here's no shortage of hip-hop's ills that can be traced directly to G-Unit, and upon hearing Blood Money, the first temptation is to point the finger at 50 Cent for summarily ending Mobb Deep's chances to recover the goodwill generated by The Infamous, Hell on Earth, and Murda Muzik. To his credit, 50 doesn't deserve most of the blame for how this ended up. Anyone who's been paying attention since Prodigy emptied the vault on the overlooked H.N.I.C. knew damn well that a haphazard combination of lethargic gun talk and callow club concessions would've been the result if Blood Money came out on Warp, Southern Lord, or, more appropriately, Koch. The only question was "in what ratio?" As to be expected with 50 overseeing this project, there's a lean to the latter and it's not a good look, since the newly-coined "Hollywood Hav" and "V.I.-P" are the least convincing sex symbols in hip-hop this side of Twista. For crying out loud, the first thing they fantasize about on "Daydreamin'" is owning dirt bikes.
As someone who spent countless hours in the late 90's scouring the darkest recesses of Napster for Prodigy guest spots, it brings me not one bit of pleasure to say that no rapper on a major label has fallen off to the degree that P has. It's become clear that he never recovered from getting his jewelry snatched at the "Keep It Thoro" video shoot. Remember "it's a package deal / You rob me, you take these missiles along with that"? After being jooksed with no consequences, P's fake thug status was the only thing Jay-Z and Nas could agree on in 2001. Mobb Deep once thrived on conflict, threatening to punch people in their face just for living and warning 2Pac that he would get shot again before it actually happened. Exposed on the Summer Jam screen to the folks that don't know 'em, Mobb responded to what might be the last All-Time Great Beef by collaborating with 112 and issuing the sort of nearly subliminal clapbacks that made P.M. Dawn's "Plastic" seem rough, rugged and raw by comparison.
Infamy was the point of no return for the Mobb, and it's quite clear on Blood Money that the "dun lingo" they once mastered is gone for good. The malice, menace, and unorthodox rhyme structure and word choice continue to be shelved in favor of indifferent, flavorless bars about getting guns and/or the club to pop. The only sincere moment on this album occurs during the outro to "Put 'Em In Their Place," when P extols the financial virtues of getting checks from "Curtis 'Million Dollar Budget' Jackson."
Don't think that I'm letting G-Unit off the hook here. Mobb Deep self-inflicts enough of their wounds, but it’s the Unit's influence that turns Blood Money from pointless to infuriating. 50 had gone on record saying we'd get uncut Mobb here, free of his fingerprints. Seven of Blood Money's sixteen tracks feature Mr. Jackson and even when he's not there physically, he is in spirit; there's no way Hav and P came up with all those sing-song hooks by themselves. This is possibly the most insular G-Unit album to date, and the sad part is that it doesn't sound that jarring at all. Prodigy slurs his lifeless lyrics to the point where it's difficult to tell the difference between him and 50 or even Lloyd Banks. Word is that P talks about licking shots at Jesus on "Pearly Gates," but you and I will never know, since he was given the "Gimme the Loot" edit times ten. In fact, the only distinguished verse on this disc is from Tony Yayo, but only because his amateurish bluster on "Click Click" made me laugh out loud for some reason. Must've been that "me and 50 and Hollywood and Quincy Jones" line. Or "you a human taco."
Pre-Just Blaze, Mobb Deep had the market cornered on what was once considered "bangers," as it's hard to imagine any rapper that wouldn't have killed for the first crack at the beats from "Shook Ones, Pt. 2," "Drop A Gem On 'Em," or "Quiet Storm." Those three alone probably account for years of Rap City: The Bassment freestyles. But when it comes to picking producers, 50's notorious for having short arms and deep pockets.
As a result, beats that merely pass by without distinction on Blood Money become highlights; "Stole Something" literally sounds like it was defaced by a CD error, whereas "Creep" is an endless, mind-numbing sample of the Price Is Right wheel. And did you hear "21 Questions" and immediately think to yourself, "the Infamous was meant to destroy beats like this"? Your prayers are answered on "Capital P, Capital H" and "It's Alright."
Mobb Deep had all kinds of potential for inspiration on Blood Money: a new label affiliation, actual promotion, and the chance to fire back at those who thought the Mobb was being trampled by the march of time. There was also the opportunity to fire a salvo against the trap/slab ascendancy by serving up another helping of the no-frills NYC hip-hop that they already perfected. All of this was dependent on the answer to one question: how would P and Hav fit into G-Unit? The transition was seamless. They're just two more guys in the clique who spit anonymous gangsta shit (in the truest sense of the word) with absolutely no vocal inflection. It's hard to imagine another album in 2006 doing a worse job of justifying its existence than Blood Money.