Once upon a time, Lloyd Banks was the hottest young rapper in New York. When G-Unit ran things, the Punchline King was who people waited to hear pop up on a record. Hot 97 freestyles, G-Unit Radio mixtapes, you name it -- people just wanted to hear Banks tear s--t to shreds.

The last buzzing record he had was 'Make It Stack,' bolstered by a feature from the then-buzzing A$AP Rocky in 2012. Rocky's verse isn't even dope; the importance of his presence on the song speaks volumes about the state of New York rap today. Banks starts the song with, "Too much thinking, on top of that I'm gettin' high and drinking," digging a little deeper than he usually does. It's a streak that is perhaps most often inspired by Doe Pesci, the producer behind 'Make It Stack,' 'Failures No Option,' and 'You Wish,' some of the strongest songs Banks has dropped in recent years. But without a rapper who sounds like he's from the South, Banks no longer gets any love. In a 2006 XXL feature after his 'Rotten Apple' LP went triple wood, he even took a shot at the South and claimed NY would be back on top once more. That's yet to happen.

How quickly us New Yorkers forget. No, the PLK isn't what he used to be, but he's still the nicest one in G-Unit, whether or not that means anything. He was even being groomed as a singles artist back in the 'Hunger For More' days, but he couldn't sustain his status after the debut LP. What we're left with today are solid, non-commercial projects like 2012's 'Cold Corner 2' that leave Lloyd Banks looking just like the cover art.

Fly down the Eastern seaboard to Florida and you'll find a trendier artist: Robb Bank$. He's in the same vein as artists like Yung Lean, Main Attrakionz, SpaceGhostPurrp, and A$AP Rocky -- guys whose songs are determined more by production and atmosphere than lyrics. His songs, like the above 'Practice,' float in a cup of codeine, often thanks to beat wizards like Nuri and Purrp. Robb's flows tend to oscillate between hyperactive and molasses-like, which is at least more intriguing than some of these other nighty night rappers today. In 2012, I watched Action Bronson walk into an office and tell everyone he thought Bank$'s live show was dope.

That year, Robb broke out with his project 'Calendars,' where his somewhat schizophrenic personality was on full display over Aaliyah samples and Clams Casino beats. He parlayed the buzz from that project into a couple singles on iTunes, including 'Look Like Basquiat' (groan) and 'I'm That N--ga,' but nothing popped., though his fanbase remains as loyal as any. Recently, he's begun working with Sir Michael Rocks and doing shows with the Cool Kid, but Robb's core fans still await the much-anticipated 'Year Of The Savage'' LP from the South Florida rapper.

He's not nicer than Lloyd Banks, though. To reiterate: yes, PLK has lost a step from the days of flaming Funk Flex freestyles, but the market has changed more than he has, and in an industry where nostalgia (instead of futurism) seems to fuel a majority of today's buzzing NY artists, you can understand why people want to hear G-Unit more than they want to hear about Lloyd Banks's feelings. It's a shame, because Banks has done solid work with relatively unknown producers like Tha Jerm and Formula 2, but few people care. You have to sound Southern if you want to be 'On Fire' now.

Robb Bank$ has the charisma to go places, though his last mixtape, 'Tha City,' was too monochromatic to grab any new fans. Lloyd has seemed disgruntled in the past - he was ready to call it quits after 'Rotten Apple' - but perhaps the reunion of G-Unit will light a fire under his ass to take advantage of the spotlight. He can't let 50 determine his career forever, and if Bank$ wants to reach the next level, he can't let production steer his path either. Robb needs to show he can dominate a beat instead of the other way around. If he masters that, and tweaks his songwriting towards something catchy, you might see him pop up with a hit soon.