The punchline king returns from his decade long hiatus to deliver a bar-heavy project which perfectly displays the duality of a street rapper’s life.
It’s been almost 11 years since the release of Banks’ last studio album, H.F.M.2 (The Hunger for More 2), and since then Banks artistry has aged like fine wine. His bars have only gotten better since then and despite flying completely under the radar, Banks has managed to stay relevant in his off season. While many would see the decade long absence as a phase of retirement, Banks has managed to keep himself busy by dropping multiple mixtapes and featuring on the projects of a select few.
Despite the brief intermission between projects, Banks did not miss a single beat on the entirety of this project. The PLK lives up to his name, dropping nothing but stank-faced punchlines and insane quotables that keep listeners entertained throughout the course of the project.
The Course of the Inevitable contains a very lenghty run time of an hour and 8 minutes, with 18 tracks making up that structure. For being a relatively long project in today’s climate, The Course of the Inevitable flows like water and maintains the same gritty nature throughout the span of the album. The moody tone remains consistent and allows for Banks to zone out with the grimy bars, dropping quotables on each and every track.
As far as features go, Banks taps in with the finest emcees, keeping his pen sharp amongst his competition. Some of rap’s most feared street rappers make appearances to go toe to toe with the punchline king, including verses from the likes of Styles P, Benny the Butcher, Roc Marciano and many more. While every feature on this album goes above and beyond, the one that sticks out the most is the hidden Freddie Gibbs feature on “Empathy.” Gibbs name was not on the tracklist prior to release so to hear the Grammy-nominated rapper spitting bars on record with a titan like Banks was a nice surprise for hip-hop heads.
Since his last official studio album release in 2010, Banks’ lyricism has gotten more sharper and wittier over time. Banks’ approach to the bars has always been tight, leaving no room for filler and crafting the perfect set up for a dope punchline (hence why he’s named the punchline king), and this project sticks to that blueprint. The special factor that allows this album to make its mark on his catalog is the hunger and passion present in the project. With time, we see rappers deteriorate in the game and lose their love for the craft, but in Banks’ case, his attachment to the game is as strong as ever, which allows the project to excel from a lyrical standpoint. One of the standout lines that proves this comes from the second track, “Sidewalks” where Banks raps: (“Hannibal anger, still the G.O.A.T. conversation is overdue / The discussion’s premature when it comes to you”). Despite feeling taken for granted, Banks uses this as a driving force to maintain his position in the culture.
The production on Banks’ previous projects have always felt the need to match the trends of the time period they were released, but on this project, that approach is thrown out the window. Instead, Banks delves into the grimy boom-bap sound that makes up the modern day underground scene and acts as the perfect base for Banks to display his gritty lyricism. This keeps the album cohesive and able to flow from up-tempo tracks such as “Propane” to more sentimental joints, with “Pain Pressure Paranoia” serving as an example. For an album that’s long in run time, it flows smoothly from the first track to the last.
From crafting radio singles to collaborating with underground heavyweights, Banks’ is one of select few rappers that has touched multiple grounds in the culture, but remains authentic in everything he does. Twenty years in the game and the punchline king is still pushing the mic, striving to be one of the best emcees the world has ever seen and even though he’s achieved elite status in the culture, he’s still rapping like he has something to prove. This resonates on the intro track, “Propane,” with the lines: (“Playa haters make my temper flex / Twenty years of pushing this pen, an instrumental threat”). All this time in the game and Banks is still vicious on the mic and has yet to miss a beat in his twenty year career.
The Course of the Inevitable does more than demonstrate Banks’ phenomenal lyricism. On this project, Banks’ finds himself talking more about the dualities that come with being a street rapper. On one hand, he’s got his entire neighborhood on his back while living his dream but on the other hand, everybody wants to test the street rapper. We also find Banks’ rapping about more vulnerable topics such as fatherhood & trauma. On the track “Commitment”, Banks raps: (“No gain in holdin’ pain inside, it’s worth it to be realer / The foulest route is homicide that time divides a killer”). Instead of holding back, Banks immensely opens up on this album, which adds a dash of maturity to the project.
The Punchline King has kept us waiting for a decade, but in that time frame, Banks kept honing his craft to ensure the comeback would be right. The Course of the Inevitable taps Banks back in to the game to show that he’s still vicious on the mic while still being able to make enjoyable records. The bars on this project are similar to none other and display a veteran who’s still rapping like he’s in his prime. The Course of the Inevitable is one of the best releases of the year thus far and contains some of the best bar work that hip-hop has seen in a long time.
9 / 10
Best tracks: “Empathy”, “Pain Pressure Paranoia”, “Early Exit”, “Formaldehyde”, “Falsified”, “Commitment”, “Death by Design”, “COTI”