While followers of mixtapes definitely know his voice, and his name has been forever immortalized via 50 Cent's prop-giving on the most ubiquitous song of the year, "In Da Club," the masses are just now beginning to know his face.
"I'mma tell you what Banks told me, 'cause go 'head switch the style up/ If n---as hate, then let 'em hate/ Watch the money pile up," 50 rhymes of his friend and G-Unit group member Lloyd Banks.
"We're real close," Banks said of the conversation he had with 50 that sparked the rhyme. "[Before he signed to Shady/Aftermath] it was to the point where I was like, 'Why is nobody saying nothing about the success of 50 and the G-Unit? Do they see what we're doing?' I was like, '50, never mind the haters, we just gonna do us. Switch the style up, do it your way. We ain't gotta cater to what everybody else is doing, that doesn't mean that what we're doing is not gonna sell records.' "
Obviously Banks' prophecy came true. 50's Get Rich or Die Tryin' is the biggest selling album of the year thus far, moving almost 4 million units, according to SoundScan. However, Banks said the G-Unit were shocked by how many records 50 sold in the first two weeks of release (see "50 Cent Slams Into Albums Chart With Record-Breaking Debut LP").
"My prediction — I'm not going to lie to you — it was 500,000," the baritone-voiced MC said of what he thought his partner would do his first week out. "Then when it came back 870,000 it was like a stamp, 'OK, they understand.' When it came back again the next week [with another 822,000], ah man, that's when it really set in. When you're working, you don't have time to think about the album sales. You're thinking about the next album. I don't think it set into 50 yet, what's really going on. You hear it, people tell you, but if you stop and enjoy your success before it's time, you're jinxing yourself."
The next album is one of the main focuses of the camp now that 50 officially has started up G-Unit Records through Interscope. There will be an album by the G-Unit group, which consists of 50, Banks and the imprisoned Tony Yayo. There are also plans for solo albums by Southern MC Young Buck, Banks and Yayo when he gets released.
Yayo has been in jail since New Year's Eve due to a weapons charge and prior warrants (see "50 Cent Appears In Court On Gun Charges"). He talks about being in prison on the upcoming 50 Cent DVD "The New Breed," which drops on Tuesday.
"I was on the run. BET, MTV, I was doing all that on the run," he said from Rikers Island on the DVD. "I was in the 'Wanksta' video, 'In Da Club' video, I was on the run. Nobody knew. I figured it was gonna catch up. I was gonna turn myself in after 50's album dropped. Basically my day-to-day life [now], I wake up, eat breakfast, eat lunch, just chillin', relaxing, minding my business. I done see kids get cut up and n---as get f---ed up for not minding their business. When I get home, that G-Unit album will be getting worked on immediately."
Yayo's incarceration has thrown a monkey wrench into the plans. Before he got locked up, the idea was to drop 50's record, then come with a G-Unit release. The trio even began recording a bunch of songs. However, since Tony is still a few months from being free, the squad is thinking about putting out Banks' solo LP as the next project.
"As far as my record, I don't have to rush," Banks insisted. "I'm 20 years old, I want to put out a classic [my first time around]. I don't want to put out 10 albums then get a classic.
"Productionwise it [varies]," Banks said. "I go through every [beat] CD. I don't knock anybody. I got three records with Eminem just sitting there. We ain't really been in the studio too much lately."
Before things started to pop off for the G-Unit, Banks would not let anything compromise his friendship with Yayo, who grew up across the street from Banks in Queens, and 50, who lived around the corner. When 50 got shot, the G-Unit were the only ones who stood by his side, and not too long after that incident, Banks found himself in need of some support. On September 10, 2001, he was caught in a crossfire of bullets.
"At that time I was doing little mixtapes and I was still running around the 'hood," he recalled (see "Mixtape Mondays: Lloyd Banks"). "I was in a club in Queens about five minutes from my house. It was a shootout. After the club, in my neighborhood you hear shots so much you grow a stubbornness. I'm like, 'Somebody is probably shooting in the air.' It might sound stupid, but I gotta feel something for me to turn into Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Just so happens those shots was hitting me. That's the way the ball bounces sometimes.
"I got shot and [a bullet] went through my liver," he continued. "I was leaking a lot of blood. I ran to the hospital myself, it was 10 blocks [away]. I got hit by a car on my way there. I woke up in the hospital and I'm seeing the [Twin Towers] fall. I'm thinking I'm watching 'Independence Day' or something. The nurses were running around acting crazy like, 'The buildings fell!' I'm like, 'Oh sh--, get me outta here then.' "
Now 100 percent healthy, the only place Banks is thinking about running to is the studio — that is, if he ever gets a break. He and Young Buck act as 50's hypemen during his current tour (see "50 Cent To Release New Song On DVD, Plans Headlining Tour").
"I been on the road since October, I have so much material backed up in me," Banks said. "If I go to the studio, I'm gonna knock out five or six records at a time. I miss going to the studio every day, working 'til like three or four in the morning sometimes."
For a full-length feature on 50 Cent, check out "50 Cent: Money To Burn."
For other artists featured in Mixtape Mondays, check out Mixtape Mondays Headlines.