Is hip-hop experiencing a lyrical depression, or is it deceased? When fat cat rappers focus on trite material items, and are fixated on spoiled beef, they make it easy to proclaim that hip-hop is extinct. Once, a community catharsis emerging from New York streets, hip-hop has become worldwide phenomenon. But, along the way, its beautiful balance of lyricism, showmanship, and entertainment have become a bittersweet memory.
Hip-hop's development has become arrested. Too many mainstream rappers, using hyperbolic rhymes have lost all sense of reality. While some mainstream rappers have become completely disorientated from their over-exposure, few artists, like Lloyd Banks, have remained true to hip-hop. Banks personifies the principles of a true lyricist. He demonstrates that lyricism, showmanship, and entertainment are capable of existing within one individual. In the concluding part of this exclusive interview, the rapper talks albums versus mixtapes, G-Unit controversy, and his future endeavors.
BallerStatus.com: Will you describe the process that you go through from, conceiving an idea for a track / album, to mastering the end product?
Lloyd Banks: Before I dropped the record, "Beamer, Benz, or Bentley", I wasn't really thinking "album zone" yet. I was putting out mixtape after mixtape. I released five in one year with the ultimate goal of releasing a record after generating enough interest. That's what I achieved with the record "Beamer, Benz, or Bentley." At that point, it made me start reflecting on things -- the way the energy felt for me reminded of when I first came into the business, which automatically made me feel like I wanted to elaborate a little more on my first project. Go back to that and some things that I might have missed and refresh people's memory of why that actually gave me a shot to begin with. And at the same time, to attract a new fanbase with the younger kids out there. Adapting is one of the biggest parts of the business. I think that I have a good shot.
The biggest difference between mixtapes and albums is that mixtapes are like current events. I can speak on something that happened yesterday and put it out tomorrow. Sometimes with an album, you can't really, you can't capture that because it can be a six months to a year in the process of making the whole album. That's one of the reasons why I don't stop recording until the deadline, a perfect example is "On Fire." It was the last song I recorded for my first album, but it was the first record released. So, with all those things in mind, I just work! I don't go in saying "I want to make this kind of record." Once I get the bulk of the album and it sounded -- it had mad similarities to the first one. That's what made me think, I have most of the pieces that I need to pull this off. You know, outside of "Beamer, Benz, or Bentley" or "Any Girl" and the club records, most of the album is dark. I'm bringing you back to southside Jamaica [Queens].
BallerStatus.com: As an MC, when you reflect over catalogue of music, which track best demonstrates your message?
Lloyd Banks: I got a record called "Father Time." It's a record that basically touching on all the things that people may have wanted to know. It answers questions like between the deal situations, how I've been holding up, and what my inspirations are. It touches on all of that. It's basically stamping my spot. I think that was my one to solidify my spot. In the beginning, it's one thing to have a hater-free entrance -- it's one thing to win when everybody wants you to win. It's another thing to win when people count you out. I needed a record to express that [and] to vent out a little bit. I used that record to do it. The chorus is basically speaking out on me, knowing that I possess what it takes for me to make it. It's more confident.
BallerStatus.com: Given that you're aligned with G-Unit, how has its transformation personally affected your music?
Lloyd Banks: You said the transformation?
BallerStatus.com: Yes, with people coming in and out, do you think all the shenanigans associated with y'all overshadows what the lyricists are doing?
Lloyd Banks: Yeah, to a certain extent, it did. But, we got each other to blame for that. Everybody goes to the funeral, but everybody laughs when it's funny. While entertainment is happening, that's just what it is, entertainment -- until it crosses over into a whole 'nother situation. And now, me maturing, I look back at a lot of things, pushing forward, some things won't get my attention. Some things don't deserve my energy. I won't put forth so much on things, you got to focus on what's the matter at hand. That's to put out timeless music, and great albums.
Not just the beef, I don't want to say the beef overshadows things because everybody likes that. I would say the business-savvy, the know-how. I would say our overall success. Sometimes people just see the overall success and it overshadows our true love for music and how much we love to record. I love to record music and I love to see the reception of it even more! I think that's one of the biggest misconceptions about G-Unit is that we're well off and not as excited about it as we once were, which is totally not the case. I am nowhere near content and I have a lot to prove, if not to anybody else, to myself. I look at me as an artist who should have six or seven albums when it's all said and done.
BallerStatus.com: From an MC's perspective, about what are you the most confident and about what are you the most insecure?
Lloyd Banks: I practice my craft. I never get away from what I do. I tell all the kids that are coming up and doing it that you get what you put into it. Hip-hop is one of the only professions to where you don't have to have a G.E.D. to rap. Somebody can do a ten year stint in jail and when they come home, they can be a rapper. Or, they can go from doing the 9-5 thing and become a rapper because everyone else is doing it. I think that the test of time will tell. If you look around you'll find out who really wants to do it and who is doing it for the come up. I think that's the greatest separation. At some point along the line, it became gangsta to not be talented!
Lloyd Banks: I know a lot of times rappers will say, "I'm not a rapper." Well, what the f*** is you then? I don't know. I came from a different era. I paid attention to the artists who actually gave birth to this art form. So, who am I to come in and start changing it up for the worse? I love what I do! I'm a fan of music. I keep a lot of my scraps, you know what I'm saying? I'll save them for my kids or my grandkids. I'm just in love with the process of making music. I don't see myself stopping anytime soon. But, then again, I don't see myself doing it in my 40's.
Lloyd Banks: Well, I won't say that I'll ever stop recording music. But, I don't think I'm going to have to want for certain things. Right now, this is my girlfriend. Hip-hop is my girlfriend, hip-hop is my kid. Hip-Hop fills the void of the things that I don't have. I pay it 101% attention. I don't think I could be as good a father, or as good a husband or anything like that -- the way I am as an artist -- until I'm not an artist anymore.
BallerStatus.com: How have you evolved as a business-man? You say you don't want to be emceeing into your 40's, have you planned out that transition?
Lloyd Banks: Well, I got a lot of different opportunities. Being around someone like 50, I get a lot of things thrown at me. There's a lot of film opportunities. You know, maybe as early as next year, I'll start exercising some options. Like I said, I just want to give my undivided attention to hip-hop and treat it like it's the last thing that I can do. That's the way my outlook is when I step on stage. I wanted to treat my project the same way. I wanted to give it all my attention, and when I feel happy with the outcome I can move on to the next thing. Then I can give it my undivided attention, as well. Eventually, I'll be able to multi-task, but at this point, I feel like this is so important to me. I remember, you know, certain places where I wrote the records at. I remember, I wrote "Warrior," and "I'm So Fly," and "On Fire" at The Landmark hotel in London. "Stunt 101" and "Wanna Get To Know You" were recorded in Amsterdam. I just remember little things like that. It just keeps me pushing!
BallerStatus.com: Words have power; as an MC you have the unique opportunity to share your message with the world. Do you ever envision using your voice as an MC to galvanize political or social change?
Lloyd Banks: I think that is something that will come in time, also. Hip-hop is youthful. The youth determines which direction it's gonna go. I think your thoughts and your visions starts to change, and you start to pay attention to things, as far as the world goes, a little bit later on in life. My life is moving extremely fast. Just coming from where I come from -- I'm 28 years old now, a lot of my close friends, that were pushing for what I'm doing, I mean, like, my biggest supporters are like dead or in jail. Through all the happening, it's kinda hard to look outside of the box because there's so much going on in my neighborhood. Still being active, and still being there, it's kinda hard for me to think rationally.
Sometimes, I think with a chip on my shoulder because I feel cheated. But, you know, I think that's a part of growing up. I think that once you can accept and move on with your life, as far as the way things go, you'll be able to make decisions for a broader mass, as far as the world. It's one thing to make decisions and speak on you as a person and your situation than to start speaking influential to where everybody is picking off of what you say. I think that's something that comes with time. I don't know what I'm going to be thinking about, who knows where my mind frame will be in the next ten years.
BallerStatus.com: Is there anything else you'd like to share with your supporters?
Lloyd Banks: For one, I definitely appreciate them. They helped me sell over 150,000 copies of the "Beamer, Bemz, or Bentley" on iTunes. I definitely hold that to my supporters. There's just one thing, it never fails to shock me. It's one thing to come into the industry and have people who grew with you. There's people that are my age now who were with me from when I first came in. But, then again, I just left my neighborhood. IS 72 -- a gym that I started playing basketball in when I was, maybe like ten years old -- some of the same coaches who coached me were still there running the program. It's a beautiful thing to see those kids out there and how far I've come. It gives me more reasons to keep pushing. I have a chance to influence those kids who are 12 and 13 now, the way Rakim, and they way Slick Rick and those guys did for me. So, with all that in mind, I push on. I can't stop. I want to have good stories and god things to talk about. I want to have a good impact on the youth, because that's what's going to determine which way hip-hop goes within the next ten years.
BallerStatus.com: I'm happy that you recognize that.
Lloyd Banks: That ones that don't recognize that will not be relevant. Artists are like boxers, everyone thinks they're the best. When you're coming in you're young and naïve, you step into a lot of things, but you only see you. You know, when you get your spot and your album is coming out, and you feel like it's all about you. It's not until later in your career when you do it on a repetitive basis that you come to appreciate it more. To see ups and downs, I think that's what makes you who you are. That's the beautiful side of my story. Me pushing forward with this new album, a lot of opportunities are more appreciated. Even when I'm doing an interview, I appreciate the fact that, you know, somebody like Ja Rule can't get an interview. Not a shot to him, but I'm pretty sure he's buggin'. At one point everybody is just with you, but it doesn't have to be that way all of the time.
BallerStatus.com: I enjoyed the interview. When people approach you, are you as cordial with them as you are being now? Do you actually converse with them, or do you act a donkey and adopt that celebrity façade?
Lloyd Banks: I've never been the type that's caught in the whole celebrity thing. I think that a lot of these networks and different avenues that give people to know the artist a little bit more. I'm a humble dude; there's a lot of different characters and personalities in music. I'm not one of the animated ones. So, it's what you see, what you get. It's kinda the same person on the street. In some places I might not look approachable because of the way I move, but I'm a very down to earth person. I take a lot of music from off the street and I've had a lot of encounters -- even if it's just me and I walk through a crowd, it's usually me that will say something first.
That's just the type of person I am. I don't like to make people uncomfortable. At the end of the day, I come from southside Jamaica, Queens. I surround myself with people I grew up with. It's kinda hard to get outside that box. Personally, to me, it's disgusting seeing some of the things that artists say or do to fans. They're our supporters, it's just not in me to do that. It ain't even got nothing to do with rap. It's just not a cool thing for you to be that way to anybody.