Interscope is the strongest, deepest and most profitable label in hip-hop right now, and it has straight guerilla-pimped its way to the top. Jimmy Iovine must have made a pact with the devil; under his reign, the label has inked deals with Dr. Dre, Eminem and 50 Cent. The Interscope promotional machine turned 50 into a superstar off just one LP, and now it's Lloyd Banks's turn.
Those who think 50 Cent is the anti-Christ won't be warmed to the G-Unit camp by Banks's debut, The Hunger for More. Through his many mixtape appearances, Banks has established himself as G-Unit's most lyrical emcee. Whereas 50's skills are his ability to ride a beat and flip a catchy chorus, Banks's punch lines seamlessly roll off his tongue. Still, his solo success will depend on his ability to avoid the D-12 syndrome -- becoming a faceless member in a better-known rapper's band.
The best and worst aspect of The Hunger for More is its similarity to 50's Get Rich or Die Tryin'. Lead single "On Fire" is reminiscent of "In Da Club"; "Karma" is Banks's appeal to the fairer sex, a la "21 Questions"; and the hard-hitting braggadocio of "Playboy" has a comparable vibe to "What up Gangsta." That said, The Hunger for More improves on 50's formula, proving that Banks is more than just a product of misguided hype.
Peep "When the Chips are Down," "Work Magic" and "Til the End." But it's the Diaz Brothers's "South Side Story" where Banks flips a story rhyme about his childhood experiences in Jamaica, Queens with such vivid imagery that he gives the best griots a run for their money. You can't front on such gems as "DNA mixed in the mud/ Another ditch to be dug/ There I stood, stiffer than wood/ See homey used to buy me candy/ Now he's gone, who goin' provide his family?"
With "On Fire" and "I'm So Fly" getting major burn on TV and radio, Interscope has again struck gold -- or better yet, platinum. With Young Buck up next and Tony Yayo and the Game soon to follow, G-Unit has the mainstream on lock; nothing is stopping this juggernaut. Just blame Dre and Em -- they created a monster.
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