Over the past few years, David Banner somehow quietly became one of, if not the most outspoken emcees in the game. His sharp criticism of the United States’ handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster as well as Al Sharpton‘s sometimes questionable practices, in addition to some self-hype has left fans curious for what kind of message Banner would bring with The Greatest Story Ever Told. Unfortunately, the message is muddled, and at times outright hypocritical.

Things get started off on a political note with the angry “So Long”:

“This is Bushanomics, George is a modern day Ronald Reagan/I pray to God in the midst of pagans – niggas I’m just sayin’/When do we stop playin’? When do we stop pimpin’ and start sprayin’?/Fifty shots for every cop that popped Sean Bell his body layin’/But they acquit – ’cause they know our generation won’t do shit!”

With such a powerful message, one would surely think they’d be in for an introspective ride through David Banner’s deepest thoughts. Instead, “So Long” is followed by a second introductory track, “G.S.E.T.” in which Banner proclaims he’s bringing “the old Banner back.” This is painfully evident on the tracks that follow: “Suicide Doors” featuring UGK and Kandi, “9mm” featuring Akon, Lil Wayne and Snoop Dogg, “Get Like Me” featuring Chris Brown and Yung Joc and “Shawty Say” featuring Lil Wayne. With the exception of the absolutely awful “Get Like Me,” all of those tracks bang; problem is, their subject matter completely contradicts Banner‘s message on “So Long.” Perhaps the most damning thing is this: even after he chastises African Americans for selling drugs to themselves and acting “so hard,” David Banner gets T.I. – fresh off of a conviction for weapons possession – to speak on an interlude.

Not everything here is a total loss. “Hold On” is an absolutely heartbreaking anthem complete with compelling storytelling, and “Cadillac on 22’s Part 2” helps lift the spirit with its piano keys and rhymes. “I Get By” has David Banner taking it back to his roots, exemplifying how talented he really is. Unfortunately, these tracks are too few to overcome the jarring overtones of riches and bitches. Case in point: “A Girl,” which is almost the exact same song as Banner‘s 2005 hit “Play.”

“I ain’t scared of shit. I’m scare of God…I’m scared of God first, and then I’m scared of taking the blessing that God has given me and leading someone down the wrong path,” proclaims Banner. Sadly, this quote illustrates exactly what David Banner does on The Greatest Story Ever Told. There is no doubt that he is a gifted emcee; but rather than use this gift to make a body of work which speaks volumes, he spends a significant amount of time addressing shallow topics. At 22 tracks, the album could have cut most of the flash and resulted in something much, much more. It’s a shame indeed, as The Greatest Story Ever Told hardly lives up to its name.