Beg for Mercy, the debut album from multiplatinum rapper 50 Cent's group, G-Unit, has monster written all over it. Certainly, its themes are pretty monstrous -- or they would be if a decade-plus of gangsta rap hadn't already rendered subjects like homicide, beat-downs, and down-and-dirty casual sex business as usual. The foursome, which features 50, his fellow Queens homeboys Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo, and the Atlanta-bred Young Buck (not pictured), functions as a sort of barbershop quartet -- the kind that frequents those barbershops where straight razors are used for purposes other than shaving. Most of these tracks -- produced by a variety of knob twirlers, including Dr. Dre -- are rife with trashy tough talk. ''My Buddy'' even uses gangsta's hoariest cliche: the ''say hello to my little friend'' speech from ''Scarface.''
Amazingly, 50 and his crew are able to imbue such crassness with a sort of rough-and-tumble charm, winning you with their sheer boisterousness and the fun-house spirit of the music. And, truth be told, they sometimes let their sensitive sides show, as on perky R&B-styled numbers like ''Wanna Get to Know You'' and ''Smile.'' But perhaps the most touching moment comes when 50 waxes spiritual on ''Footprints,'' a retelling of a popular parable: ''First there were two sets of footprints in the sand/Then there was one set of footprints in the sand/When times get hard and s--- hits the fan/God don't walk with me, he carry me, man.'' Hmmm. Guess that old saying ''God don't like ugly'' might not be entirely true.