Since 2021, The Course of the Inevitable series has been a shining example of Lloyd Banks’ continued relevance. His longevity in Hip Hop is credited to the different variations of Banks that have bubbled over 20-plus years; starting with mixtapes and albums with G-Unit, peaking in the mainstream with his platinum-selling debut Hunger for More, and becoming a go-to download on Datpiff and LiveMixtapes as a solo artist with frequent mixtape releases. 

Now entering his 40s, Banks still holds the crown as the punchline king and metaphor messiah, earning respect from the New York OGs and the new generation who are inspired by the Rotten Apple era. It allows Banks to share his lane with COTI collaborators Freddie Gibbs, Benny the Butcher, Conway the Machine, Roc Marciano, Dave East, and The Lox members, who all match his wits, delivering street knowledge while keeping the style fresh.

Motivated by showing and proving he’s still got it, Banks returns in 2023 with the final installment of The Course of the Inevitable trilogy, adding the Pieces of My Pain subtitle to reflect on how vulnerable and personal these tracks are.  “Pieces Of My Pain is like a double entendre because on one angle of it, it’s like what you may hear are pieces of my pain, like the things you go through, but it’s also the pieces of my pain, meaning like, what I’m putting in that pain,” he told iHeartRadio. Expanding on themes of the previous two installments, Banks ends the COTI trilogy with its most distressed entry, unloading on topics like suicide, paranoia, and vignettes about fatherhood through the eyes of a man who has weathered every storm.

Banks takes deep and painful rap music to another level on COTI 3, favoring the Timbs and Puffer coat aesthetic no matter what season it is. Imagine being raised in the streets of South Jamaica, Queens, and gaining success, but everything is not what it seems. For Banks, these types of dark soundscapes allow each of his songs to have an air of melancholy, written by an author who wants to see better days. On “Pieces of My Pain,” he talks confidently about how he’s above all his competition. “Role’ collector, I ain’t heard of tick-tock before the app/Dope lines, I’m more than that, foot trails, I toured the map/Boom-bap, I’m quarterback, who the fuck you think taught ’em that?” he raps. Banks gets to the heart of the album right away on the hook, revealing he has “been having trouble shaking demons out my brain.” It’s one of many lines throughout COTI 3 where Banks exposes his issues and provides an introspective look into his life, but rarely gets to the core of his problems.

With more Hip Hop artists being open about their mental health, Banks excels at encoding a message into dense verses. “Opened Gates” talks about leaving a legacy behind and being remembered when the pearly gates open in heaven, suggesting his independent status after leaving G-Unit worked in his favor. “They wanna ball and chain Blue, feet up on the corporate table/Looking down is an awkward angle, don’t let the performance change you/Many tried to walk in my shoes, they all disabled/Careful when signing contracts, their record offers fatal,” he raps. On the standout track “Voices,” the heaviness of dealing with divorce, depression, and forcing himself to be happy is relatable to anyone in a similar situation. When Banks raps “Think I’m addicted to the pain/I lost too much in me, I’ll never be the same,” you wonder if it’s a cry for help.

While you could spend hours decoding Banks’ lyrics and his overall wellness, the PLK does live up to his name with a few well-timed cultural references. On “Money Machine,” he says, “my album’s flawless for your rap genius to scrutinize,” which his demographic of listeners may agree with. The next track, “Cliffhanger,” places Banks as the next rapper to mention Coi Leray and her body after Latto: “Love when it goes your way/Shit pops when you overstay/a spot for you in the danger field/chances slimmer than Coi Leray.” Banks continues to recognize some of Rap’s contemporaries, paying his respect to the late Takeoff on “Movie Scenes”: “Drop a giant with my ego, moving around illegal/Time to take off on these bitches, RIP my favorite Migo.”

COTI 3 has the least number of features of the series, but each is meaningful in its own way. “101 Razors” with Method Man is straight New York Rap for your soul, a childhood dream come true after Banks drew his rap idol in his composition book as a teenager. Banks found new synergy with 38 Spesh, a Rochester rapper who works with the Griselda camp, after fans requested Banks work with him, resulting in “Red Alert” with a decent verse by Tony Yayo. Hints of The Council sessions appear on COTI 3, where Vado doesn’t get enough credit for his guest verses on the excellent “LSD.” Cormega, who featured Banks on The Realness II, returns the favor on “Deceitful Intentions.”

It’s surprising that Lloyd Banks hasn’t worked with Cartune Beatz in person yet, considering he has the most placements throughout The Course of the Inevitable series. Banks even says he’s like his Hit-Boy, offering crisp drums and sinister pianos on tracks like “Daddy’s Little Girl,” “LSD,” and “Invisible.” While Hit-Boy is getting praise for modernizing Nas’ sound, Cartune Beatz, along with other COTI 3 producers like V Don and Tha Jerm, are delivering what Banks wants on a consistent basis and keeping him busy writing new music. 

With all the respect he has earned for his penmanship, you have to wonder what’s next for Banks after COTI 3. For years, he has documented his struggles that the streets know too well and what’s been bothering him, pouring his heart into all his music. All that’s left is for the veteran to embrace the brighter side of life and finally be happy.