What’s it like to be G-Unit’s youngest in charge? Lloyd Banks has been flying around the world all year, making hits, making money, making time with the ladies. Lots of ladies. But as his new album says, he’s still Hungry For More. Get up-close and personal with a man on fire.

Words Vanessa Satten
Images Jeffery Salter

During this month’s cover shoot, Lloyd Banks sliced open his right forearm on the corner of a metal table. “I’m suing
XXL!” he said, dripping blood. “Get 50 on the phone, he’s better at that shit!”

Bandaged and clotted three hours later (he was just joking about the lawsuit—he’s gangsta, it was just a flesh wound), G-Unit’s Boy Wonder sat in a rented Mitsubishi Spider with Deputy Editor Vanessa Satten. By now, XXL readers are certainly familiar with Banks the artist (mixtape champ, punch line king, lyrical dynamo, etc.). Here’s a chance to get to know Banks the person—his feelings on his money, his family and blowing up in the game. Who would’ve thought he’d be so cool? And (hey, ladies!) he’s single.

XXL: Look at you—two videos on MTV. Two videos on the 106 & Park countdown.
I’m the first one to do that, I might add. I don’t want to toot my own horn but: Beep.

50’s pop success was so phenomenal. Do you feel pressure to sell something like, say, six million albums?
I feel I can, but I don’t necessarily think it’s gonna happen on the first album. With 50’s situation, he was blessed. But look at Twista. He’s been rapping since I was in elementary and he just now made it. He could’ve been quit.

Not really an “Overnight Celebrity.”
Far from it. He’s an over-decade celebrity. People say, “You’re gonna blow because of 50.” When people say that, it really makes me mad. Because I know how much work this takes. I know how much work he does. 50’s sold 10 million records worldwide and he’s still doing mixtapes. When he’s up thinking, I’m probably asleep. When I’m going to sleep at 7:30 a.m., he’s waking up. And for me to slack back ’cause he’s gonna pick the slack up? I may be lackadaisical, but it’s because of the habits that I had over time. Right now, I’m probably more focused than ever. 50 works in the system. He’ll tell you everything that you need to know. How far you take his advice will determine how far you’ll go.

I really, really have a lot of faith in 50. Because I never followed anybody. I’ve always been a leader. But to be a good leader, you have to be a follower at some point. You know how you got that one person that can override your decision? I’ve always been right, but 50’s also right a lot too. He’s the one that can overturn my opinion, ’cause he makes me look at something a whole different way.

But fuck him right now. It’s about you.
It’s all about me, but you know what? I tip my hat to a lot of new artists, the ones that did it by themselves.

Do you think the quality of the music is downnright now?
I think the production is at an all-time high, but there’s a lack of artists. New York City specifically, ’cause it’s hard to stand out. New York is one of the markets where you have to go to boot camp. Somebody can come from St. Louis and have one record and that’s enough. Why? Because somebody in New York will accept you, ’cause they don’t know your background. If you come from NYC and you ain’t hit the mixtapes, who the fuck are you?

It tripped me out. I was watching Puff Daddy’s Making The Band, and they was like, “We don’t want to go to the studio.” I’m like, “What the fuck? You must got a plan B.” This is not a hobby for me. I don’t know how to throw a football, so this is it. And it became what I like to do. I like to create music. I like to see people’s faces when they hear my music. But this is a job as well as something I enjoy.

What made you realize you’d blown up?
Snoop was my favorite of all time. Doing a song with Snoop made me feel like it was possible to have recorded with Biggie or Tupac. To be watching him since elementary school, and then to have this record with this dude, that makes me not count myself out. It makes me just look at myself and go, Whoa, it’s a possibility for me to be the best. 50’s got it, though. If you ask me who’s the King of New York: him. Regardless of what the past was, look what he did. But the people won’t give him that title. If you asked a bunch of rappers, “Who’s the King of New York?” you’d get so many different answers.

How do other rappers treat you?
I don’t really conversate with a lot. I’m not looking for friends. A lot of so-called beef is not beef, but misunderstanding. If you don’t know how to say “What’s up” to somebody, that turns into, “Why he didn’t say nothing to me?” A lot of times they want to be cool, but I don’t wanna be. I’m in it for the business. I got my friends. I don’t want to create no buddy system. You’re gonna get charged the same thing if I don’t know you. I don’t want to be so cool that we’re doing a swap, or you want to take that one for free. Nah, nigga, that’s what I’m in this for. If it was my choice, I’d keep it to the same circle I’ve got now, forever. I don’t need to know you. I do get a lot of respect from other rappers, though, as far as how they embrace my music. It’s cool ’cause I have rappers that I respect. And that’s all I ask for, outside of what the people would think.