|Recording information: Electric Feel, New York, NY; Electric Lady Studios, New York, NY; Engine Room Audio, New York, NY; Engine Room Studios, new York, NY; Gang Green Studios, Long Island, NY; MSR Studios, New York, NY; The Frat House, Queens, NY.
|Hip-hop sequels were all too common when Lloyd Banks' 2010 release H.F.M. 2 (The Hunger for More 2) hit the shelves, but besides generating sales, the title does serve a purpose. The satisfying third release finds the G-Unit soldier returning to the fire and punch of his debut album, the first Hunger for More, and making up for the sophomore slump he experienced on 2006's Rotten Apple. Full-on gangsta numbers like the opening "Take `Em to War" -- made even more gangsta by a Tony Yayo appearance -- bring back the mixtape excitement the gruff Banks excels at, while hook-filled yet hard singles like "Beamer, Benz, or Bentley" and "Start It Up" -- which comes with the all-star guests of Kanye West, Swizz Beatz, Ryan Leslie, and Fabolous -- help round out the album, making it acceptable for an aboveground, official release. With names like Styles P and Raekwon also on the guest list, true hip-hop fans will be satisfied, and when label boss and ringleader 50 Cent shows up for the worthwhile "Payback," the G-Unit faithful are well served. At 13 tracks the album feels right-sized, not overstuffed, and Banks himself is in fine form throughout, delivering stone cold and slow punch lines that are as lethal as ever. When it comes to evolution, there's really none, but even though he's been here before, veteran fans will appreciate his return. ~ David Jeffries