The juggernaut continues to roll with Lloyd Banks
being the newest Shady/Aftermath artist to rule the charts and
airwaves. Best known as 50 Cent‘s right hand man and one-fifth
of the Guerilla Unit, Banks carved himself a nice identity
alongside 50 in their mixtape
heyday. Through 50‘s explosion and the success of G-Unit‘s
album, Banks has become a household
name without a solo album. And so the hype will continue.

Banks gets way too much credit as a lyricist; while he is
certainly a capable emcee, he never strays beyond the standard gangsterisms and
certainly doesn’t do it with the panache that others can. Similar to his G-Unit
general, Banks‘ strengths come in the form of his penchant for
good hooks and a nice linear delivery. Of course, an album full of good
production doesn’t hurt a damn thing. So much like the last three albums from
the Shady camp, we get the single “On Fire” – nice and
accessible, ready for Hot97, MTV and clubs across the world. You can
just hear the marketing machine at Interscope
working as you make your way through the album. Of course we the obligatory
sensitive thug love song “Karma.” Much like 50‘s “21
Questions” it is straight booty and not the least bit convincing. You’ve got
the gangsta anthem with “Ain’t No Click” featuring Tony Yayo
fresh out the pen. There is the light-hearted ready-for-radio “I Get High”
featuring 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg. Who could
forget the posse-cut remix of “Warrior pt. 2” with Em, 50 and Nate
? Plus you’ve got the very dope “Playboy” just begging to be a
street single.

You’d be wrong if you think I am implying all of this is bad. Sure, it is
really predictable, but it is all done quite well. I have to admire how easily
they can play the market with such a simple formula that so few others can seem
to grasp. Even more impressive is that I think they have actually done a much
better job with this album than they did with 50‘s. Not just
because Banks is the better emcee,
but because it is much tighter at just 14 tracks. And while there isn’t
anything that will come close to “In Da Club” in terms of popularity, there are
more potential singles here. Any of those mentioned above could get serious
burn; the same goes for “I’m So Fly,” which is a perfect example of his ability
to write a good hook. For that matter, just listen to “If You So Gangsta” and
“South Side Story,” he just puts that shit together really well. I can’t forget
to mention the grimier shit either, “Til The End” is really some ill shit. It
is likely Banks‘ best lyrical effort, and the beat is just
lovely. “When The Chips Are Down” is good shit too, with some really good
production from Em again.

I’m sure some are gonna hail this a classic, and some are gonna hate it ’til
the wheels fall off. Neither side is right. This is a really good album;
nothing more and nothing less. Being that it will go at least double platinum
I’m sure Banks will be under heavy scrutiny (bka hate), but I
really can’t see how you can deny this album unless you didn’t have your
expectations in check. I wasn’t expecting a Hip Hop epiphany, or even a gangsta
rap one. Just enjoy it for what it is, a dope debut LP.