Status Ain’t Hood increases his hit count
The story goes like this: Dr. Dre was at the Vibe Awards last year, about to accept some sort of lifetime achievement award from Quincy Jones. Some guy, later rumored to be connected with Suge Knight, approached Dre, asked for an autograph, and suddenly punched Dre in the face. Dre swung back, a whole pile of security guards and rappers jumped on the guy, and the next thing anyone knew the guy was in the hospital with stab wounds. A video of the brawl, which appeared on roughly one kajillion DVD mixtapes in the months after the award show, showed 50 Cent and Lloyd Banks in the middle of the brawl but not throwing any punches. It also showed three guys apparently holding knives, one of whom was Young Buck. Buck turned himself into police after a warrant was issued for his arrest, and he pleaded not guilty on charges of assault with a deadly weapon. Earlier this week, Buck’s lawyers reached a deal with prosecutors, and Buck pleaded guilty on a charge of assault with a chance to produce bodily injury. He’ll be on probation for three years, and he’ll have to do 80 hours of community service, but he won’t be going to prison. Part of the reason for the reduced charge was new evidence: DNA analysis somehow showed that he wasn’t one of the guys who inflicted the stab wounds, and an analysis of the video showed that he’d actually been using a fork, not a knife.
So let’s think about this. At the time, Buck was one of the new guys in a rap crew affiliated with Dr. Dre. He’s at the award show, presumably eating dinner or something, when he sees somebody punch Dre. Buck doesn’t have any close association with Dre. If I’m remembering right, Dre didn’t produce any of the tracks on Young Buck’s album (Straight Outta Ca$hville, still the single best G-Unit-related album), and he didn’t appear in any of his videos or anything. But Buck charges into the fray anyway without thinking twice, still holding his damn fork, even though there are video cameras everywhere and he’ll presumably go to prison if he does anything serious. And, what? He sticks the guy with the fork? I don’t know, don’t buy DVD mixtapes, haven’t seen the video. And it would be ridiculous to trumpet this as a great moment in rap when it’s just another dumb example of latent knuckleheadedness surfacing and making rap look bad, embarrassing everyone who loves it. But still, there’s something weirdly admirable about Buck’s unthinking loyalty, his willingness to do something stupid for a rap deity, especially now that we know he wasn’t going to do anything dangerous. As Skillz said in the 04 Rap-Up: “Buck proved his spot / He should be all over Detox.”
And really, all this is just an excuse to talk about Young Buck. Buck has had a quiet 2005: no solo albums, no big showcases, mostly just mugging in the background in G-Unit videos and photo shoots. He wasn’t on Game’s album, he barely jumped on 50’s album for a couple of bars at the end, and I can’t even remember if he did much on the Tony Yayo album. On the big XXL gatefold G-Unit cover, he and Banks and Yayo got pushed behind the fold to make room for 50’s flashy new signings: Mobb Deep, M.O.P., Mase. Buck did turn up on Three 6 Mafia’s “Stay Fly,” but, as Al Shipley wrote, he had the single worst verse on the song, and it’s not a good look when you can’t upstage Crunchy Black. An album of pre-G-Unit material called T.I.P. came out on some indie label, but I haven’t heard it, and I don’t know anyone who has. In the XXL article, 50 said every G-Unit artist would have an album out in 2006, and Buck says his album will be out in the summer. But we all know how reliable rap release dates are; does anyone think 50 seriously plans to drop Spider Loc and Olivia albums?
But Young Buck is the best rapper in G-Unit, 50 Cent included. He has the best voice, a thick, wet, passionate Scarface-via-Pac rumble. He rides beats better than anyone in the crew, spitting hard consonants percussively and staying right in the pocket. And even if he depends on the same dead-eyed get-money nihilism as everyone else in the group (and virtually everyone else in rap itself, for that matter), he’s the only guy who persistently hints at depth underneath all the grandstanding: “My daddy was a dope fiend and I don’t really miss him,” “Lord forgive me but he tried to kill me.” G-Unit has released way too many mixtapes this year, but they’ve all been worth buying mostly because of the three or four verses Buck will inevitably get. And Buck utterly steals the show on the Get Rich or Die Tryin’ soundtrack, handily upstaging 50 on two separate tracks and just wrecking his one solo track, “Don’t Need No Help.” Other than 50, Buck is the only G-Unit member who collaborates consistently with non-G-Unit artists; can you imagine Banks or Yayo jumping on a track with Young Jeezy?
When Buck first joined G-Unit, he seemed almost like a liability, a token Southerner only there to help 50 reach one more demographic. These days, he looks like the only G-Unit guy who’d be doing just fine without 50. Last time I checked, Straight Outta Ca$hville still hadn’t gone platinum, but I still get the vague impression that 50 might be keeping Buck under wraps because he’s the only G-Unit member who isn’t an obvious second banana. He’s a threat.