It’s do or die when going into a high profile album release with three hit records on the radio. 2010 was a huge year for Lloyd Banks that was set to culminate with his release of Hunger for More 2. In similar fashion to Kanye West’s tactics, Banks took to the internet to release a new track every Friday, calling them “Blue Fridays”. While these tracks didn’t gain nearly as much attention at West’s, and were ultimately overshadowed, it was a guaranteed post on all the big hip-hop and radio blogs week after week which is great exposure for any artist coming out with an album. Even better exposure is having single after single on the radio throughout the entire year.

At the top of 2010 Banks released his monster single “Beamer, Benz, or Bentley” which is still in heavy rotation on radio stations almost a year after its initial release. Some might say this is a song that gets old after a few listens, but a year later the chorus still holds that effect of the words just playing through your head all day after just one listen. Then he let loose the next single, “Any Girl”, with singer Lloyd providing background vocals and featured on the chorus. While it didn’t gain as much attention as Banks previous single the record garnered positive reactions with fans and critics and had some respectable radio play. Then in early November, Banks dropped “Start It Up” and set the hip-hop world on fire once again. With features from Kanye, Fabolous, Ryan Leslie, and Swizz on the hook the song more than delivered with strong, creative verses and a great beat. The way Banks spread out the releases of his featured singles was masterful and gave him great momentum throughout the year. The only thing left was to release a killer album with tracks that are just as good or better than the already released singles, and that is exactly what Banks did.

If there is a defining strength about H.F.M. 2 it is the smart use of featured artists on almost every track. Unlike a lot of albums with multiple featured artists, no track relies too heavily on one singer or rappers contributions. Banks recruits some of R&B’s best modern artists for a few of the songs, which make for some of the albums best. On “So Forgetful” Ryan Leslie carries out a great tone while Banks raps about encounters with ladies of the past who he has apparently had sexual relations with, but can not recognize. It’s the life of a rock star. On “I Don’t Deserve You” there is a shift from Banks raping about multiple girls to what seems like a rap about one specific girl. Jeremih takes care of the chorus while also providing background vocals, singing along with Banks raps. With tracks like these, G-Unit enthusiasts will be on the hunt for those hardcore tracks, and they are plentiful. The album’s opening track features a verse from Tony Yayo. The verse is nothing special but shows that the OG G-Unit clan still has close ties with each other. Banks also makes it very clear on what message he is trying to get through to people on the album: “I’d rather be not here than hungry/and sick when I’m not near my money/they want me to loose but I’ma win/I made it there before and Im’a make it there again”; very powerful lyrics to say the least. G-Unit’s 50 Cent is also featured on a track, but in an unusual way; he is on the hook along with Banks, who breaks into the middle of the chorus. When listening to the song for the first time it is completely unexpected and changes things up. It’s two G-Unit members taking a dual approach to a chorus/hook and it works out great, with some tight lyrics as well: “…and my heart so cold/man I don’t trust a soul/ it’s funny how the bullshit goes, you never know”.

What I was more surprised at more than anything was the strength of the two songs where it’s just Banks going in verse after verse. The highlight of these verses’ is Banks smooth flow and hooks. On “Father Time” he takes the rapping/singing approach when it comes to the chorus. It shows Banks isn’t afraid to take creative risks. It is not something that’s hard to pull off, but most rappers these days contract an artist to take care of the hook for almost every song on their album. It’s a fresh cut for what is a feature-heavy album, but what album isn’t exactly that these days. “On the Double” is another track where Banks goes at it by himself and doesn’t stop. It’s a short song but it packs a lot of power. On the first listen you will wonder why this isn’t the next single headed for the radio; that bragging right belongs to “I Don’t Deserve You”.

H.F.M. 2 more than proves to fans and haters alike that Banks is hungry for more money, fame and power. He wants to be at the top of Mount Olympus along with the other heavy weights in the game. If he continues to dominate the radios with single after single and release side projects on the internet from time to time he just might accomplish such a feat. Whether those singles come from H.F.M. 2 or another project Banks will deliver if he continues down the path he embarked on throughout 2010. Oh, and as good as “On the Double” is, my vote for next single is “Sooner or Later” which features a dope verse from Raekwon the chef along with an old-school beat. It’s lyrically the strongest song on the album with the background vocals tying into Bank’s raps on the hook. Just another hidden gem.