On a muggy July day in midtown Manhattan, I arrive at Sei Less, an Asian Fusion restaurant that’s a hotspot for hip-hop artists. Two hulking men are commandeering the front of the restaurant when I walk in, and I assume they’re bouncers at first, but it turns out they’re working security for a veteran New York rapper who happens to be filming a music video at the same time I’m supposed to interview Lloyd Banks.

Sei Less co-owner Dara Mirjahangiry comes to get me and takes me to the back of the restaurant, where Banks’ manager Hovain and his publicists await his arrival. The scene reminds me of the MTV special All Eyez On 50 Cent: The Sequel, where Sway interviewed 50 Cent at Sparks Steakhouse. That was in 2005, at the pinnacle of G-Unit mania. 50 was looking to top his massive debut Get Rich Or Die Tryin with The Massacre and Banks had just gone platinum with Hunger For More. The Unit seemed like an unstoppable tanker set to collectively steamroll up the charts for years to come. But 17 years later, G-Unit members are all carving their own paths.

When we meet, the 40-year-old rapper is preparing to release The Course of the Inevitable 2, a 14-track confessional that follows his 2021 album The Course of the Inevitable. He recorded the project in just four studio sessions, and crafted it by retracing the steps he took when he wrote his very first raps in a small South Jamaica bedroom. Throughout the process, he watched old shows like Martin and movies like Do The Right Thing, which served “as wallpaper” that immersed him in a nostalgic headspace. “I can’t get my room back, but I could get things that remind me of my room,” he says. “I’d just have Martin running and shit, real low. It just seems to make me comfortable.”

The album feels more like intimate musings of a journal than big swings at pop success and punchline virality. On the insular “No Reward,” Banks reflects, “Your blood, sweat and tears form a puddle before they really love you,” over sparse and frigid production from Cartune. “Dead Roses” is an indictment of fake friends, where he contends, “They don’t give a shit about you ‘til you on the front page.” Later, he appraises the fruitless cost of keeping up with the Joneses on “On My Way,” lamenting having “a quarter million in uncomfortable shoes.”