August 09, 2004 12:00 PM

The Hunger for More

Queens rapper Lloyd Banks brings a lot of street cred to this, his freshman solo outing. First he appeared on childhood friend 50 Cent’s smash Get Rich or Die Try in’. Last year he teamed up with 50 again on their group G Unit’s double-platinum debut Beg for Mercy. Then, in a testament to his underground following, he was named 2003’s Mix tape Artist of the Year. The 22-year-old emcee clearly hungers for more success, and he has found it with this disc, which opened at No. 1 on the Billboard pop albums chart thanks to the Top 10 single “On Fire,” a blazing party rocker that sounds like a sequel to 50’s hit “In Da Club.” Indeed, Banks’s laid-back, sometimes singsong delivery is reminiscent of 50, who executive-produced Hunger and raps on two cuts (including the paean to smoking pot “I Get High,” which appropriately features Snoop Dog). He also receives support from Ermine, who takes the mike on “Warrior Part “2” and produced the haunting gangster allegory “Till the End,” as well as G Unit’s Young Buck and Tony Yoyo. But it’s Banks who emerges as more than just 50 Cent’s sidekick: He’s a bankable talent in his own right.

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