​Photo by Lisa Lake / Stringer.
Photo by Lisa Lake / Stringer. Photo illustration by Kaushik Kalidindi for Okayplayer.

The Chip on His Shoulder Grows, As Lloyd Banks Drops the Surprise 'Halloween Havoc IV, the 72nd Hour' EP

The Southside Jamaica, Queens spitter Lloyd Banks displays emboldened passion and lyrical ferocity on his latest mixtape, Halloween Havoc IV, the 72nd Hour.

The timing for Lloyd Banks’ latest mixtape couldn’t have been better. Within the last two weeks, there’s been social media chatter praising the veteran rapper’s rhyming supremacy during G-Unit’s dominant mixtape era. The overall sentiment was laudatory, but the underpinning message was that his days of being an elite emcee were long gone. Usually not one to engage in online chit-chat, Banks actually chimed in and said, “Ain’t nobody outrapping me now.” And then right on cue, he dropped a new installment of his Halloween mixtape series - Halloween Havoc IV, the 72nd Hour and cheekily sent a tweet asking, “Let me guess, there’s a bunch of ppl rapping like this, huh?” A rhetorical question to be sure, but after soaking in his new opus, the answer to that is a terse “No.” Lloyd Banks is presently in rare form, and is perhaps the sharpest he’s ever been over his lengthy career.

HH4 is the second Banks release of 2023. Something monumental must have happened during the six-month gap since The Course of the Inevitable 3: Pieces of My Paindropped, because the perennial chip on his shoulder has grown to boulder-size proportions. His voice sounds fiercer and more gravelly (if that’s even possible), the delivery is more pointed and unapologetic, his rhyme couplets are denser and laced with more venom, and his Southside Jamaica, Queens braggadocio is more pronounced than ever. There is a sense of danger enveloping the entire album that fits perfectly with the “Halloween” theme of the project.

Even though Banks' unmistakable microphone presence shines throughout, the accompanying production deserves tons of adulation. Over the last decade, Banks has curated an exceptional cadre of go-to producers (Cartune Beatz, George Getson, Haas Almahdi) who know exactly the type of dark, textured, murky yet melodic soundbeds he prefers for his verbal calisthenics — and once again, this trusted band of boardsmen deliver flawlessly.

The project starts ferociously with a lethal triplet of tracks. “Above the Law”, “Convoy”, and “Familiar Scars.” The track “Convoy,” produced by Haas Almahdi, is one of the standouts of the entire project. On the valiant chorus, Banks proclaims, "Everybody's fiendin’, it’s time that I feed the streets / All y’all rest in peace when I release / North, south, west to east, I got the reach / Back to back six’s like the mark of the beast.” When asked about the song’s ominous bass-laden sound, producer Almahdi states, “I envisioned those dark, grimy nights of police sirens screeching, abandoned buildings and decrepit roads. I used to live in Queens, New York, so it’s easy to relate to Banks' vibe on what he wants on his projects.”

The mid-section of the 15-track opus heats up again with the upbeat cut “Clubbin & Chaos.” It’s immediately followed by the Vado-featured “Diamond Heist” where two-thirds of The Council skate effortlessly over the George Getson-produced thumper. “Trap Dice” offers a luxury storytelling masterclass that puts his vivid narrative ability on full display. Think “Fast Life” by Nas and Kool G. Rap, but diffused through Banks’ trademark shadowy, underworld lens.

The last stanza of the project offers a more introspective side of Banks, epitomized by songs like “Broken Arrows,” “You Shouldn’t Be Here” and “Take Me Under.” He’s very much a street poet, driven by conflicting moods that momentarily reveal his inner thoughts and insecurities. On the mixtape closer, “Condolences,” he laments the passing of his father and rhymes wistfully about meeting him again in the afterlife. There is an optimistic note to this song though, with Banks promising to drop a new project every quarter. Whether it's for his own self-therapy or to feed his cult following, that’s good news for every true fan of the culture.

A hardened survivor of the fickle rap game, it’s refreshing to see Lloyd Banks enjoying a much-deserved victory lap at this stage in his career. “He’s dropped four albums in three years, and his wordplay, metaphors, and storytelling are beyond elite,“ Almahdi, his trusted producer says, “His run right now can’t be matched.”

If the true measure of an artist is their dedication to fully mastering their gift, then Lloyd Banks is at the absolute pinnacle of his craft. Long live the PLK, and more of this please; HH4 is exactly the type of defiant, full-throated creativity the rap game needs right now.