BandGang Lonnie Bands Gives Another Cynical Take on Detroit
The 6 Mile rapper adds another chapter to 2022
McNichols Road is cited as a study in contradictions. An 1800s schoolhouse still standing, a cemetery, and a few junkyards sit atop dirt roads leading you to any area more hopeful. But Detroit’s creatively charged 6 mile stood strong in 2008 when Lonnie, Masoe, Paid Will, Biggs, Jizzle P, and Javar formed BandGang as high school friends.
Detroit’s arguably the hottest city in rap right now and BandGang’s partly responsible. Less-sung beside the hype of emcees like Babyface Ray and 42 Dugg in 2022 alone, BandGang’s members have tried recreating a moment like their collected effort, ‘In Too Deep’ from 2014. Lonnie’s latest solo effort not only exceeds the project but makes a solid case for the most cohesive, innovative Detroit trap album this year.
Nearly a year after surviving an attempt at his life, BandGang’s Lonnie Bands stays married to the streets — his new album, ‘Creatures in Paris’ being the prismatic-yet-opaque hardware for their toxic relationship.
“Kray” grows out of the concrete with piano keys seconds before flighty hats patter in. “Walk like me, talk like me, pussy ass peers,” Lonnie starts with eye contact. Battle bars like those in the opener are common but every track on ‘Creatures in Paris’ grounds you in a Detroit rap-reality that’s too raw to be replicated. He’s living these raps without self pity; just another pair of Buffs and a chip on his shoulder.
Some rappers only rap over two-minute beats, but Lonnie uses the album’s space to sit back and paint a clearer picture of himself in every focus, he’s not a fleeting trend. There’s no gimmick to tracks like “Crank or Die” or “Jr Cali & Bam,” but a confidence in filling the blanks with one-off lines and ad-libs that carry a lunch-table-freestyle charm. Who knows if he even planned to rap some of those off-verse moments but they work well with the delayed snare and add dimension to his kit.
The production’s definitely midwestern with selections BabyTron and Tee Grizzley could’ve made but with a vocal tone similar to LUCKI, Lonnie floats on beats that minimally shimmer and groove like 80s velour. And the album is mixed so conversationally that its storytelling packs a greater punch — “Don Mitchell” fits a cross-country trap trek in just three minutes. He raps, “Ricky Bobby, 36 hours it’s just me and bae / Stop-by area, half a tank / When I see that Colorado sign I know we half way” after the first verse in a subtle mutter. Sitting right between the others, “Don Mitchell” is an appropriate focal point, being both shiesty and silly. In its final moments, Lonnie gives his own juug equation for flipping weight and disses the record labels that aren’t signing him in the same bar: It’s impressive.
He’s in the position in rap where he has clout to land an interview but lacks the corporate backing to get out of the hood. Two members of BandGang, Paid Will and Jizzle, were murdered in 2020 months apart. For BandGang’s remaining members like Lonnie that are still in the hood, there’s a clock ticking to the next headline — casualty, hit-release, maybe even both. Before most of the tracks start, Lonnie shouts, “Stop rapping my life,” and fades into the drone. It’s tough to imagine someone rapping outside their lifestyle when they mention details like handling a brick with care; Lonnie’s finding material from his lived moments, for better or worse.
‘Creatures in Paris’ is laced with this stubborn grip on reality. “Shit done got deeper, way past what I was thinking” Lonnie collects on “Bastard.” Staying in the “field” is listed in the track as the worst thing Lonnie could do but he’s without choice. As a listener, the raps land with a satisfying punch but the cost of each line is more than most can imagine.
As a closing statement, “3rd Eye” settles the dilemma for now. There’s nothing Lonnie can do other than put his life into the music and pray for the best. Thankfully, his skill is undeniable and he’s aware of it. Keeping your record clean, having patience for your mother, and taking caution with money are his main admonishments. “Still caught up in the malice, the Devil still tryna provoke me / Dealing with the dance before I wake up from the wrong dream,” spells his curse for the time being. He can’t go back and right his wrongs but he can write a better life for now before he’s a victim to it all.
At its most exciting, ‘Creatures in Paris’ presents a duality that rocks with a headstrong 6 mile swagger and Midwest wit. Its most gripping elements come from the duality that perhaps only those who share Lonnie’s area code could understand. For the rest of us, Lonnie’s life is something of legend and we can only sit back and watch as he strives beyond our favorite rappers.