G Unit Interview: Terminate On Sight

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by Alex Shtaerman

Regardless of whether you love them or hate them, one thing is clear: The last time anyone dominated the rap game the way G Unit has over the last five years was back when Snoop, Pac and Dre were rollin’ with Suge Knight in the early and mid 90’s. And as far as that assessment goes, there is really no debate to speak of. Rising up from the streets of New York City, The Unit would surge to prominence by putting the underground mixtape circuit in a virtual stranglehold thereby creating an unprecedented grass roots following that would catapult the crew to superstardom. For a while, there seemed like there was no limit to what 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo could collectively accomplish. However, while the millions continue to roll in, ever since 50 Cent’s narrow loss to Kanye West in a recent album sales rivalry, some have wondered whether the team from Southside Jamaica Queens still has the hunger to stay on top. With the July 1st release date for G Unit’s new album, T.O.S.:Terminate On Sight, drawing near, we sit down with Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo to talk some Hip-Hop and find out what keeps the crew focused in light of such great success. Check out the RiotSound.com must-read interview.

RIOTSOUND.COM: You guys recently came back from doing a run of shows in Africa. Can you talk about that in terms of the fan reaction over there and the level of enthusiasm for Hip-Hop in general? What’s the biggest difference between rocking a stage in the US or Europe as opposed to spots in Africa where the people there may not get to see many artists showing them love and coming through their city or country?

LLOYD BANKS: For one, they expect a lot of energy, a lot A LOT of energy. I’ve been over there three times – actually the first time I went over there was through Nigeria – this last time we got the opportunity to go through Johannesburg and Cape Town [South Africa] as well as Tanzania, Angola – and also Australia. We went to about six different places [in Australia] and New Zealand on this tour.

And like I always say man, it’s like whatever you become spoiled to becomes not as exciting. With a lot of these markets, we’ve never been to them before. Like Kosovo and places like St. Petersburg, for example. With these places that we’re going to for the first time, the fans there have been holding their energy in for a long time. They been holding their screaming since 2003, since Get Rich Or Die Tryin, you know what I’m saying? So when they finally get the opportunity to see you or rock with you – to me, it [feels like] the first time I did Madison Square Garden. So with that in mind, every time you go to perform anywhere in the world – one thing I’ve always heard is that you’re only as good as the last time you were seen – with that in mind we try to keep the same energy up for every show, regardless if it was 500 people or 55,000 people.

RIOTSOUND.COM: In recent months, many would probably agree that, as a collective, G Unit has moved in a direction more consistent with your roots, as far as delivering the harder brand of street music that you were originally associated with. There was a time where some would say you may have gone away from that, at least to some degree. What are your thoughts about the crew’s present direction, musically speaking?

TONY YAYO: Well, from my perspective I feel like it’s just a “catch 22” with G Unit because we got all kinds of fans. It’s like I was explaining to the last writer, with 50, some fans want to hear “Gunz Come Out” instead of “21 Questions”. And with Lloyd Banks, I’m not gonna lie, the ladies love him, so they want to hear certain kinds of joints from him. And then his guy fans want to hear songs like ‘Playboy”, you know what I mean. And then some of my fans want to hear “Curious” and some of my fans are like – why are you doing “Curious”? Do “I Know You Don’t Love Me” or “Pimpin”. But also, as far as all the beef and battle tracks we did against other MCs like Ja Rule and all them, that never sold G Unit. “In Da Club” sold G Unit, “On Fire” sold G Unit, “So Seductive” sold G Unit, “Shorty Wanna Ride” sold G Unit. At this point in our careers we’re comfortable saying whatever we want to say.

You know, I learned a lot being around Banks and being around 50. I got groomed to the industry and I realized there’s no business like show business. This go around right here [with this album] we had no Jimmy Iovine and no Step Johnson and nobody from Interscope telling us [what to do]. We got a song on the album that’s called “Straight Outta Southside” and it’s dedicated to Sean Bell. It’s an absolute tragedy what happened. We actually got a chance to meet his whole family and we’re also working with the Sean Bell Foundation and the G Unity Foundation. Also on the album we got some real aggressive music, we got a joint called “No Days Off”, it’s crazy! We got a lot of hard shit on there. But, as far as the tragedy with Sean Bell, that’s something that could have happened to Banks’ brother or my brother. You got kids under fifteen and sixteen carrying guns, carrying 45’s and 9’s and stuff like that. And we’ve dealt with our own friends getting killed as well, so it’s a very serious situation.

RIOTSOUND.COM: People all over the country have shown an outpouring of support for Sean Bell and his family; but, for you, it’s also an issue that hits particularly close to home.

TONY YAYO: It definitely hit home and it really hit home for us because that’s Queens. I mean, like I said, that could have been Banks’ brother or my brother, you understand what I’m saying? Because that happened in Queens. It could of have been me . We’ve been around those strip clubs over there before, we used to go there all the time. So it’s crazy man.

“It’s not only the big exec that keeps us motivated, it’s going back to the hood and shit like that. Going by and seeing niggas standing on the same spot that I left in 2001, 2002 and then through it all seeing some of my closest homies getting murdered”

RIOTSOUND.COM: The new G Unit album T.O.S.:Terminate On Sight drops July 1st. Obviously it’s a very highly anticipated record; overall what should fans expect to hear?

LLOYD BANKS: It’s definitely reminiscent of the early stages in our careers, 2002, 2003. Everything comes back full circle in due time. There’s a time when the fans want the hardcore street, uncut music and then there’s a time when they want to go to the clubs and then there’s a time when they want to be conscious and hear all kind of different records, and their minds are on to that. I think that also has a lot to do with the caliber of artists that are out there putting albums out. When there’s not a lot of classic and quality albums coming out, it’s like people will do anything to remain relevant. And at this point in time as far as Hip-Hop right now, I feel like the music we have and what we’re presenting to the people is definitely reminiscent of the early stages in our mixtape careers. The hunger is there. A lot of people ask all of us “what keeps you motivated”? And it’s not only the positives. It’s not only the big exec that keeps us motivated, it’s going back to the hood and shit like that. Going by and seeing niggas standing on the same spot that I left in 2001, 2002 and then through it all seeing some of my closest homies getting murdered – so there’s a lot of personal things that go into the music also. As long as I’m living there’s going to be somebody else that’s not living and their story needs to be told also and I think that’s the part of Hip-Hop that’s missing right now.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Some people reading this that aren’t from New York or maybe aren’t even from the United States may not realize that Southside Jamaica Queens is easily one of the toughest neighborhoods in any of the five boroughs. What was your experience like growing up in Southside and what kind of adversity did you have to face on a day to day basis?

TONY YAYO: I’ma go ahead and tell you how real it is. Last year, in 2007 – you know Yayo, I stay in some kind of trouble all the time. Dudes don’t like The Unit, they don’t like 50, they don’t like me, police don’t like us, nobody likes us. It’s G Unit vs. the world. Last year my mom’s house got shot up over 20 times! All my dreams were shattered; everything. I grew up there as a little kid running around in the kitchen. There were bullets in the stove, bullets in the bathroom. My sister and my niece was in the house homie. You understand what I’m saying? So, I mean, that just goes to tell you how REAL it still is! It’s REAL. And what’s crazy is how real my mother is, you know why? Because she wants to stay there! She has the money to leave and I have the money to give her to leave, it’s nothing. And she wants to stay there!

RIOTSOUND.COM: Does she maybe feel like if she leaves then she’s getting chased out of her own neighborhood and that’s just something she won’t tolerate?

TONY YAYO: My mother don’t understand what goes on with me and my issues. She’s from Haiti. When she first came here she didn’t know a word of English, in Haiti she was an RN [registered nurse]. So she came here and she did what she had to do; she got to be a nurse’s aid, she learned how to speak English. When you hear other rap dudes complain [about having it hard] – my moms she came from Haiti [with nothing] and now she has a half-a-million dollar house that she worked for. And that’s what was important to her, to get her house and to take care of her kids. My moms is never going to move. And say if somebody got hit?! Say my sister or my niece would have got hit? Then what? And I say this in every interview for the niggas that did that, I wish they would have came hit me or come and shoot at me. I’m talking about some of those issues on the album and also Banks’ pops passed away last year so niggas [like us] go through real shit too, man. A lot of people forgot or didn’t know – my moms house got shot up 22 times man! It’s going down out there. Look at what 50 is going through [with his child support case], so it’s crazy man. [On the album] you’ll hear about all the issues we got and it’ll be through the music.

“Look at us as the influence for mixtape music, the first niggas to do it like that! Everybody had mixtapes but who monopolized off the mixtape game the most?! We the first ones to put guns on the covers and [rep] New York City like that”

RIOTSOUND.COM: Nowadays, a lot of artists have qualms about the state of Hip-Hop and we regularly hear about it from all different angles and perspectives. With that said, I’d like to pose the following question to you: right now, in your view, what are some of the best things about Hip-Hop, and also, what are some of the worst things?

LLOYD BANKS: The good things, speaking for myself, is that I wanted to do this since I was about eleven years old. I had other aspirations but there was just something about [Hip-Hop music]. I always considered myself to be a writer and it was just a way to vent. I watched it go from being my dream to reality. 50 lived right around the corner from me and he got his first record deal in like ’97. And that fact right there, that was enough to let me know it was possible. And when I was actually able to get the opportunity to get my own record deal; that was a dream come true!

Every time I go on stage, every time we up there, that shit is just like a breath of fresh air for us. That shit is therapy man. I’ve done concerts the night that I lost my best friend. So [Hip-Hop] is my therapy. The only bad thing about it, I guess it would have to be the aura that’s around you sometimes. Sometimes you get labeled a certain way and I gotta deal with stuff like getting my car searched for no reason and shit like that. Other rappers go on the radio and they talk about the Hip-Hop cops – they’re not even on the radar of the Hip-Hop cops. And those are the things that get me peeved.

[Another thing is], I feel like Hip-Hop used to be so close to my heart. I used to have so many morals and standards involved in the music itself. And now you see so many people compromising themselves for their career. Like, who are you as a person? Do you want to be looked at as somebody that’s a snake? The snake usually gets killed in the movie and everybody is happy. In all of our careers we just want to sit back and be proud of the accomplishments that we’ve had and we thank the fans and everybody who’s supported us. But as far as people not liking us for no reason, that doesn’t make sense. If you don’t like us, have a reason! Overall there’s ups and there’s downs but it’s a fair trade. When you make the decision to be a celebrity and a public figure, you make that trade. Your personal life turns into everybody’s [life].

TONY YAYO: My opinion of it is like, instead of the little bloggers that don’t have nothing to do with their lives, they have no bitches, no cars…


TONY YAYO: That’s a blogger for you, somebody on the computer with nothing to do. And I’m not knocking every blogger ‘cause I enjoy bloggers too. I enjoy people that hate on The Unit. I don’t let that shit stress me out because I remember not having, I remember being on the corner on 1-3-4. Tell these niggas to put their rap sheet online! I’ll put my rap sheet online. I’m not trying to glorify what I did, I had a hard life; me, 50 and Banks, we did it together collectively and we got each other out the hood. Now, my whole thing is, what I don’t like is: instead of a brother hating on us, try to figure out how we did that instead of being on the corner with your drugs and your pistol.

Look at us as the influence for mixtape music, the first niggas to do it like that! Everybody had mixtapes but who monopolized off the mixtape game the most?! We the first ones to put guns on the covers and [rep] New York City like that, we were the first ones to do our own photo shoots, we were the first ones to press up the CDs with Sha Money [XL]. We ran around and got our own exposure, we did it ourselves after 50 got blackballed from the game. So my love for Hip-Hop is always going to be there, man. I love it. I love traveling, I love going to the clubs. I love meeting dudes like Flavor Flav and Shawty Lo. I was in the club with Shawty Lo and Red Café at the Summer Jam afterparty; Akon, Flavor Flav, all of them was at the club. So we get love and we got love for people too.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Like you said,, when G Unit first came on the scene you completely dominated the mixtape circuit and you were able to reach so many fans that way, in effect, setting the stage for what would be a historic rise to stardom. Today, with the mixtape game fizzling out a bit and the internet taking over more and more, do you feel like a key element of Hip-Hop is also being lost through that process?

TONY YAYO: I feel like, and I hear 50 and Banks say this all the time, I hear them say this repeatedly – cause these are two smart guys – Banks is relatively young but he’s smart and he’s always been mature and that’s why I’ve always liked him – he’d be nineteen and I could ask him a question, you know what I’m saying. So with the state of Hip-Hop, what I see now is its just changing. Now it’s going from the mixtapes right onto the computer; you don’t even gotta leave the crib. So for me, I live all the way out in the woods, [before] I would have had to go all the way to Jamaica Avenue to get Banks’ mixtape or burn it from someone, but now I can go right online and go get that, for free! Download it, burn it and throw that right in the truck – and that’s what people are doing.

For example, we put out Return Of The Body Snatchers and Elephant In The Sand, those two CDs were successes. We got over a million downloads bro, and we’re talking in days time, over a million downloads. So I think everything is going viral. I mean, you see the success of Soulja Boy, he sold 900,000 records and all those ringtones. He got a deal and he turned himself into a superstar over the computer. So that just tells you right there that that’s where it’s going, viral! Everything is viral. I stay on ThisIs50.com everyday, all day everyday.

RIOTSOUND.COM: One of the hallmarks of G Unit has been battling other MCs and taking it to other MCs on record. A recent example was the Elephant In The Sand mixtape you just mentioned, which was directed towards Fat Joe. Is the beef with Joe still ongoing? It seems like some of the other disputes have resolved themselves, at least to a degree.

TONY YAYO: Joe to me is a fat piece of shit. To me – like niggas be talking about fighting and all this shit – he can’t beat 50. You run up on me and Banks the wrong way we’re gonna rub him the wrong way, you understand what I’m saying? So it is what it is, ain’t no little niggas shit over here. He be talking like niggas is little niggas and all this shit. Banks sold more records than you, I sold way more than you, we got more money than you and that’s where the jealousy comes from. You see him on the Soundscan and he did 5000 copies. And then he’s saying shit like “niggas runnin’ with police”. NIGGA, I’m runnin FROM police, nigga!!! I’ve never seen 50 with a cop and he’s saying niggas runnin’ with police and niggas ain’t in the club. I was in the club looking for Joe this week, what’s up?!! 30 deep, what’s up?!! Where you at? Joe know what time it is nigga. He got his whole hood [against him]; he don’t even got control of his own hood, your own homies going against you ‘cause you can’t even put niggas on.

I don’t respect Fat Joe because I had conversations with Remy Martin and he wasn’t giving her no paper and they was writing records for this fat bastard. Armageddon is still living in his mama’s house. Remy, she made a little money but she was supposed to make waaaaaay more money. I heard he was trying to give her like $100,000 or something. What the fuck you gonna do with that? Buy some weed?

For more new and info on G Unit, 50 Cent, Tony Yayo and Lloyd Banks, stay tuned to www.ThisIs50.com