4. G-Unit, Beg for Mercy (2003)
Label: G-Unit, Interscope
In addition to upping the stakes on the mixtape game and the hook game, 50 Cent leveraged his stardom to put his crew on more quickly and more effectively than any rapper in history. Instead of riding out Get Rich Or Die Tryin' or going for an immediate solo follow-up, he brought out Beg For Mercy just 10 months later, setting up his top lieutenants for platinum solo debuts the next summer. Sure, one-third of the group at this point was from Tennessee, but G-Unit simply was the sound of New York at that moment: gleaming and polished but unapologetically menacing, the last gasp of gangsta rap as a blockbuster industry.