I stepped into middle school, 6th grade, wearing a pair of G-Unit shoes. My friends and I talked our parents into buying them for us; it was the hottest shoe out at the time, other that JAY Z’s S. Carter’s. Air Force One’s go without mentioning.
The summer before my middle school transition, I couldn’t play anything other than Banks’ debut album, Hunger For More. At the age of 11, 12, I memorized all 14 tracks. Our house didn’t have a computer yet and I didn’t have a cell phone. It would be another 7-8 months before we hooked our computer up and installed the AOL software to it. Until then, I would have to depend on MTV Jams and the radio to spin “On Fire” and “I’m So Fly.”
There weren’t any leaks. The album didn’t touch any speakers of mine until June 29, 2004. My mom had to grab a few things from Target, so if I figured I’d scrape my two-week allowance up and go buy the album. By 11 a.m., the C.D. rested in my palms. “Deluxe or regular edition?,” I thought to myself. I took a look at the deluxe and the details caught me.
Banks graced the front of his own $100 bill. The standard edition cover, Banks posed in what I assume to be South Side of Jamaica Queens, NY. Standing fierce in camo, the standard did set a different tone for the album, matching the intensity and feel of tracks like “Warrior” pt. 1 and 2, and also “South Side Story.”
Arriving home, after helping my mom carry in a shit ton of groceries, I went to my room. I had a 6-disc changer stereo. If I can remember , J Kwon’s self-titled album, Young Gunna’s Tough Luv album, and Ye’s College Dropout held three of the slots. “God damn what a time, what a year.”
I plugged in my Playstation 2 and turned on my NFL Madden game. You know, the year Michael Vick graced the cover. As “E.A. Sports, it’s in the game” signaled through my tv, the money machine went off on track one of Hunger For More.
Tony Yayo had returned home from a prison stint. “Tony’s home,” Yayo shouted on the track, produced by Havoc of Mobb Deep (RIP Prodigy). “Ain’t No Click” came with energy, loyalty built under G-Unit and Banks’ wordplay shined.
I called my best friend Brandon up and we talked about how much we loved the album. Unanimously, “On Fire” featuring 50 Cent was our favorite track. I didn’t know it at the time but man, 50 Cent appearing on every G-Unit’s first or second single was a mastermind plan. Young Buck’s “Let Me In,” Tony Yayo’s “So Seductive” and The Game’s “How We Do.” ALL were club bangers. I, being too young for the club, I listened in on the radio as they did radio shows live from the club, so I knew.
I hold Hunger For More near and dear to my heart. From placing the disc in a 6-disc changer, to talking about the album with my best friend on a house phone, the nostalgic value is strong. Retail stores kept the album on sale for one week. Depending on where you go, the price can spike as high as $17.99. MTV. Jam of the Week. Banks’ “On Fire” held that position for damn near a month. Waiting until the top of each hour for the song to play. 106 and Park, another hub to catch the video, always holding a top spot.
No internet, no blogs, only a radio and a TV to feed me the music when I needed it. I was one year away from digesting music at free will. I had no choice but to listen to the album over and over, memorizing the words. The album lived forever in my stereo and only I could kill it off. HFM lives forever, I mean, I remember now that I wrote about the album’s nostalgic value during last summer.
Banks said he’s retiring, and I hope that isn’t true. I don’t want Banks to retire because he’s a part of my Hip-Hop language. Then again, there’s no such thing as retiring in this industry. Once you’re in, you’re in.