Artist: Lloyd Banks
Album: The Hunger For More
Label: G-Unit / Interscope
Rating: 6 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
A lot of people don’t like Lloyd Banks. Many hate simply due to his affiliation with 50 Cent as part of the G-Unit, claiming that their brand of NY thug-hop is slowly strangling creativity in Hiphop. Others can perhaps look past that, but still find problems with what they percieve to be a lack of emotion on the mic. The shallower still simply point to his physical appearance as the bastard offspring of a Craig David / Rakim love-in, and duly piss in the man’s Kool-Aid for that fact alone.
However you know that despite your boy A to the L’s oft contradictory messages and opinions, that when a cd comes through I try to put all the hype, all the glitz, and all that other nonsense to the side for a hot minute, and give an artist a fair listen. And so I pop in the “The Hunger For More”, and am quietly amused that this album is almost as contradictory as I am.
Y’see, “THFM” does indeed feature Banks at his monotone best (or worst depending on how you view things) – there’s more life in Arlington National Cemetery than in his deadpan delivery – but at the same time, oft overlooked punchlines and dry wit somehow pulls his vocals back into the ‘listenable’ zone. “Banks is cooler that the other side of the pillow” he exclaims on ‘I’m So Fly’, effortlessly spilling out a simile that wouldn’t look out of place coming out of the mouth of Kane or the late Big L. Its like this throughout the rest of the album – from track to track, Banks actually shocks with some of his lyrics. Yes of course the usual G-Unit horseplay is all over “The Hunger For More” – guns, money, niggas, bitches and weed are all staple ingredients, but amongst this, Banks’ clever lyrics and the descriptive way he weaves his words around each track actually astonishes the listener who would normally casually write this off as ‘more of the same old shit’.
Musically however, its an up and down experience with it coming as no surprise that some of the hottest tracks are already hitting the singles market. ‘On Fire’ will probably be familiar to most of you, as much for the recognisable Mohawks organ sample running through it as for the addictive 50 hook. Lyrically though this is one of Banks’ weaker performance, with a particularly bad delive…ry… annoying…. the shit out of… me. ‘Warrior’ is a little better though, with Banks’ flow more on-point here over what sounds like an aggressive reworking of Q-Tip’s ‘Vivrant Thing’. Elsewhere on the album, the already-mentioned second single, ‘I’m So Fly’ is near perfect in every way – Timbaland’s production here is surprising jerk-free, unlike so many of his other recent beats, while Lloyd’s Cash Money-like boasts of wealth, power and success still remain listenable due to how he dresses them up. Don’t be surprised to see ‘Karma’ make an appearance on the singles market either – this one covers the same ground as ’21 Questions’ and ‘Smile’ with a bubbling piano break, and a singalong hook (delivered by KC) instantly begging for radio and TRL play.
Despite these positives, the album does suffer in other places from rather drab beats. ‘I Get High’ sees Banks share mic time with 50 and Snoop, but none of their weed-smoking tales can disguise the fact that this sounds like a throwaway beat from an old Dogg Pound album, while ‘Warrior Part 2’ sees Eminem again prove that his true calling is as far away from a production board as possible. (Don’t think its hasn’t been noticed Marshall, that your mic performances have been sadly lacking of late too.) Fiddy’s just-got-out-of-bed-and-I’m still-knackered-sounding verse, and the lets-get-a-Nate-Dogg-hook-to-make-this-listenable stunt both prove that the original track should have been left alone. Poor old Nate gets wheeled back out to try to save the turgid ‘Til The End’ but once again, the crooner’s presence only looks like desperation to brighten up an average beat.
The rest of the album material produces a similar rollercoaster experience – ‘South Side Story’ is worth listening to more for the Barry White sample and the catchy hook than the drab gangsta tales and ‘If You So Gangsta’ sounds like Banks trying hard to BE Fiddy… and actually succeeding, meaning that any of his own personality is removed from the record – close your eyes for a second and it almost is ol’ Clench-toothed Curtis himself spitting. On the flip side however, ‘Work Magic’, ‘Ain’t No Click’, and ‘When The Chips Are Down’ all definitely stand up to repeated listening. ‘Work Magic’ sees Scram Jones lay down a dramatic beat for Banks and fellow G-Unit soldier Young Buck, who seems to push Banks into spitting some of the best lines on the album…
” Baby had tried to steal off the payroll
I’ll have niggas scrapin the skin off the ya face with the same shit they peel a potato
I thank the lord for my blessings
And im glad he gave us the will power and reflexes of Larry Davis
You dont wanna see my block formin’
Thats 101 dogs and I don’t mean the ones with the spots on em
We’re respected highly
‘Cos you dont need to practice gymnastics to catch a body.”
‘Ain’t No Click’ meanwhile features eerie production from Mobb Deep stalwart Havoc, who drops a classically dark M-O-B-B beat for Banks to boast of his G-Unit membership, urged on by Tony Yayo. ‘When The Chips Are Down’ slows things down, with a Death Row-esque 10cc-sampling beat supporting Banks and new G-Unit 5th member The Game – its similar in feel to MOP’s ‘Cold As Ice’ though it stilll lacks some of that cut’s energy.
And so, it must be said, that “The Hunger For More” is both more of the same, AND a welcome surprise at the same time. Yes it does follow the blueprint for “Get Rich Or Die Tryin'” and “Beg For Mercy”, even going so far as padding out 2 or 3 genuine heaters with another 4 or 5 decent tracks, and 4 or 5 pieces of garbage, just like those two albums – but at the same time, at many points throughout his debut, Banks surprises with the high standard of some of his writing – its just a question of the listener overcoming the monotone delivery of these words. Final verdict… not bad. I’d definitely listen to it before you buy though.