live with that until the next one. They don’t need a bunch of in-between shit. He don’t got to go and do 10 remixes. He can literally just say, I’m going to go off into the cut and make this classic. And I didn’t work my whole career or go through a bunch of different record deals to be rushing.
I don’t want to be lucky. When “Beamer, Benz, Or Bentley” came out, I was lucky. Not lucky that I made the record; I made the record in 30 minutes. But I released the record and it immediately made a demand for my album to be made. So then I had to go back in and make the album. I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to have an album already made so I have my first, second, third and fourth single. That’s why most of the time they have the sophomore jinx; it’s not a jinx. Most of the time the artists just aren’t ready yet. They might need a year and a half in between until the next album.
Speaking of albums, is the solo thought in your head? Are you working on your own material?
I never stopped working on my own material. Like I said, 50 was the one that told me to be a solo artist. First. So from that point on I understood that ain’t nobody going to go out and give you anything. You have to take it. I’m definitely working on my own stuff. I write every day, whether it’s mixtape stuff or whatever. That’s probably why they get a lot more audio than video, 'cause that’s the part that I’m in love with. I’m in love with you creating the music and me hearing it. That’s where it’s at for me. You can go on WorldStar or something and your video that you spent hours at, the whole day shooting, and it's next to two monkeys fucking. It’s like, where do I go to find the straight hip-hop? If that’s the platform then I don’t know if I’m into that.
I couldn’t tweet 'Pac, I couldn’t hit Biggie like, "Yo, why didn’t follow me back?" That shit is not the era I grew up in. I grew up in the era where it was rap for real. With all that to the side, I’m just not that guy. I watch certain NFL players that don’t want to do interviews. They just want to show up and play. That’s kinda how I am.
How is it with Kidd Kidd in the group? And now that you guys don’t have Sha Money XL managing anymore?
Well, Sha Money hasn’t been around for a while now. I’ve dealt with that since my second album. That was kind of like the break [where] me and 50 first started having our outs and things like that. As far as Kidd Kidd, it’s crazy because he’s from New Orleans but he doesn’t sound like it to me. The way he raps—I mean, he uses a lot of their slang, but he’s got a lot of flows. It’s dope because when we used to do our mixtapes, it was only three of us.
Now it’s different because it’s four or five of us. Now it’s like, you’ve got to find a way [to fit in]. Like, my verse could end and Kidd Kidd could pick up from my verse. He could pick up right behind it and it add shit that, like, Wu-Tang and Boot Camp Clik, they used to do that 'cause they had nine members.
Who initially sparked y’all getting back together? Who reached out?
It kind of happened collectively. Like me and Yayo were talking, then I eventually ended up reaching out to 50. Went to go see him and just get things out the way. I spoke to Buck before I spoke to 50 but Buck gave me [50’s] number. It was kind of like everybody felt it was time. So we all ended up talking to each other, we crossed pathways. Before you know it, we were all in one room. But it wasn’t like it took one person to get everybody together. We all felt we had something that we needed to make right with each other.
"I can’t be no bum, I can’t stop. There’s some artists that can go off and live a regular life; I can’t do that. I’m like, let’s make this shit right for us. We owe it to each other."
Me and Buck were tight. So when the shit happened, he was like, "Fuck Banks and fuck Yayo." I’m like, "Ahh, man." I realized after that, he was just frustrated and going through something and that’s the way that he handled it. I realized after that if he could have handled it differently, he would have. It was a long time that we weren’t talking and that bothered me. I’ve got pictures of all them in my house—not plaques, but real pictures. And they got pictures of me in their houses. It was a void that needed to be filled for hip-hop, too, but we needed that shit.
Ain’t nobody going to be able to do what we did just because of the time. When I go overseas, certain places don’t accept rappers after a certain era. They took the Snoop, the [Dr.] Dre, the Em, the 50 era and we kind of came up in that. It could be a blessing, but it could feel like a curse sometimes because you’re a part of one of the biggest rap groups ever and people know us individually. I can’t be no bum, I can’t stop. There’s some artists that can go off and live a regular life; I can’t do that. I’m like, let’s make this shit right for us. We owe it to each other. Nobody stole from each other, it wasn’t nothing crazy, nothing that can’t be fixed.
When did you guys get back together?
It didn’t take long. I would say months in the making. It was a weird point for us, 'cause at one point Yayo wasn’t talking to 50, so it was just us. I’m pretty sure 50 was bugging out. 'Cause now [he] didn’t know exactly where it was coming from. It caused more confusion, 'cause at one point none of us was talking. It took us all to get back together, it took us all to make it right. 'Cause we all have to be comfortable and understand what the bigger picture is. Like, even stubborn as you want to be, it’s about the music. You’ve got to buckle down, 'cause who wants to leave that on the table like that? Especially if it’s not career breaking. That shit wasn’t about nothing. It’s just growing up and seeing things from different angles. Everybody doesn’t move at the same pace. That’s all that was.
Do you think things are right for good?
I think it was always right. There wasn’t something that happened to make us like, "Oh, shit." It was just tit for tat through lack of communication. In my case it was about the lack of communication, just not talking enough. 'Cause we went from being around each other every damn day to saying, "Yo, it’s going to be like this." People move off and have their own managers and entourages. Before you know it, the distance makes things a little funny. I think as long as the communication is there, it will leave less room to insinuate or feel like there’s a problem, 'cause there’s no problem.
I feel like with G-Unit, there’s a real brotherhood.
Exactly; we grew up together. That shit is weird 'cause my family knows Yayo’s family. They sense it when they see less visits and shit like that. It gets a little weird. The last thing I want to do is give the credit to the industry for fucking some shit up that’s like this. They’re not supposed to have a say so or any kind of influence. That’s another reason why I don’t really fuck with the media. I’m just smart enough to know when people have me or the group in their best interests. If you don’t care about [us] or it didn’t touch you the way it touched other people, do you really want to see us get back together? Or is it fun for you to see drama, period? That’s why I kind of shied away from it, 'cause I see what it’s about. They build you up to break you down. I’m not gonna participate in that. I’m waiting until you want to say, "Good shit," and ask real questions.
I had to deal with all of this shit in the media. I lost my grandmother, I lost my father, I lost my best friend. I grew up in the shit. My whole 20s was sacrificed to my friend’s family and hip-hop. I don’t have no girlfriend, I don’t have no kids. I was completely locked in on it so much that it made me mad at the music. It made me mad that I put so much into this shit, that I missed so much. I wasn’t there when my best friend got killed, I wasn’t there when my father was found. It makes you kind of resent the same shit that you love. So my fans are going, "Where you at?" [But] I hated it. I love to make music but I hate what it did to me and what it did to my friends. So I fell back from it.
How did that not cause a bitterness to take over?
The littlest thing [can change that]. Like when Kendrick Lamar called everybody out on the “Control" verse. It took everybody from gimmicks [back] to rapping. Little shit like that, just step-by-step, is changing. And the producers, too; if you’re a producer and you’re trying to get a beat off, then you’re going to make what’s out there. But if you’re a producer that’s already out there you’re going to make what you want to make. You control the wave. Like how Swizz can go away for a year and come back. But when you’re a new producer, you’re sending me beats that all sound like 808s. Then that puts me in a position as an artist. It’s like, do I compromise and blend in?
It gets confusing after a while because people get tired of looking at the same thing. They want to see you do different shit. I’d rather stay in my lane all the way and count my losses. I’d rather be comfortable than be like, "I shouldn’t have tried that." Little things like that are letting me know that I can stick to [my way]. Action Bronson and Joey Bada$$ are getting a chance to do it minus the bullshit. I don’t think they care about the people that don’t know them. They got they core base and they figured out who they are early in their careers. That’s where I’m going with it now.
Is G-Unit putting out an album?
We got an EP [Ed note: This interview took place before G-Unit released The Beauty Of Independence] and then right after that you can expect another EP. Instead of giving them one mixtape, we’re breaking it into several parts. It reminds me of when we first started dropping material because there was no time to fall in love with the records. You’ll do the shit and you’ll hear it on the radio. That little surprise factor there keeps you excited. You can’t hold that shit. I think we’re able to capitalize doing records that are in now and speak on issues like Mike Brown and stuff like that. That’s what the freestyles gave us, the opportunity to speak on now.
How does it feel now that the Unit is independent?
My last album was independent, so I kind of know how things change. My last album was like a sleeper and I feel it was underrated. People get so used to seeing you on one level that they don’t see the separation. A lot of people didn’t know my last album was independent. I had four records added to radio. So it’s like, how do you really judge? Fans get it more than they got it five years ago though. Being on a major, you’re on a time clock. When you’re on your own, you decide when you’re ready. It’s a lot of little shit. It has its ups and down. But I think that’s what we work our whole career for, to be independent and to own our own music.
Were you ever trying to get on another label?
Nope, to be honest. I wasn’t thinking that far into it. I wanted to gear up and be ready. I didn’t want to put myself back into the position that I was in. I wanted to have a whole body of work done. I’m still touring off of my first album, so I know how important it is to get it right. I feel like my first album is a classic and this time I want to do better all around. I’m going to show people. When you’re dealing with somebody like Jimmy Iovine, [who] has high expectations for you, it make not be exactly what you’re thinking. If it doesn’t work, it was a reach. At this point in my career, I’m already a household name. Being independent lets me weed out the shit that I didn’t want to do.
The Easy Going Guy
Interview by Eric Diep
The emotional side of Tony Yayo might’ve been the real catalyst for the G-Unit reunion. On Feb. 19, 2014, Yayo, the last to fall out with 50, made several comments to fans on Instagram about the state of G-Unit including: “to much stress I flew the world already dropped an album time to try new things and the unit not together fuck it.” Plus: “I’m done with music and the industry this is too much for me.” And also: “50 ain’t rocking with me and Banks the same I layed my life down for the unit but you live and learn.”
Yayo and Fif never went through a specific incident that prompted them to stop talking, but over time the two lost the closeness they first built back in Queens, before the fame. During the break up, Yayo stayed loyal to 50, rarely offering a negative word about G-Unit until that Instagram comment. That’s actually what got Banks and 50 talking again, which is a part of what prompted the reunion to begin with. This afternoon Yayo sits in a chair in the backyard of 50’s mansion and looks back on what went down with the crew.
XXL: What is your motivation now that G-Unit is back together?
Tony Yayo: I think the motivation is that we are still here. It’s been 10 years. There’s rappers' careers that last a year and a half, maybe two years. Just to be around here 10 years, it’s like, “Damn, we are still in here? We are still rapping? We still an organization?” I do this for the fans. I do this for friends, family. Some shows, there are fans that will literally die for 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo and Young Buck. They will die for you.
What’s the reason now for everyone to come back together?
I think the reason [for the reunion] now is we grown-ass men. It’s a good thing for us to be together. It’s good energy. When I'm in the studio with 50, Banks, Kidd Kidd [our] new artist, and Buck, it just brings that energy back.
First you made the Instagram comment about 50. Then 50 called you “expired milk” in an interview. You responded on Twitter with, “As much bullets I took for G-Unit. My moms crib got shot up almost killed my sis and my niece. Now I’m compared to milk. I made that brand.” Then you took the tweet down...
That was me being emotional that day. That was me being upset and shit and being wrong. But at the same time, when it comes to this reunion, I always felt like I'd die for this shit. When you are at a point and your back is against the wall, nobody is talking and you are frustrated, you are having a bad day, your kids yelling, screaming; when I say I made the brand, I just felt like sometimes, in my mind, I’ve been around Fif for so long. Sometimes, I get arrogant. I was living the life, but when I say I made the brand, I can’t say that. It’s a team effort.
It was all simple emotions. A bad day, and that’s the bad thing about social networks sometimes. “What the fuck? Fuck that. I made the shit! Fuck you talking about?” It’s just emotions. You might be mad at your man, and you might throw a subliminal out there. Everybody do it and that’s the bad thing I learned about social networks. You’ll feed into what people are saying and you’ll listen to some of them comments. You gotta learn to have thick skin. I learned to not let that shit bother me.
We’re regular fuckin’ people. But people go out there and talk about your family. Friends. All you just put up is, “Yo, what’s up everybody?” So I just had a bad day. I ain’t copping no plea. 50 is my man. Is 50 a real nigga? Yes. Am I a real nigga? Yes. Is Banks real? You know what I'm saying? We all real. I just had a bad day. I shouldn’t have said that because that’s the first time I ever stepped out of bounds ’cause I felt I wasn’t loyal.
Loyalty, I’m the biggest on loyalty with Fif. You could have a bag full of money, your money is going to be there. You can have your girlfriend here. Your girlfriend is gonna be here. That’s what really had me more upset with Fif was my loyalty to G-Unit.
I listened to Fat Joe back in the day. I listened to Jay Z. I listened to these dudes, but at the end of the day, I know I am not getting a business meeting with anybody. DJ Khaled. I’m not getting a meeting with Khaled. We are not gonna sit down and talk about records ’cause of shit in the past. It is what it is. You make the bed you lay in. Why? Ask me why I had all this beef. ’Cause of who? But am I loyal? You can’t take that from me.
What’s the difference now that G-Unit is back together?
You know what they say? Time flies when you're having fun, right? It’s so weird that the time flew. I remember fucking coming out of jail. The Free Yayo thing. Eminem wearing the shirt. 50 selling 1.5 million in his first week. I remember somebody in the jail brings me—they weren’t supposed to show me—but they showed me a Wal-Mart picture. At that time, it was all about CDs and now it’s all about digital drops and sales and stuff like that. It was big to see my face on Beg For Mercy and be in jail. I was still being promoted. It was crazy for me and now it's 10 years later.
You know, I’ve been around the world like three times. I think that’s the best thing about it. Everything in life has its ups and downs, right? So when your record is spinning, you hot. You got four cars now. I got the Mercedes Benz. I got the Bentley. I got the bulletproof truck. I got all this in my yard. I got all these so-called friends. 40-man entourage. They all want filet mignon or lobster.
You’ve known 50 for a long time. Since 1997?
Yeah. I remember he took me to his first video with Onyx. What was it? “React.” “Kill 'em in the club, baby show some love / Real thugs in the back, niggas react.” I remember that. I remember [Sonny] Seeza from Onyx bust his head and he didn’t want to ice skate after that. I just remember him in Jam Master Jay’s studio. We used to always rock with my friend’s basement.
Good friends go through things sometimes. Do you feel like it's hard to forgive and forget?
I don’t think so. I always think the media always pumps stuff up. I said something on Twitter like, “50 don’t rock with us like that no more.” I said it to a fan. You know, 50 don’t rock with us sometimes. That’s how he is. It went to different websites like VladTV. 50 Cent doesn’t rock with us no more because he wasn’t talking to Banks at that time. But you know, they both my brothers. We sitting around. 50 is not talking to Banks. Banks not talking to 50. It’s a frustrating time in my life. Federal agents knocking on my door. It was a rough year for me. I was going through a lot of things behind the scenes.
What year was it?
This was like last year. A matter of fact, I think this year. I said that one thing and it spiraled into something else. 'Cause sometimes, the media wants the bad things. They don’t want the good story. The bad story is juicier. The good story is like, “Oh, he did something nice. Yeah, okay. Whatever.”
What made you draw the line with 50? What did he say to you or what did you say to him that made you guys not talk to each other anymore?
I think it was more of the things I was going through. Like, 50 is a good person. 50 never had no mom or dad. He had his grandmother’s house. Grandmother, grandfather raised him. I’ve been around good people. Stern people. It’s different when you're raised by your grandparents in the street early. He had to do stuff on his own, so he’s used to doing stuff on his own.
Fif is the type of dude... When he first got the money, yeah I could get $100,000 or something from him or whatever. It’s nothing. But when a person has money, you have to come at them correct if you want anything from him. Like, a business plan. How you are gonna work your next album. Whatever you are gonna structure it. Sometimes, Fif showed tough love. Sometimes, his love can be too tough. I’m not like that. To me, it’s like night and day. Sometimes, he gets frustrated with things that he do and you learn how to love his frustrations for what they are. And that’s just what it is. Some days, he can be cool. Like I said, we was in the club with Chris Brown and Trey Songz. The next day, he be getting on my nerves. He’s back to business 'cause he takes stuff different. He don’t smoke. He don’t really drink. He’s a real kind of militant kind of guy. I’m not advocating drinking and smoking, but he just a different kind of guy. He’ll be in the club, he’s not drinking. He’s not smoking. There are really not too many people that are like that. It’s just different.
What is the best part now about seeing G-Unit back together?
I think the best part is going to be flying the world. I think money comes and goes. Jewelry comes and goes. Friends come and go. I think traveling the world is the best thing and seeing other people relate that energy. When we are in Brazil. When we are in Africa. Angola. When we are in Germany. Russia. Any part of the world. They can never take that away from me. I flew the world.
I look at my passport all the time and see all the stamps. Be amazed by it. Brazil. Been to Mumbai, India. Moscow. Been to the Canary Islands, black sand. Been to Armenia, Albania. Africa was a crazy experience for me. Angola was crazy, seeing how people was. How it is rough. When you go to Johannesburg and they got a McDonalds. I think traveling is the best thing. Being back on the road with Buck and Banks. Traveling the world and feeding our kids and helping people out.
At some point, you are going to want to put out another album...
It is what it is. There’s no pressure for me. I am at the point now... I can’t let this business drive me crazy. I just gotta take one step at a time. I learn how to control my emotions. How I feel. Never let this industry bring you down. That’s the point that I felt I was at. You know what? Fuck it. I'll do something else. I didn’t know what I wanted to do because music is my passion. I loved hip-hop since a pup. Since Slick Rick, Whodini. Run-DMC. In Queens, getting your first boom box. I’m hip-hop, hip-hop.
50 took responsibility for a lot of people’s careers in G-Unit.
It’s hard when your boss is your friend, meaning like I knew 50 when he didn’t have anything. I knew when this was all a dream to him like it was to me. Then he turned to a boss and you gotta make boss decisions. You know what I mean? It’s hard. He’s a smart dude. Give it up. He’s a smart businessman you need. He’s a smart dude but you know sometimes, your brother can get on your nerves. It’s just life. 50 is 50. Banks is Banks. Some days, I might not talk to Banks for two weeks, but I know that’s my brother. Just because I don’t talk to you for 30 days, we aren’t friends? Some people just get emotional sometimes and take shit the wrong way or whatever.
What do you think of Kidd Kidd joining the group?
I think 50 got a good one this time. I think the timing is great. He got shot. His first name is Curtis. 50’s first name is Curtis. They got a lot in common there. Sometimes, y’all make things come off from unforeseen things. Faces and people you meet happen for a reason. You meet them for a reason.
The New Member
Interview by Eric Diep
Most new rappers would probably look at New Orleans rhyme slinger Kidd Kidd as lucky. Sure he missed out on The Unit’s hey day and didn’t ink with G-Unit Records until the crew was already broken up, but still, the history and power of the brand will always be respected purely for what they accomplished. And being close to 50 Cent is always a plus for a new artist. But with the reunion Kidd Kidd’s found himself instantly bonding with Banks, Buck and Yayo and his lyrical style has helped him fall right into the fold, as proven with his work on the clique’s recently released music and newly released EP, The Beauty of Independence. While laid back in one of Fif’s numerous living rooms, Kidd Kidd offers his perspective on G-Unit.
XXL: As the newest member of G-Unit, what is your role?
Kidd Kidd: They legends. You gotta think about growing up, who wasn’t a G-Unit fan? A 50 Cent fan? Especially, you didn’t even have to be living that life that they had. You still just a fan of the energy and what they brought to the game. Just being in that whole atmosphere. ’Cause real talk, when I came, everybody wasn’t back around. It was always like, “Damn, I wish everybody could be back right now.” But for real, on some other shit too, it was like, people got a hard time accepting the fact that Fif got me with the group. They look at it like, “Oh, you not Game. You trying to replace Game?” I’m like, “Damn, y’all keep coming up with different people.” First, y’all was saying I’m trying to replace Banks. Then y’all said I am trying to replace Buck. Now, everybody back, y’all saying I am trying to replace Game.
People gotta understand that I am an addition. Even if we wouldn’t have been back together, I’ll still’ve been Kidd Kidd with G-Unit. My style and my form of rap, we all bring something different to the table. When we in the booth, you can hear it in these songs. I just want to put that out there. I’m not replacing them. I am an addition. I’m the 2014 G-Unit.
What are your thoughts on the reunion?
I still get the chills. [I’m] with people [I] grew up listening to and everything. And I mean, really, really listening to. I can probably rap each one of these dudes' CDs front to back. When I am on stage with them, I still get that fan mode. Sometimes, you’ll catch me just pausing and just looking at everybody. It’s like, “This is me up here.” It’s still unbelievable to a lot of people. When I'm around Fif and them, I see it as the same thing. It just all falls in perfect ’cause we all somewhat share the same story. The chemistry is already [there] and everything else came.
So you got along with everyone in the group from jump?
That’s how it is right now. We a family now. I don’t even call these guys my peers. I call them my brothers. That’s how they treat me. They treat me like my brothers. And I treat them like my big brothers. I know if I need anything, anything. As far as “Oh, you wanna play? I’ma go get my big brothers for you.” That’s how I look at them dudes. It’s love. For real, for real.
How is G-Unit different than any other crew to you?
Difference with G-Unit is 50. 50 is gonna make sure you are doing everything right. He’s gonna hip you to the business because you are coming from the streets. This is nothing you can go to school for. You learn from every mistake you make. And being with cats like 50, he’s gonna make sure that you don’t have to make those mistakes.
You have the same first name as 50 Cent and you’ve been shot before just like him. Tell me the story behind that.
Since I am a small dude and small body, some people can’t even survive one. Not even a stab wound. The story on that is real deep, as far as street-wise because...like me, personally, where I come from, the city is so much on top of each other. It’s so small. Everybody knows everybody. It’s like, people get into things and even the things that you did in the past, it always come back on you. I always felt me getting shot was a karma thing. I’m past it now. I'm good. I survived. Can’t say the same for, you know, but I'm still here.
How old were you?
This happened like two years ago. That wasn’t that long ago. [Laughs] So, two years ago, cooling, talking to my mom. I was already so much into things. Around this time, I had just met 50 Cent. I just met him for about a week or whatever. He flew back to New York. You know, I’m still in the trap. That was our first time meeting each other. He’ll tell you. Our first time meeting each other, he called me. He was shooting a movie in New Orleans. So, I come to the studio bus. He had a studio bus. It was me, my partner Rider Man. We come through, we got choppas. We come loaded because we were already in so much beef. Me, personally, before I met 50 Cent, I always felt like a lot of industry cats, they not who they say they are. By him accepting the aura, he a real one because he didn’t look at it and was like, “Oh, nah. Go ahead. Y’all can leave after all this.” He accepted it.
You came with guns to the studio?
Of course. It’s real. Let me tell you, it’s real. New Orleans, if you're in beef, and anybody from New Orleans, if they real New Orleans, they would let you know. They not about to come to no kind of shootout with just a hand gun. You gotta have something with at least 30 shots. At least. At least. At least, bruh. So you know, that’s how we came. You gotta think about it—we was already strapped up. We was on some bullshit. When I go get the car, “Come see me.” I’m coming to see you, this is how we roll. I gotta roll like this. Anytime, anything could happen. I met him and everything and everything was cool. From that, he was like, “I'm fucking with you. I like your shit.”
Because what people say is real recognize real. That’s a true saying. That’s a real true saying. He recognize real as far as what I'm saying in my lyrics. And stuff like that. If you go back to the “Niggas Be Schemin’” joint that we did. That was one of the first joints we did when we first met. If you listen to my music, 'cause a lot of people, they hear the music, but they not really listening. Like, you listen to my music and you follow me, you can really pinpoint a lot of things that I say that’s really real. Like the “Niggas Be Schemin’” song, I said, “They got change on Lil Mike, I ain’t tryna see him killed / I told 'em that’s my cuz, I don’t wanna see nothin’ happen to him / ’Cause when I start spittin’ at 'em, I ain’t rappin’ to 'em.” When I did that song, I actually had my cousin Mike in the studio van with me. 50 Cent met him and everything. After that, he got killed. It’s real. That’s the only way I know how to rap. It might sounds like it's bars. Like, “Oh, man, he spits bars.” 'Cause it's so much truth in those bars. Like my city, they know it. The world wouldn’t really look at it like that. He’s a kid, he’s rapping and stuff like that.
Long story short, after I met 50 Cent and everything. He left. He went back to New York or something like that. A week later, I got shot up. I got shot up in front of my mom. 32 times. I only caught six, you feel me? Like I said, surviving. What really made me respect 50 Cent, too, he was one of the first people to call my phone. Like when I was in the hospital bed, my phone was dead. I charged my phone up and I finally turned it on. He was one of the first people calling me. You gotta think about it, this is 50 Cent. Calling my phone. I really needed that. I ain’t gonna lie—I needed that. At the time, my mind, I was filled up with so much anger. So I really needed that phone call from him to let me know like, “When you heal up, it’s on. You know I got you. We are gonna do this and do that." He was telling me about his situation as far as when he got shot and how the labels and everything backed up off of him and stuff like that. He was just like, “Yo, I ain’t about to do that.” That struck me, you know? From inside, he’s a guy that doesn’t have to do a lot of things that he does, as well as for the rest of my brothers that’s here. For real, there are a lot of things he doesn’t have to do for me.
As soon as I got out of the hospital, I went to therapy once. You know once you get shot, you gotta go to therapy and all that. I went to therapy one time. He came back to New Orleans 'cause he was shooting a movie at that time. Just so happened it was the same day I went to therapy. I’m getting out of therapy. It’s like 10 in the morning. Getting out of there. He calls and he like, “Yo, you out of the hospital?” I’m like, “Yeah. I'm just leaving therapy.” He’s like, “Come see me at the hotel.” I go see him at the hotel, right? So he’s like, “I got this joint I want you to hear.” So he played the song, it was the song “Haters.” With me, Tony Yayo. I hear it.
He’s like, “You like it? You want to get on it?” It’s not like I'ma tell you no. Hell yeah! He was like, “Alright, cool. What you doing today?” I’m like, “Trying to stay alive.” He’s like, “Alright.” This and that. Such and such. Book him a flight. “Alright, we going to Atlanta today and we gonna go record the record.” I’m like, “Damn, like that?” He didn’t even get me a chance to get prepared. I still got staples. You know, I got the colostomy bag. I’m barely moving. I’m like, “Damn, alright, let’s do it.”
We went out there. I recorded the record right. He’s like, “Alright, cool. We shooting a video for tomorrow.” Stuff like that. I’m like, “Damn.” You know? It just happened so fast. Right after we shot the video, two days later, he’s bringing me overseas. He really saved me and he calmed me down. There’s no telling where I would be right now. For real. If I woulda been stuck in that city, I woulda been stuck in that same mentality.
He showed you a different side of the world.
Exactly. I was like, I'm trying to spread that to the rest of my family. My peers and my friends. It’s much better than what we think. It’s a whole 'nother better world. 'Cause I’ve been through a lot and I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs as far as with the music. It kind of made me feel like it's not real. Until I met Fif. He showed me that it was real. That’s why I feel like this is where I'm supposed to be. At one time, I was with Lil Wayne and all those cats. I was on the “Mrs. Officer” song. You know that.
What are your thoughts on the reunion? You said yourself that you wished these guys were back together, and now they're all around you. You're on stage with them at Summer Jam.
It’s still unbelievable to a lot of people. When I'm around Fif and them, I see it's the same thing. They went through the same exact thing. A lot of people still can’t believe that they made it. It just all falls in perfect 'cause we all somewhat share the same story. The chemistry is already [there] and everything else came. Like before, Banks was already around. I always ran to him in clubs and stuff. And it was always love. So when I did come, it wasn’t like, “Oh, here comes Lloyd Banks.” And this and that. Nah, we been met each other. We been cool outside of 50 Cent.
What about Yayo?
Yay, since I came around, he’s like my big bro. Like, for real. He just schooled me to everything. Showing me certain things like how I should do this. How my stage presence should be. Stuff like that. He made me real, real comfortable because it’s hard trying to fit in. But it’s really hard feeling like you had to fit in.
I know you mentioned the Cash Money situation and I know you were with Wayne for a while. Why is G-Unit the better spot for you? You had to make that transition at some point.
As far as with Young Money and stuff like that... Like I said, the difference between them and G-Unit is we share the same history. As far as G-Unit, the money situation, it was more like an, “Okay, I’m New Orleans.” I got hooked up with Wayne through mutual people. Shout out to Wayne, too. If it wasn’t for him, people wouldn’t know who I am. So shout out to Wayne. And to this day, we still holler at each other. We still keep a close contact. There’s no bad blood. He happy to see me in a good position. Doing what I'm doing.
Shout out to Drake, too. When he came on board, he was there. What I respect about Drake though, and what a lot of people don’t know, he be saying some real shit. It be sleek shit, but it be real shit. The song where he said, “I had hit records on my demo” ["Trophies"] I said, “Ooh, that nigga ain’t lying.” When I came, he came with the “Forever” track. That’s how I was able to be on the original one. “Stunt Hard.” He even had the song, “Money To Blow.” For real, that was actually on his demo. We sat there and heard it. To see all that blow up now and to see him in the space that he’s at right now, I be like, “Yo, that’s dope.” I can’t do nothing about that. I tip my hat to him. It shows you being focus and being business-minded.
What are you most excited about now that G-Unit is back?
I’m excited that everybody gets to relive the next [chapter]. I get to live it for the first time. I’m just excited because I never been on a platform like today in my life. If you ask me this type of questions about two-three years, I’ll probably be like, “Fuck this. I’m trap. Nigga, fuck this rap shit. I’m a trap nigga. Fuck that.” I’d be on some other shit. Now, I’m really focused. I’m grown up. And I’m ready. I went to training camp. I’m ready.
Do you see yourself dropping your mixtape #RG soon?
Of course, I got a few mixtapes. I got a few mixtapes that’s ready. That’s why you hear me shouting out different names of mixtapes. #RG. Street Fame. Fuk Da Fame. I got all of these joints that’s ready. But on the low, I dropped the Fuk Da Fame: American Trapstar that I did for New Orleans. Just for New Orleans. I gotta feed my streets. If anything, I gotta feed the streets. Like down there, everybody look up to me. Everybody expecting me to do it. Carry the torch for Soulja Slim. Rest in peace to Soulja Slim. I gotta do that. I gotta be that voice for New Orleans. Because a lot of people didn’t make it out. Shout out to Cash Money. Shout out to No Limit. A lot of people made it out and did their thing.
I want to talk about a certain lyric from “I Am.” You said “I am the whole G-Unit, with Game and Buck.” What did you mean by that?
I rapped that. What I'm saying is, I am all of these people. I am all these legends of hip-hop. I am that. I am everything you could want in all of us. When it comes to rap, I could be that. Like, I'm that as far as the group goes. Before everybody was back, “Oh, man. We need such and such back. Get Kidd out of here.” So I'm just letting people know, I am the whole G-Unit, with Game and Buck. For real. I’m a hunned. That’s the only way I know how to keep it. 100 percent. It’s real over here.
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