By Nick Sligh
The last time Lloyd Banks dropped an album, the world of music and hip-hop was a completely different place. Nearly 11 years ago, Lloyd’s decade-plus hiatus began, but thankfully he has returned with a new full-length 18-track effort. Best known for his time as a member of G-Unit, Banks’ primary reign of prominence was throughout the mid-2000s.
Fittingly, Banks is returning to the rap scene at a time where his grimy, hard-hitting, East-coast style is being elevated by a handful of prominent artists after a period of decline in prominence and popularity. Multiple features bring in some of the emerging talents in this area, like Benny the Butcher and Ransom. Thanks to these trends, it is a very appropriate time for Lloyd Banks to finally make his return with a new studio album.
Lloyd Banks: “Course of the Inevitable” (June 4, 2021).
“The audacity it takes to rank me with the style I invented.” The first line of “Empathy” centers his focus and emphasizes one of the points of Lloyd’s motivation and tenacity on his comeback record. It’s an album that clearly proves he still has the skill and reminds people of his place in rap music.
The first six tracks start the album off on a particularly strong note, with a majority of the album’s best music coming in this stretch. The two opening tracks both Feature Lloyd’s vintage, hard-hitting delivery over piano and percussion-heavy beats — simple, but fine-tuned and effortless. “Empathy,” featuring the prolific Freddie Gibbs, is one of the strongest tracks, if not the strongest, on the project. The production creates a dark atmosphere, and Lloyd’s first verse sets up the track flawlessly. Freddie then comes in and delivers an incredible performance. One of the most fitting artists to collaborate with Lloyd, the chemistry just comes so organically, and both absolutely deliver. The Roc Marciano-assisted track “Early Exit” slows the pace over a soul sample but keeps a similar energy with the dark content and atmosphere. Another artist that is a phenomenal fit for a feature, Benny the Butcher, comes in on “Formaldehyde” with an impressive verse that is easily one of the best throughout the album.
After the initial six-track run, the album does unfortunately have some lulls in content quality, with the exception of a couple more standout tracks. The drops were never too low though, and even the worst points were really not that bad. Potent delivery and lyricism help establish a pretty high floor, so even when other aspects were weaker, those pieces kept the quality sustainable.
Lloyd’s pen is as strong as ever from front to back, complementing the aggressive and dynamic deliveries throughout. Arguably the most impressive aspect of the album to me is Lloyd’s ability to consistently provide a sound of sincere determination and passion. He raps with the tenacity and hunger of a rapper who is just making his debut in the game, despite being a 39 year-old veteran. Clever bars are ever-present. “Classic material crumbled up in my scrap bucket / Stumbled onto one of my demos, caught a relapse from it / Born to rise my work ’til this day done made me immortalized…. You big shots are supposed to be busy, still got the time to vent / Couldn’t bear what I net, Kevin Durant, Ja Morant.”
There were times where I would have liked to see some slight changes in the production, although I felt that the majority of the beats were very appropriate for Lloyd’s style. Unfortunately, I do think that his style and sound limits him to only a handful of styles of production choices sonically.
In terms of length, the tracklist certainly could have been cut down. A lengthy runtime wasn’t quite necessary, with a few of the songs feeling more like filler rather than genuine contributions to the album as a whole. Had this been a 10-12 track album with some of the filler removed, we would be looking at a much stronger work as a whole.
The features across the album were fantastic, if not the highlight of the album (for better or worse), with a few standing out in particular. The aforementioned Freddie Gibbs and Benny the Butcher guest verses were both fantastic, and exactly the touches this album needed. Ransom provided another great guest verse, and Roc Marci came through with another feature that was impressive. Despite so many strong verses from Lloyd, the two verses that were the most captivating on this record came by way of the Freddie and Benny features.
Lloyd Banks is not a rapper that people have usually mentioned among the greats of the 21st century, and maybe that’s completely fair. However, as one of the major ambassadors of the hard-hitting, East-coast, club-rap sound that was primarily bolstered by 50 Cent’s prowess, Lloyd Banks should certainly be a name that gets its respect and credit for the G-Unit movement and their impact on rap.
“Course of the Inevitable” is not the perfect and miraculous storybook comeback story, like A Tribe Called Quest’s “We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service.” However, it is still a successful comeback attempt. Lloyd has not forgotten what his strengths are in hip-hop, and that is clear in his newest release. Though it might not be the most innovative project, “Course of the Inevitable” highlights Lloyd’s strengths and provides just the right touch to avoid feeling like an artist stuck in the mental trap of the prominence of their prime in music.
Favorite Songs: “Empathy,” “Formaldehyde,” “Sidewalks,” “Drop 5”
Album Score: 70/100
Check out this Spotify playlist and like it to follow along with some of some of my favorite songs of 2021 as the year progresses!