It is hard to stay hungry when you have been as successful as Lloyd Banks. The mixtape phenom has achieved a level of superstardom that is rarely seen from an artist without a solo album under his belt. The punch line king has been met with tons of critical praise regarding his work on various collaborations and G-Unit releases. However, the question still remained, could Lloyd Banks achieve true success on his own? The answer to this comes in the form of his first solo album "The Hunger For More", where Banks proves he can hold his own without 50 by his side.
While Banks will not win any awards for originality on his solo debut, the album manages to do a good of job of building upon the formula 50 brought to the table with "Get Right Or Die Tryin". "The Hunger For More" follows the same pattern, with similar content and songs. Banks could have easily turned his attention away from the streets and focused on his newfound pop success. Fortunately, Banks keeps it street for the majority of the album, proving he did not forget where he came from.
With production from the likes of Havoc, Timbaland, Eminem and Sha Money XL, Lloyd Banks takes full advantage of the good beats he is provided with. The gritty production sounds of Havoc come through full force on the aptly titled "Ain't No Click", which also sees the return of Tony Yayo on wax. While Yayo stumbles out the gate with a lackluster verse, "Uno, dos, tres, quatro, my click eat like the Twelve Holy Apostles". Banks provides his usual punch line heavy lyricism. "Make sure the birds don't get brought to him. I watched Kobe go from the Basketball Court to the courtroom. Go head try to do my harm solider, and you'll be in a black bag like grass out the lawnmower. And I'll be damn if I cosign an old snitch, that was gang banging when Jaws was a Goldfish".
Besides Havoc, Timbaland comes through with a great effort on the silky smooth sounds of "I'm So Fly". Banks goes into full bragging mode for the standout track with lines like, "Don't confuse me with the suckers, cause when I spit, You'll hear more Oh's then a Skip-to my-Lou move at the Rucker" and "you chumps cant afford these homes, look around I got forty clones. Now look down, that's forty stones, and that's only in the necklace". While the track does not fit the usual Timbo mold, its certainly a welcomed change of pace.
But what would be a G-Unit album without some production from Eminem? The lead single "On Fire" is an infectious summer anthem that has given Banks his first big hit of his career. Em and Kwame co-produced the track, giving it a different vibe than the usual Eminem sound. Similarly, "Warrior Part 2", is an uncharacteristic production effort from Em, as he laces the track with a catchy bell clap that will stay stuck in your head for days.
Besides the big named producers, "The Hunger For More" also features great production from lesser-known beat makers. The underrated Ron Brownz comes through for "Playboy", a vicious lyrical clinic that finds Banks in his old hungry form. "Die One Day", which is produced by Baby Grand, is another lyrical track from Banks that is strictly for the hustlers on the corner. "When The Chips Are Down" is a solid collaboration with G-Unit's newest member Game. With a nice vocal sample, both emcees put forth solid efforts. Especially Game, who delves into his hardships coming up as a young kid on the streets. "2001, I was playing my play station and I heard 9 shots; I'm faced down with my heart pacing. All I could think about was had my guns and my drugs in the basement, it was either that or the state pen".
While "The Hunger For More" is a good release for Banks, he does start to run into trouble when he tries to duplicate the sounds of 50 Cent too closely. "I Get High" featuring 50 and Snoop, acts as a sequel to "P.I.M.P.", only this time Hi-Tek replaces Denaun Porter's simplistic keyboard production. "If You So Gangsta" also tries to duplicate the gimmicky, singsong vibe of "Wanksta", but fails to be as catchy. "Work Magic" featuring Young Buck, is a bad attempt at providing a dirty south song, as was 50's "Blood Hound". However, the albums worst cut is easily "Karma", a sappy attempt to recreate the sounds of "Smile". While its the only R&B influenced song on the album, Banks could have switched the song up to at least provide something new.
"The Hunger For More" may not be the classic many G-Unit fans expected, but it is definitely a good release that proves Banks can achieve success on his own. The album will not win any awards for creativity or content, but for its intended purpose, it succeeds. Lloyd Banks has certainly proved that an artist can stay hungry even after achieving success on a high level. Let's just hope Banks keeps his appetite wet, so next time around we won't have to be talking about a sophomore slump.