One of the guilty pleasures of the summer of 2004 was the Lloyd Banks crossover-rap ballad “Smile.” The fifth single from the then on-top-of-the-industry G-Unit’s Beg for Mercy album, the song didn’t last long on the charts, but it represented something of a high-water mark for the G-Unit lieutenant, who has never quite fulfilled his potential as a sort of thug-poet alternative to 50 Cent’s Signifyin’ Monkey persona or Tony Yayo’s clownish ex-convict shtick. “Smile,” to this day, remains the perfect Banks track — its smoothed-out beat soft enough to not overpower the quiet gruffness of his voice — a sort of verbal chiaroscuro that was perfect for modern loverman raps. Of course, 50’s incredibly simple hook ends up being the most memorable part of the song, but Banks always seemed content to play second fiddle, so the hidden efficacy of his “Smile” raps is pretty emblematic of his entire career. At least he can rest easily knowing that his two solid Hunger for More albums, in addition to his mixtapes and other semi-official “hood” releases, have kept his name in the mouths of East Coast rap purists who would take good series of punchlines over great songwriting or star power every day of the week.
Sun., Dec. 15, 7 p.m., 2013