In the military, when the top-ranking official of the operation is rendered incapable of doing their job, the next in line steps up and fills the slot without so much of a eye blink. The G-Unit battleship has posed a similar situation in 2010. Although General 50 Cent is still very much in tune with the rap world, he has come to a stage in his career where spitting rhymes isn’t his primal focus. Leave it to Lloyd Banks to all but obliterate his solo hiatus by clearing out car lots with his monster single “Beamer, Benz Or Bentley” and simultaneously renewing the interest in his camp’s brand in the process.
Propelled to do for self and others, an invigorated and mature Lloyd Banks checks in with TSS on the heels of the release for H.F.M. 2 (The Hunger for More 2), the sequel to his platinum plus debut. Without restraint, the PLK offers his thoughts on beef in today’s Hip-Hop climate, his newly acquired leadership role and his daily expense on marijuana that would pay most car notes…for the entire neighborhood.
TSS: So you’re dropping The Hunger For More 2 in a time where it seems like everybody is dropping sequels. What made you come up with that idea?
Lloyd Banks: Well, to be perfectly honest with you, I was a little hesitant at first. But it wasn’t until “Beamer, Benz Or Bentley” dropped did I find an energy behind it that I hadn’t felt since my first album. And the recording process had familiarity as well. I was overseas…it just brought me back to that. And based off everything that happened with the up’s and downs and in betweens in my career, I just felt like I owed it to my core fans that never left and never stopped believing in what I could do. As well as the new supporters that I’ve been generating over the last couple of years. So I just felt like why not bring ’em back to why they originally picked me to begin with.
TSS: It’s a pretty star-studded event, as your albums usually are.
Lloyd Banks: A lot of the records just happened from me being a fan, for one. I think that’s the problem with a lot of the new artists; they just listen to themselves. And when I was going through my earlier stages in writing, I had references dating back to Run-DMC, Rakim, EPMD—all these dudes who are legends. I had knowledge of all they had done for the game as well as the people who were current at that time like R.I.P. 2Pac, Biggie, Big Pun…Big L. You know, they’re no longer here with us but the quality of the music they created is strong enough to last forever. So I think a lot of the new artists should listen to the music before them AND the music in the present. Ya know, if there’s quality out, don’t be no hater. I think the rappers are what prevent the game from growing.
And with that being said, when I was making my album, I did a song called “Sooner Or Later.” And it had this sample on it that straight up reminded me of Wu-Tang. And I was like “you know what? I gotta get Raekwon for this!” He made the movie and sent it back. Same thing with Styles P. I had a record that was just so hard, I felt it was more about what he brings to the game. It’s like “who’s harder than Styles P.???” So it made sense. The joint I have with Ryan Leslie is called “So Forgetful”—crazy. I had a little more time to work on this project than the last one and I’m satisfied with it.
TSS: Actually what motivated you to say this was the year to take your career in your own hands?
Lloyd Banks: Man…just the energy of “Benz, Beamer, Or Bentley.” I was dropping mixtape material and I felt the momentum building up and I was changing the minds of a lot of people. My buzz was growing again. I dropped it in February and it elevated to radio in about 3-4 days. It happened immediately. Then I got the call from 50: “Yo, you gotta make your album!!!”
Lloyd Banks: You know what I’m saying??? It wasn’t like I was already preparing for it or none of that. I was thinking for the moment. I wasn’t ready for anything like putting exclusivity into a record or a release date. I made it, I put it out. So when it came out, it was like “back to the drawing board.” The Hunger For More Pt. 2. It definitely wasn’t planned, it just kind of dropped into my lap. It opened up the doors, though.
TSS: But it definitely sticks with you on first listen. You didn’t foresee any type of success?
Lloyd Banks: I expected [“Beamer, Benz Or Bentley”] to be perceived well. I definitely felt it was the one I don’t want to make it seem like were going about it all blind-eyed and I definitely thought that record had the potential to make some noise. But at that point, I was prepared to put out two or three of them.
Because you know…we’re in a different game right now. Back in the days of 2003-2004, you could drop one record and then drop the album based off the momentum that brought. Now it’s a little different. Now you need a few singles as an artist before you drop the album.
TSS: With the success of that record, you didn’t have any type of hardship getting back in with the radio or DJs did you?
Lloyd Banks: Yeah…the record got—you know what it was? I never stopped doing shows. Just off my catalog alone. I’ve always been able to tour in and out of the country. Basically just going back to the same places. That’s all the record does; it adds on to your catalog. I don’t want to name any names but I’ve seen artists come and go throughout my career because they may have had a big record but only that ONE. You got to do that shit two or three times in the club. That’s the difference from having a whole body of work and just that hot for the moment joint. You could headline the House of Blues or wherever because of your catalog.
Lloyd Banks: The remixes were cool man! I haven’t witnessed that on my end before. So for it to happen to me was aiight. At first, it was like “oh shit!” because I didn’t even know how the instrumental had got out. Then one day I cut on the radio and [DJ Enuff] played the entire instrumental. That’s how I knew the record was special. It was something everybody wanted to be a part of and I was appreciative that it was on my end.
I’m in a different space right now in my career…so I see shit for what it is. At the end of the day, we make music and a lot of the sucker shit that’s divulged is based off immaturity. At this point, I’m just like “Let’s get money!” The people I don’t fuck with stay where you’re at and everybody else, if there hasn’t been lines crossed to where we can’t go on, then let’s make it happen.
TSS: Now you say you’re in a different space but in 2010, where does G-Unit fit in the picture? What does G-Unit mean to you at this very moment?
Lloyd Banks: Well, I think this is a good start to the 2nd half…I can’t even say 2nd half because I don’t even know how long this will go on. But I will say that the future looks a little bright. I’m just glad to keep going. People can look forward to Tony Yayo’s next project as well as 50 Cent. The only goal right now is for everybody to achieve the same success as individuals as it makes more sense when you form a group. The bigger we become as solo artists, the bigger group is at the end of the day.
TSS: Absolutely. But right now, would you say that you’re the informal leader of G-Unit?
Lloyd Banks: Right now I’m the…I have…I have the light at the moment. Everybody has their moment and I’m just fortunate. Like I said, it all happened off one record. Right now, I have the opportunity to prove I can create a full body of work to build off of that. And yeah, the spotlight is on me right now. And 50 is giving me that push. Immediately following that, it’s time for Tony Yayo and 50 Cent’s. It’s about being consistent. Things are bright at the moment, you feel me? But I want to be having this conversation with you next year. I can’t put a title on my situation at this current time, you know? The way I go on my next two and three albums is when we’ll speak on where I stand as far as status goes. But I can’t get too blown, you feel what I’m saying?
Because I’ve watched people fizzle.
I’ve never really understood it; I’ve never really heard people say “G-Unit music is wack.” I never really heard that! It was more of a hatred towards the success—just tired of seeing someone being successful and from the naked eye, feeling like we really didn’t fuck with nobody. I think it’s easier to weed out G-Unit because we were looked at as like as not “in the game” but “running the game.”
TSS: Wait a minute, now. Do y’all think it’s because y’all may have bullied competition?
Lloyd Banks: Nahhh…you know what? I can’t…um. I think our approach was a little different because we actually grew up together so the respect and bond we had real. I mean…look at Wu-Tang!!! Nobody fucked with Wu-Tang!!! It was 9 of them niggas…most of them were from the same neighborhood and projects. In the earlier stages, you didn’t hear none of them niggas rocking on other people’s records. They didn’t have to. Any sound they needed, they could get it from somebody in their camp; it’s 9 of these niggas! And that’s how it was with us: we came in the game at the same time coming from street issues and shit like that. So, I really wasn’t in mood to make friends. I was looking it at like “we just came from the basement and now we have this opportunity…” but we had trust issues. I didn’t know how to play the game yet. Seeing certain things unfold through time…you know…things change.
I always had an appreciation for the music that was there. It wasn’t like we were just locked away in room, playing G-Unit music. These people have to understand that we’ve been fans for awhile. I think a lot of times, success overshadows the talent. As much as you may like or dislike me, I’m a music head all day. As much as you may like or dislike 50 Cent, that nigga’s a music head! This is just not a nigga who just woke up and said “I’m going to make music.” This is a nigga who’s been making music for over a decade now. I think people sometimes just forget that. Put all the money-making and politics to the side, at the end of the day, me, 50 and Yayo love music. This is what we do.
I think all that other shit throughout the times just blindsided the fact that the music is that fucking good. Listen to the music. Fuck all the other shit! Fuck the fact that all these niggas are scared of us…nah mean? [Laughs.] That’s regular hood nigga shit. The problems get handled a little different when you’re immature. Not even immature; when you’re delinquent, shit. I was young…18-19-years old. It’s like the younger your entourage is, the stupider the situation can get. As you get older, you realize that shit is music—unless it crosses the line. But you can’t be like 40-years-old like for instance: if Ice-T and LL Cool J was beefing and they see each other; they both 50-fucking-years-old and they gonna shoot it out?
Lloyd Banks: So the things that can be fixed, you have to differentiate what’s rap and what’s not. That’s another thing I was told. When you come into this game, a lot of these artists have their brackets going and they’re trying to get to #1. Sometimes you diss a nigga for no reason! I never understood. You put another rap nigga’s name in your rap…oblivious to the fact that down the line, you two might make an album together! Then you in the role of feeling stupid because you dissed this man and you ain’t even shook his hand before.