To say 2010 has been a banner year for Lloyd Banks wouldn’t be saying quite enough. Let’s go back in time: first, what was supposed to be Banks’ sophomore effort was stolen from him following a ménage à trios (there are certainly worse ways for this to have happened), and the subsequent leak forced the MC to entirely re-record, dropping the understandably inferior Rotten Apple. Yet, the lukewarm reception that album received gradually led to Banks being dropped from his label. Now he returns with The Hunger for More 2, hoping to rekindle the flame his platinum debut created.
It’s been quite the road: Banks began to rebuild his reputation with the “5 & Better” series of mixtapes (listen to any one of them if you doubt Banks’ abilities), then dropped “Beamer, Benz & Bentley,” the buzz from it carrying us to this point. The story behind that single has become a bit of a fairy tale: Banks needed a hit, and despite being a former Dipset foe, so did Juelz Santana. The two hopped on the beat, and with no real major backing, the cut blew up. Banks rode the wave and got to gloat at Interscope coming back tail between the legs, only to stay independent with distribution through EMI.
The album’s taken a little too long to come, allowing some of the single buzz to subside, but Banks has had another ace up his sleeve: Kanye West. Yeezy famously tweeted that he regarded Banks as among the Top 5 MCs living, and a G.O.O.D. Friday appearance followed. In rebuilding his career, Banks has been reconnecting rap: first with Dipset, then G.O.O.D. Music, and then the Young Money-affiliated Lloyd. Despite the period they spent dominating, G-Unit left what amounts to a mess behind, and with 50 seeming to be confused as to whether he wants to remain a pop star, rap, or act (and Yayo not having too many thoughts of his own), Banks seems to be the man to clean it up.
Due to all this, this album almost plays more as a mission statement than anything, each song aggressively reasserting the rapper. It’s just about what you’d expect from Banks, but being a sequel, it’s achieving exactly what it set out to. Banks is far more alive than he was on Apple, and it shows in his return to lyrical form. G-Unit takes the back seat as Banks establishes himself, Yayo popping up on the album opener (and – ghasp – he seems to have figured out how to rap) and 50 only dropping in for a solitary chorus on “Payback.” Banks wants to extend beyond his family more than anything, and it actually leads the album to be too guest-laden.
Still, it’s easy enough to forgive him. The production is tight, and Raekwon’s own sequel aside, this is the most vibrant a mainstream New York record has sounded in some time. They may take some of the spotlight from Banks, but is anyone going to complain about having the likes of Pusha T, Kanye, Raekwon, and Styles P around? Banks’ hunger must have rubbed off, because even Juelz and Fabolous manage to make an impression. Look out of for the bonus tracks, including the too smooth “Kill It” and the Eminem featuring, Boi-1da produced, “Where I’m At”: both are perhaps stronger than much of the album, good luck figuring out why they didn’t make the cut (also seek out Banks’ Blue Fridays, some should have appeared here). Album opener “Take ‘Em to War” is appropriately epic, and while “Father Time” may serve as something of a high point, if anything, this record is remarkably even. No single track is going to blow you away, but near every single one of them is equally solid. This is one of those albums to throw on and leave on while you accomplish something: it won’t demand too much of your attention, but none of it will bore you.