50 Cent is in full-fledged G-Unit mode right now. The crew, to be exact, not his Interscope-distributed label.
On the heels of his last solo album, Curtis — which he recently called a "dud" — as well as disappointing album sales from Lloyd Banks, Young Buck and Mobb Deep, Fif made the decision to regroup and flood the streets the same way the four-man set did the first time they took hip-hop by storm.
But things have changed considerably since then.
The crew's first major mixtape release of 2008, Return of the Body Snatchers, was notable for its return to lyrical form, but also for Buck's absence. 50 claimed the Southern G-unit member was on a separate tour when he, Banks and Tony Yayo recorded the material over a single weekend. Buck maintains he wasn't even aware of the mixtape being put together.
Last week, 50 played MTV News a handful of new G-Unit music at his Connecticut mansion (he also talked about his new video game and had some interesting comments on the forthcoming presidential election). The tracks were from the group album due later this year.
While Banks and Yayo — friends from 50's neighborhood days — laughed along as Fif told stories about their Southside Queens stomping grounds, one of the clique's members was again notably absent: Young Buck.
In the past few months, the Tennessee rapper has gone public, revealing that things with the foursome aren't as airtight as outsiders might think.
During a radio interview around Super Bowl weekend, Buck said he and 50 hadn't been communicating. And in a recent online interview, Buck claimed to have never received a royalty check from his record sales. His manager, Sha Money XL, later released a statement saying his client's claims were not true.
50 told MTV News that everyone on his label — Buck included — has been well-compensated.
"Each person in G-Unit has earned over $10 million in their career at this point," 50 said. "Outside of the guys that didn't release product — M.O.P., Spider Loc, Olivia — the guys that had their project go out physically. I didn't say they have $10 million, I said they've seen $10 million. What they did with their paper, I don't know."
50 also said that speculation that he and Buck have actual beef has been blown out of proportion. The four-man crew was profiled in the May 2008 issue of XXL magazine and reiterated that its differences aren't as dramatic as they seem. G-Unit graced the front of the magazine with the cover line, "Are 50 Cent & his band of brothers still hard to the core?"
"I think you have to give them something to blow it out of proportion," 50 said of the rumors. "Buck did that. I think that what he was saying, in order to validate himself as a man, he feels he has to go against what I'm doing, similar to some of the things we've seen from Game ... [But then] he'll back off of it, when we're in direct conversation. When he's out in public, he'll say something. They're like my younger brothers, but they'll do sh-- for attention. They'll do things, then when I look like, 'What are you doing?' They'll be like, 'Oh, nah, because you was doing this. ... Because you didn't call me when you were on the international tour.' I'm like, 'Are you kidding me? You didn't call neither, so what does that mean?' "
For the record, 50 said that he and Buck have a much deeper relationship than he and Game ever had.
This report is from MTV News.