By Dashaun Simmons
Some might say G-Unit isn’t much of a unit these days. With Game over on the West Coast still asking for a reunion, Young Buck drowning in tax troubles and sub par sales from each remaining member, times are tough. Lloyd Banks was actually dropped from G-Unit Records distributor Interscope in 2009, but he didn’t let that stop him. Instead Banks went back to the drawing board and pulled out the club smash Beemer, Benz or Bentley featuring Juelz Santana, and went on to earn a gold single independently. This paved the way for his latest release “The Hunger For More 2”.
For almost a full year Banks has prepared this new album dropping multiple singles to get back into the limelight through his new deal with G-Unit/EMI. It is an accomplishment for him to even have an album release show at the Best Buy Theater in Times Square at this point in his career. The audience was comprised of hood cats rocking fitted caps alongside fist pumpers with gel in their hair. All were in the house for some southside Queens hip hop. Banks’ opening acts were both relatively unknown to his fan base and to the industry at large.
The first artist on the bill Theo Martins seems to be cut from the B.O.B. / Lupe Fiasco lineage. He does the same hop step that Lupe is known for on stage accompanied by music that ventures from traditional rap to crossover “Airplanes” type material. The crowd was NOT amused. He was booed offstage with no mercy. The second act Homeboy Sandman did little better to win the crowd. Sandman has created a respectable following in the underground scene in NY (or what’s left of it). He has an album out and can flow for days. However this audience did not care a bit about any of that. If your name wasn’t Lloyd Banks you needed to get off the stage. They let this Queens Homeboy know just that by tossing debris onstage during his performance. It wasn’t pretty.
A full hour after Sandman’s performance Lloyd Banks arrived on stage with DJ Whoo Kid on the 1s and 2s. As Banks and his unnamed hypeman began to rock, the annoyed crowd went right back to fan mode. Banks had the energy of a man on a mission. The mission was to get his spot back in the rap game; even if that spot was a number 2 slot behind a man whose popularity was falling by the second. You have to respect Banks for not resting on 50 Cent’s shoulders and going out on his own to make his projects work. Curtis wasn’t even at this show to support his artist. Banks however did take it back to the old G-Unit days by performing “I Smell Pussy” from their debut group album. The crowd ate it up as if Irv Gotti and Ja Rule were still viable opponents for Banks and his team. The performance of Banks’ debut single “On Fire” still puts the crowd on tilt like it just came out. The spotlight tonight was all on Banks…and well his laundry list of collaborators for the new album. Folks like Ryan Leslie, Red Café, Fabolous and crooner Jerimiah shared the stage at different parts of the night. New addition to the G.O.O.D Music label, Pusha T no doubt in town with his new boss Kanye (who was performing across town at the Bowery) popped in for two quick verses. It was good seeing so many artists supporting Banks and his new project. The songs performed from the new album ranged from mean mug street joints to lady friendly softer jams with a mix of club bangers thrown in for good measure. Banks isn’t straying far from the formula he knows.
When the track for Beemer, Benz or Bentley dropped the ladies went crazy. Juelz taking the stage in a fitted cap so low you couldn’t see his eyes didn’t hurt either. With the energy in the building already high Banks finished up with a song the whole place was yelling for all night, “Start It Up”. The posse cut features almost everybody in the rap world. You’d half expect DJ Khalid to yell out “WE THE BEST” at any moment during the song… but thankfully he doesn’t. Swizz Beats ran out on stage for this one with Pusha T taking Kanye’s spot in the lineup. It seemed like the perfect theme music for Banks breathing new life into his career. Start It Up indeed.