Lloyd Banks' being a member of the G-Unit posse, click, crew, whatever, means that the release of his debut is a huge event with a massive storm cloud of positive and negative hype looming above. Mixtapes had boasted it's the second coming, message boards had already declared it a disaster, but when you get down to it, all you're left with is a CD to throw in the player -- a 120-mm-diameter disc of polycarbonate that's either going to have you bobbing your head to the beat or wondering what else you should have bought. Decide whether you can tolerate, ignore, or devour all the usual G-Unit boasts, brags, and threats, and know that The Hunger for More is another solid release from the crew and is a couple steps down from 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin' and a step above G-Unit's Beg for Mercy. Know too that there's no "In da Club" here. Banks goes more for the long lyrical flows compared to 50's penchant for catchy chants, but there's no filler and there's about four or five tracks to add to the crew's hall of fame. With its marching-band snare and frantic loop, "Playboy" is the first contender, and one of the tracks that breaks away from the usual G-Unit thuggish funk. The stately "Warrior" is struck from the mold -- as are the great "I'm So Fly" and "On Fire" -- but it's all part of the album's great bouncing-between-the-two structure and perhaps executive producer 50 Cent's plan. To his credit, 50's given Banks plenty of room to explain himself; you could trim about three minutes of G-Unit propaganda and still have an album. Anyone questioning Banks' lyrical skills only needs to check his vivid picture of life on the streets, "Til the End." The frank narrative turns chilling as the rapper observes that crack addicts are part of picture -- easy to dismiss losers when they're strangers but devastating when it's your family. There are many more moments that are striking enough to rise above the hype and drama, and even guest stars Snoop Dogg and Eminem end up just passers through in Banks' world. To define yourself as a complex individual in the G-Unit clan is a difficult task, but here's a rapper who can do it. The Hunger for More starts with the sound of a money counter flipping -- a perfectly G-Unit opening -- but in the end it's totally Banks. 50 Cent seems comfortable with this, but maybe even he missed some of the irony in the album's title.
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
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