Lloyd Banks comes correct with his latest project, proving why NY shouldn't be slept on.
Lloyd Banks' pedigree as an ill emcee speaks for itself at this point. During G-Unit’s active days, Banks was widely considered the best pure spitter in the group. Very little has changed in that regard; if anything Banks' career since the early 2000s has distinguished him as one of the most technically savvy rappers out. F.N.O. (Failure's No Option) only makes it easier to argue the case.
First things first, the production on F.N.O. won't appeal to everyone. Not a single beat on the tape utilizes today's industry-standard, 808 trap drum patterns. The instrumentals here are distinctly "New York." Not vintage NY, to be clear, but no other region does production quite like this. With that taken for what it is, Banks has never sounded better on wax.
None of the instrumentals overpower the track or Banks' lyrics. Like good, contemporary design the producers here took a minimalist approach. Beats like that of "Tour Stories," "House Pride" or "You Wish" (to name a few) have a very artisan feel to them. The way the various strings, horns and other instruments oscillate in accordance with Bank’s flow and lyrics show an attention to detail wanting in most rap musicians not named Dre. Not that Dr. Dre had anything to do with this tape, given Banks hasn't been signed to Interscope for several years now, but it's still obvious that he's spent time with the good doctor and developed a superb ear for beats.
As stated before, the lyrics are also on point on F.N.O.
Banks has a rare talent for versatility in his raps. He can flow with the best of them and can layer entendres almost as well as Lupe Fiasco or Eminem. The only truly lacking quality in Banks' technical entree is his fairly singular delivery. Yes, flow and delivery are very similar, but rappers like Lloyd Banks make it clear that the terms are not interchangeable. He has no problem changing the speed at which he raps, and has no trouble staying on beat. Take "Keep Up", for example:
Banks does tend to deliver his raps in familiar, hazy monotone, though. This may throw off new listeners, and forms the basis of the old "Banks is boring" argument. Such fans should consider how consistent Banks is as far as rap ability goes. By now, his preferred delivery method is pretty much signature and adds to his acme.
While not much has changed in the way of lyrical content with Lloyd Banks, fans of more hardcore street raps (and fans of New York rap in particular) should find a lot to enjoy here. As a singular body of work, F.N.O. is easily among the better mixtapes of 2013. As the latest addition to Banks' catalogue, it marks a trend in the emcee's rhyming that makes is difficult, if not impossible, to dispute his position as one of the best in his lane.