G Unit/Interscope

Pity the rappers of 50 Cent’s G-Unit: They share their most famous member’s artistic shallowness but don’t look nearly as good in a wife beater. Tony Yayo, the eternally incarcerated patriarch of the rhyme family, is no exception. As the near-mythic subject of shout-outs and mix tapes, the Queens native has had plenty to do with his crew’s massive commercial success. But as a rapper, he turns out to be just another guy who ain’t as charismatic as Fiddy. “So Seductive,” the first single from his debut long-player, Thoughts of a Predicate Felon, is as obvious and anticlimactic as the “Yayo’s Home” T’s everybody wears in its video. Surprise: Our man (1) is really horny and (2) really likes brand names. Though he believes he’s also a really good rapper, throughout the album, the Talk of New York is unable to turn his experiences into much more than detailed product descriptions of guns, jewels, and the like. And whether it’s the seesawing strings of “Homicide” (“Cocksucker/This ain’t rap, check my rap sheet/I’ll feed you to the rats with peanut butter on your feet”) or the tinkly piano of “Eastside Westside” (“I’m in that black GT with the Earthquake tweeters/I ride through the ’hood and I shine like Jesus”), he bulldozes his way through the music with a gruff delivery that buries rather than balances the sound. As might be expected from someone fresh out of the fed, Yayo perks up when he’s talking about the ladies, though his lyrics remain as tired as ever. Built around a telegraphlike guitar riff and a descending bass line, the catchy, Havoc-produced “Dear Suzie” shows appreciation to a woman who sent the MC some special fan mail while he was locked up: “Dear Suzie, I ain’t had sex in a while/I’m in jail with my niggas, beatin’ off to your pictures.” “I Know You Don’t Love Me,” which features the whole G-Unit squad, is Felon’s strongest track, mostly because of 50’s infectious, insecure hook about groupie love. “I know you don’t love me/You ain’t the same when Jay-Z’s around,” he rhymes. “I know you don’t love me/You scream and holler when Eminem’s in town.” With each chorus, the names of the hiphop notables change, but oddly, none of the verses hew to the theme. Yayo, not about to admit that some other rapper could steal his thunder, instead says things such as “My bitches trained like robots/They sniff coke, deep throat, and they hold down Glocks.” Yayo may be home, but it’s clear that his place in G-Unit has more to do with seniority than skill. —Sarah Godfrey