Not rotten, but not sweet, either.
Is "Rotten Apple" a Misleading Title?
Lloyd Banks largely underachieves on his sophomore set; he over-raps, under-raps and never really makes his heroic escape from the villainous, if not down-right suspect, production. Banks completely ignores the implications and importance of his own album title. Rather, he elects to talk of himself (and how he carries his niiiiine and his worldly exploits (Playboy), and his emerging Blue Heffner persona (Im not camera shy /We can do it anywhere). You'd expect the album, as indicative of its title, to be an ode to his birthplace-New York. The big apple, home of the legendary rappers, and yet Banks wants to have his pockets right, his rocks bright, and the drop blue. Self-indulgent lines demonstrate Banks reluctance to ease away from his comfort zone, his typical lyrical matter, and his status as a solid but not great rapper.
Banks, admittedly, is faced with a grand undertaking-to rescue New York rap. Well, even if that wasnt his intention he should have renamed the album or issued a proper disclaimer. But, neither has to be made clear to the listener, as each subsequent track serves as a preemptive disclaimer.
Blue Heffner Overshadows Lloyd Banks on Rotten Apple
The title track begins with 50 proclaiming when I come thru, Im comfortable and this unfortunately sets the tone and theme for the rest of the album. Banks never allows himself a respite from himself. Forget New York, Banks has gotten rotten from his auto-gluttonous ways. It reaches a point of over-saturation on the albums penultimate track Iceman": they know me round here /They call me Ice man /I aint your friend boy...look at my left, now look at my right hand /Every time I move it looks like a strike of lightning." His Blue Heffner persona rears its ugly head on many of the albums cuts and threatens to siphon the momentum and navigate the album in a different direction. On the Rakim-featured "You Know the Deal" for instance, Ra recites a fundamental truism (Know the deal, its all about the dollar bill.) Banks, on the other hand, finds issue with the h**s all around the hotel, piling the floor completely making Rakims contribution inconsequential.
Banks Finally Gets Some "Help"
But, quickly, Banks remembers his mission, and retreats to campaigning (and exalting) himself. Addicted is a major misstep and a listless performance by both the usually soulful Musiq and the cocky Banks. He manages to deliver some unexceptional, but Banks-style similes that still rank better than what most rappers can afford: Internationally they jockin me /Cuz my money is green and blue like monopoly."
The Bottom Line on Rotten Apple
The guest appearances render themselves unremarkable and mostly limited to Banks scheme. 50 does make his presence felt on Hands Up and the underground favorite Cake. Nevertheless, both these tracks were already known and consumed; Banks brings nothing new or remotely different from his debut. And herein, lies the downfall of the album. Banks addresses the same problems and people as he did on Hunger for More. Fans were expecting Banks to embody the New York attitude and sentiment but instead he carries his own attitude and gets sentimental when he should be serious. Banks serves up a rotten apple to his teacher, 50 cent, his fans, and ultimately, New York.
- Outstanding Tracks from Rotten Apple
- Hands Up