When Lloyd Banks dropped his debut in 2004, his status in the game was astounding. Riding the wave of 50 Cent’s success, The Hunger For More debuted at number one on the Billboard charts. Banks proceeded to release a slew of mixtapes and his popularity as witty street rapper skyrocketed. While Lloyd is typically thought of as the most lyrical member of G-Unit, being dubbed “the punchline boy” isn’t exactly a ticket to fame. His sophomore album, The Rotten Apple, was met with lukewarm critical reception and was somewhat passed over by the commercial marketplace. While some may point the finger at Interscope for not using Banks’ momentum to carry the release, others can blame Banks for not putting his heart into the album. With music like so many other industries, getting comfortable and feeling entitled can lead to your downfall.
Picture this; you’re signed to the biggest rapper in the world, constantly touring and your name’s next to superstars like Snoop Dogg and Eminem. How can you not feel on top the world? Clearly this wasn’t enough for Lloyd Banks, who took the response from The Rotten Apple as a window of opportunity. Shying away from his typical one-liner mixtape freestyles, Banks hit the lab and devised a crossover sensation (“Beamer, Benz or Bentley“). With his deal at Interscope behind him, Banks is finally able to call all of the shots on his debut’s follow-up and once again prove that he actually has the Hunger for More.
Being that The Hunger For More 2 is a sequel, we could expect it to follow the same formula as the original; hard beats with witty punchlines intertwined with various club tracks. While this is very much so, gone are producers such as Timbaland, Havoc, and Eminem and in are producers like Cardiak, Ryan Leslie, Frank Dukes and The J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League who serve up varying results. Cardiak serves his purpose on hard-hitting tracks such as the impactful opener, “Take Em To War.” Lloyd sounds like the skillful rookie from his various mixtapes with bars like “bullsh*t kept to a minimal/come at me on subliminal, I’m a retaliate straight/you’ll need a MF miracle/or Saddam bomb lyrical, something chemical, hungry enough to scrape plates.” Although Tony Yayo’s cameo on “Take Em To War” fails to stack up to Banks’, it doesn’t take away from the track. Cardiak brings favorable results to “Unexplainable,” although it falters in other aspects. Banks uses the same rhyme scheme in his verse that he uses in a weak hook. Banks goes on to redeem himself after a solid guest appearance from Styles P. While this is clearly subjective, on the third single, “Start it Up,” Kanye West outperforms Lloyd with an epic verse (“I met this MILF at the All-Star getting action/a cougar with more rings than Phil Jackson/told her beauty is why God invented eyeballs/and her booty is why God invented my balls….the first album I vomited, the second I colonic’d it/ain’t nobody f*cking with me, I platonic’d it“). “Payback (P’s & Q’s)” featuring 50 Cent is an ambitious banger that proves that Banks rarely stays complacent over a hot beat as he constantly one-ups himself with each verse. “Home Sweet Home” is another hard street anthem that embodies the grit of New York despite Virginia’s Pusha T appearing on it. Both men stand tall as they trade verses with lyrics excelling beyond their peers.
The mood of HFM2 shifts once “Beamer, Benz or Bentley” gets underway. This arrogant club smash doesn’t exactly mesh with a majority of the album, but such is expected from the single. Lloyd stays in radio-friendly territory with the Ryan Leslie assisted “So Forgetful,” which is surprisingly appealing. Riding a well-orchestrated synth beat, Banks drops an equal amount of words for the ladies and the thugs as he spills his guts about not remembering certain girls’ faces. Those two songs serve as interludes for Banks’ gutter follow-up, “Time Is On My Side.” Opening his verse with a shocking array of syllables, blurting out simplistic battle rhymes (“make examples, I trample sh*t/drop you here, I am cancerous/answer this, who can handle this?“). Although Akon’s placement is overdone on “Celebrity,” the song showcases the G-Unit emcee’s ability to maintain his relevancy when glossing over topics. The same can’t be said for the single-attempt known as “On The Double,” which features a deafening degree of clichés about money, popping bottles, and cars. However, “I Don’t Deserve You” is a solid contender for radio play and finds some middle ground in its harmonies and soft piano keys. The album ends on an odd-note with the sample-laden “Sooner or Later.” The Raekwon appearance is exciting, but as a whole the song isn’t marvelously constructed.
People are reluctant to make sequels for fear of tarnishing the original work. There’s a lot at stake when you plan on recreating a previous experience or attempt to add onto an existing legacy. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done; case and point – The Hunger For More 2. Despite blunders like “On The Double,” The Hunger For More 2 recaptures the magic of Lloyd Bank’s debut and once again put the punchline rapper back on the map.