Lloyd Banks - V6: The Gift
It must be a pretty strange time to be a (ex-) member of G-Unit. So long gone is their dominance of the rap game that the once powerful affiliation carries little weight nowadays, and enough time has passed that any kind of real solo resurgence looks increasingly unlikely, especially given their general lack of notability: even 50 hasn’t managed to weather the decline particularly graciously. It does mean, however, that these guys might have a little more wind behind their backs than they did back then. Such was 50’s ubiquity at the time that these guys could (and did) make millions off of records that you would perhaps struggle to argue deserved to rack up the sales that they did, simply due to their proximity to him. Now, the focus rests on music alone, particularly in the case of a figure like Lloyd Banks, who since his heyday has been publicly held at a distance by his onetime crew’s ringleader.
Still, despite this position, an ex-member of G-Unit is never going to be someone to look to for drastic reinvention, a sudden jolt of creativity or a shock increase in quality, and V6: The Gift is indeed as rote a tough guy rap album as you would expect. In fairness, that’s probably pretty close to what Banks was aiming for, and it’s probably a smart move considering what some of his fans have perceived as something of a return to form, (his relatively well received H.F.M. 2 album and The Cold Corner 2 mixtape). It is more than likely what his fans want and it will more than likely go down well. To those who aren’t fans of the general G-Unit shtick, the biggest surprise will probably be the fact that there aren’t any particularly dire moments here. A couple of standouts aside, there isn’t anything terribly compelling–the closest the mixtape comes to actual tangibly bad rap music are a couple of clunky choruses.
This is largely because the release is propped up by some pretty dope production. The opening one-two of Automatic’s “Rise From the Dirt” and, in particular, Doe Pesci’s “City of Sin” offer up the kind of amped up soulful loops that would sound good on any hip-hop record. As for slightly more out there picks, the Jerm’s “Gettin’ By” cruises by on a huge drum lump and a heavy-handed but melodic squall without getting too caught up in its own dramatic tone, though admittedly it’s hard to tell if it succeeds because of that or it’s highlight guest verse from ScHoolboy Q (seriously, dude is killing it this year). Even better, Doe Pesci closes out the tape with his second winner “Terror Dome”, a great, melancholic, bass-led monster.
Despite having only three beats on the record, Doe is probably the one who makes the most noise on this tape, and that includes the man whose name is on the cover. Aside from the production dipping into pedestrian territory relatively frequently, Banks suffers a pretty notable deficit of character. He sticks to a beat just fine, but says next to nothing that you’ll remember just a few seconds later. He’s content to spit tired tales of sex and the street, which is fine as long as you have enough lyrical ingenuity to make keep things interesting, or enough presence on the microphone to keep what you’re saying compelling. Unfortunately, Banks has neither, and it’s for this reason that V6 never sounds like much more than a standard issue, second tier hardcore rap record.