Lloyd was the odd one out in the Murder Inc. posse, only getting attention when Ja Rule and Ashanti weren't around. His early hits -- especially "Southside" with Ashanti and "You" with Lil Wayne -- felt like teenage coattail-riding.
That's what makes his ambitious new album "King of Hearts" (Zone 4/Interscope) such a stunning surprise. Now part of Polow Da Don's crew, Lloyd, at 24, proves himself to be a bold thinker and a skillful singer who can handle almost anything.
He makes his intentions clear from the start with the X-rated but catchy "Dedication to My Ex (Miss That)," that has a lot in common with Cee Lo Green's, um, "Forget You" in style and substance. Then, Andre 3000 arrives and kicks it to the next level.
But the shocks don't stop there, considering his soulful spin on "World Cry," a Marvin Gaye-styled protest filtered through Michael Jackson that also includes R. Kelly, Keri Hilson and K'Naan, and the current single "Cupid," which smooths out Polow Da Don's usual aggressive production for a pretty, stylish pop ballad. On "This Is 4 My Baby," he tweaks a Justin Timberlake-ish track and sets himself up as a real rival to Chris Brown, who he outsings on "Luv Me Girl," and Drake.
Lloyd may not rule the kingdom just yet, but "King of Hearts" is a strong bid for the throne.
"King of Hearts"
BOTTOM LINE A bold leap forward and an inventive twist on R&B