The best rapper under 30? That’s what Lloyd Banks (aka “Blue Hefner”) coined himself, and with the bevy of endless talent under that age, what better way to solidify his new moniker than to follow up his hit debut album, Hunger For More, with another gem? Rotten Apple is the album with aims to do so, and the task is to finish out the year better than G-Unit started, after tanks from Tony Yayo and Mobb Deep. With a title like Rotten Apple, of course Blue Hefner is attempting to bring New York back, but as the upteenth artist to claim he’s going to single-handedly accomplish this, Banks fails like the others.
The album opens with the gritty, Havoc produced Rotten Apple featuring 50 and Prodigy, with its screeching violins and back breaking drums where Banks tells us he’s here “to get it.” Doing his best LL impersonation, Banks misses on “Help” featuring Kiri Wilson and “Addicted” featuring Musiq Soulchild. Enter 9th Wonder, who lays the smooth, upbeat “One Night Stand”, where Blue tells the ladies that he’ll be “here today and gone tomorrow.” The lead single “Hands Up”, produced by Eminem and featuring 50, hits the spot with its high-energy and battering drums. “Cake”, the bass heavy teaser for the LP built Banks’ buzz, as he boasts: “I’ve been gone all winter, but now a nigga back for the cake / I need the bread, lil niggaz need Christmas, Banks don’t rap with a backpack, I’m in it for the money, the money / the cake!” The God Rakim lends his voice to the chorus of “You Know The Deal”, where Banks shines over concrete mid 90′s, truck blaring NYC production style, where he murders the track spewing: “All they want to do is chit chat and make tapes about him/ till they lost like Malcolm before the nation got him/ I done Timberland tanned the couple/ my wrists chunky like Campbell’s soup.”
Never short on punchlines and braggadocio rhymes is Banks. But, this is also his downfall. “Playboy 2″ showcases usually reliable Ron Browz disappointing with a sonic massacre, where Blue Hefner continues his endless talk about his adventures since being signed. The endless gun talk gets redundant with the Needlz produced “Get Clapped”, featuring Mobb Deep, where Banks could’ve actually done better without their assistance. “Stranger” is simply strange, while “Change” sounds like it should’ve been packed into one of his “Money in the Bank” mixtapes. The Eminem produced “NY, NY” does a disservice to both the Dogg Pound / Grandmaster Flash cuts it’s modelled after, and does little to rebuild hip-hop’s capital city. Meanwhile, in a desperate attempt to cater to the dominant southern region, Banks falls flat on his face with “Iceman”, featuring Young Buck, 8ball & MJG, and Scarface, as so much talent is wasted on a horrible track. The last track on the album “Gilmore”, simply sounds like the engine of a car that’s been running for too long.
Rotten Apple personifies NYC in certain aspects, but fails to reach beyond the Mecca. Diversification is the key to the future success of Banks. It has to go beyond the girls, guns, clothes, and all the luxuries of his life. So, the sophomore slump has undoubtedly struck here. Now it’s all about “Survival”, like one of the tracks on the LP. Hunger for More may have put Banks on the fast road to stardom, but Rotten Apple brought him a few steps back. Unless he finds some way to rebound, Banks is on track to becoming to 50 what Bleek is to Jay, unfulfilled potential.
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