Rotten Apple

Artist: Lloyd BanksTitle: Rotten AppleRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Jamiyl "J Boogie" Samuels

The last time Lloyd Banks released a solo album, New York Hip-Hop wasn't in "crisis". There were no D4L, Dem Franchise Boyz, or a "Whisper Song" carving genres of "snap rap" or "intimate club music", respectively. No one knew who Mike Jones was, and when you mentioned the People's Champ, wrestler "The Rock" instantly came to mind. Fast forward two years to 2006, and the aforementioned sound of Southern Hip-Hop, from Atlanta and Houston in particular, has captured the airwaves and the minds of fans everywhere. East Coast radio stations flooded their playlists with music from below the Mason Dixon line. Sure, lyrical content wasn't at a premium, but the artists were having fun. The result was a slew of hook-driven, dance-creating soundscapes that left artists from New York with a little hate in their blood. After one leaked album and numerous delays, Lloyd Banks returns with Rotten Apple (G-Unit/Interscope), primed to remind folks what crew controlled the game before his hiatus.

Listening to Rotten Apple, one can't help but compare the sophomore LP to its freshman precursor. Where Hunger For More started off with the energy of "Ain't No Click", the new album opens with the subdued boom bap of the title track. "What a way to double up, headed for my second win," brags Banks. On "Survival" the G-Unit soldier rides the track effortlessly, giving the listener a tutorial on how he learned to protect himself from haters: "Poppa was a rolling stone, never came back now I'm on my own/So I had to learn a few things 'bout survival like the ice pick gun or the bottle." Blue Hefner doesn't disappoint on the wordplay boasting that he's got "TV's the size of Kevin Garnett," among other gems. Banks successfully switches up his style on the true school inspired "Make A Move", and pulls Musiq Soulchild out of the Witness Protection Program on "Addicted". "Help" shows a mature Boy Wonder touching on the prospect of settling down with a woman he can trust, a noble gesture from the man who claims to sleep with one female a day. With success, however, comes a tendency to get complacent and lose the fire in the belly. "Hands Up" and "Cake" are examples of stellar uptempo production that allows Banks to spit his best bars. Unfortunately, there aren't enough of these tracks on Rotten Apple.

"Playboy 2" finds Banks revisiting the stop and go flow of the original. "These haters still won't give me my props, I'm shocked/I do it for the concrete, the curb, the block/All I got is the street, my word, my c**k." The song ends the same way as its predecessor, unfortunately the production doesn't match the celebrator" tone of the original. Tony Yayo guests on "NY NY”, a slow moving Eminen track with equally unhurried rap from Banks. The high energy of Tony Yayo is sorely missed as he makes a low-key eight-bar appearance. "You Know The Deal" continues the laid back production theme, further disappointing in that Rakim, who is featured, only appears on the hook. Banks' nod to the South "Iceman" is a sleeper compared to Hunger's "Work Magic".

There's nothing like hearing an emcee spit bars with a purpose. Banks shows up to play, but he sounds too comfortable, a product of the production. No sophomore jinx here, but those spoiled by the energy of the first album might be left at a stalemate.