- Fri, 2006-10-13 08:40
With his sophomore album release, The Rotten Apple, (out October 9th) Lloyd Banks has well and truly proved himself as an artist in his own right. ''My last album was great but I think that I need to let people know more about me, to make that connection'', he says. That's why with this album I just focused on my punchlines and my overall content. Indeed, it was Banks' punchlines which first earned him acclaim on the New York mixtape scene.
Verses on street classics like Banks Workout and Bad News heralded him as the rapper to beat. 50 wrote the hooks that the whole world sung, but it was Banks who blew away the competition. His contributions to unforgettable mixtapes like 50 Cent Is the Future and No Mercy No Fear earned him an undeniable street buzz as G-Unit's most lyrical soldier.
Banks further solidified his standing with stellar performances on both 50 Cent's 10 times platinum, universally hailed classic debut Get Rich Or Die Trying, and on the 3 times platinum G-Unit debut Beg For Mercy. In fact, he secured the third single, Smile from the aforementioned G-Unit release. With those albums we were just in the zone, he says.
I Like Music caught up with Lloyd Banks before his Rotten Apple album and Hands Up single release, to talk about his new material, what he’s learned from working with Eminem and Dr Dre, writing in 6th grade and networking!
“I like music because… music has got me into a very good position in life and inspired me since a kid, and hopefully my music will inspire other kids to get out there and do the same thing. It makes me zone. Music is my everything!” Lloyd Banks
ILM: So, your new single, Hands Up is out on October 16th. We think it’s awesome. Can you give us your own personal description of the track and its whole vibe?
Banks: Oh man, that record is kinda like part two of my first single off my first album On Fire; it’s in a similar vein, it’s a club record. Eminem worked with me on that one. It was officially produced by Dangerous LLC. And I sent it to Em after the vocals had been laid and he put his magic to it and sent it back. This is actually my second time working Em, and 50 Cent and Jesse Terrero, who directed the video, so it was like Deja Vus. It’s a good feeling to have the support of someone like Em behind you, he jumps to my projects every time to get it rolling, and it just worked out that way. At the end of the day, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it y’know, if the formula works.
ILM: Definitely man; that formula is working! And, of all the tracks on your new album, Rotten Apple, which one did you have the most fun laying down?
Banks: It’s a record called Cake, which was actually the first street release off the album. It’s me featuring 50 Cent, produced by Sha Money XL. He’s really like a new artist to the industry, but he’s got a good ear for music man, and I had a lot of fun recording that record mainly because it has a sample in it, with words being said, and I don’t really use heavy beats, so I wrote that record in about 15 minutes. Whenever it comes out fast like that, you just know it was meant to be and, consequently, that’s my favourite record on the album.
ILM: The album features collaborations with Alicia Keys, Mobb Deep, Musiq Soulchild, plus 50, Tony and Young Buck, among others. How did the Alicia Keys collaboration come about?
Banks: Actually I did a record for her project a while back. It was nothing, it was just a phone call and I was on tour at the time and I just flew into New York City, recorded the record and flew back out. I don’t really do that. That’s the first time I flew up to record with somebody. I don’t do a lot of feats. I don’t want to sell myself too short and be out there on everybody else’s records. This is only my second project, so I feel like I just have to focus on what I bring to the table and limit how much I do outside of what I do.
ILM: The album features production credits from: Eminem, Timbaland, and Sha Money XL, plus Havoc (of Mobb Deep) and JR Rotem. You must learn so much from having all these different people producing. Is there one lesson you’ve learned that stands out?
Banks: There’s a couple. The first time I worked with Dr Dre… I’m always prepared and always have my verses ready, but they hear things that you don’t really hear. He had me stacking my vocals more than I usually stack ‘em, and at the end of it you understand what he’s actually hearing, and you add that into what you do from time to time…as well as Eminem. They have a programme which actually opens your vocals and it can take it a lot of ways to a lot of different places. He did that with Hands Up my first single. It didn’t actually sound like that when I gave to him, it just came back that way, because producers hear things that artists don’t hear.
ILM: Yeah, they’ve got crazy ears man.
ILM: You’ve returned to your roots on this album; embracing the style and content that made your rhymes unforgettable on the mixtape scene. Can you describe the Lloyd Banks process of writing such good rhymes and making such good hip hop music?
Banks: Y’know, my writing process is everywhere. It doesn’t stay in one place. I write music on the tour bus, on aeroplanes, in my head on my way back and forth through the city, sometimes in the middle of an interview, when I’ve got breaks at the radio station, little things that come in to my head. My environment has a lot to do with that. I always sat down and spaced out, no matter how many things were going on around me, I’d space out and think and actually write records. I always wanted to be complex, not too complex, but complex enough to excite people and make them want to rewind and hear what you said again, and that comes from what kind of person you are. If you’ve got a style and a certain swagger to you, people respect you for it. I never wanted to be or sound like anybody else, so I think I’m really in my own zone. You have to write and you have to keep working, just like basketball players have to practice their jump shot; you just have to practice your craft.
ILM: Do you have any of your first ever narratives and poetry you wrote?
Banks: Yeah, I’ve got a lot of things man. I always wrote a notebook. The books I was supposed to use at school I was writing in them what was going on around me. It wasn’t even rapping up to that point, it was just me jotting down things real fast and after a long period of time I started to take the rap thing more seriously. It started off in 6th or 7th grade just me sitting there and writing in the classroom. I don’t know if you’d call it poetry; it wasn’t flowing the way it raps now.
ILM: You’ve achieved so much; in fact you were crowned Mixtape Artist of the Year award in 2004. Must’ve been awesome. What other ambitions do you have left to achieve?
Banks: A lot; the mixtape market is actually…. That was like step one, because that’s the market that broke me into the industry. We always had mixtapes, which were located strictly to the street corner people who were actually out there next to the store to buy them, you couldn’t really purchase them. For me that was real easy for me to get. I could get them from the dude round the corner from my house, so I really wanted to impress them. I was really concerned about my neighbourhood first, but I’m out of that chapter to the point that my neighbourhood embraces me; they actually have a respect for me that I always wanted. And that’s where it starts off, it starts off at your neighbourhood, before hip hop I didn’t meet my neighbourhood. So I grew up wanting to impress that crowd, now it’s the confidence to take it world wide, and have respect from people around the world in what you do and actually put my neighbourhood on the map. I want people all over the UK and everywhere to know exactly where I came from, which is South Side Jamaica, Queens, and you know, if you stand for something you want to pull from anything, so that’s what I’m out there for.
ILM: Your Hunger For More debut saw your music progress and you spoke at the time of progressing as a person rather than wanting more money or success, do you feel you’ve done that since your debut release?
Banks: Oh definitely, it’s been over two years since my last release. I’ve definitely grown as an artist and as a person, just from experience. Experimenting definitely gets you there. I’ve been out there in the people’s eye under the ‘scope which makes you grow faster also. Sometimes it’s your competitors, sometimes it’s your allies, but my crew, we keep each other motivated and headed in the right direction. It’s a blessing that I have people in my own circle that I can use with influence. Because, when you start looking for influence outside the crew, it’s hard to understand the same thing.
ILM: 2004’s two million selling debut album ‘The Hunger For More’ debuted at number one in the US album charts. How did you celebrate?
Banks: Oh man, I didn’t celebrate to be honest with you. The night it came out, I was staying right across the street from a 24 hour Tower Records, so midnight came and I went straight over to the record store to purchase the album. I didn’t know what to expect to be honest, but there was a long line man, black people, white people, Spanish people, Chinese people, just no way I would have thought all those different people would be going to buy my CD, and sure enough they all walked out with my CD. So I kind of had a good vibe about it. But the next morning I left LA to go overseas, so I didn’t actually get a chance to celebrate, and by the time I came back home it was September, and I had already sold close to half a million records in the first week.
ILM: Must’ve been a good feeling though, right?
Banks: Oh definitely a good feeling, the success definitely outshines all the envy that was going on in the rest of hip hop, and the media just agreeing to disagree. When you start to win too much they start wanting you to fail. So me coming, nobody, as far as the media, they didn’t really get my album Just Do It until it was way over 2 million records sold, so I never really have a chance to develop an ego or anything like that. I’m really in the same vein as the first album… there’s not a lot to celebrate, because I know how far I want to go. That was just my baby, my first album, my entrance to hip hop.
ILM: You’ve been touring the world on the Anger Management tour. What’s been the stand out moment from that tour?
Banks: The biggest stand out moment is when I performed with me, Fifty and Em on stage; me, Fifty and Snoop, the same night. It’s just performances that will go down in history. There’s too many to point one out, because I’ve been on three Anger Management tours, including Beg For Mercy, Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ and Rock The Mic tours. I’ve been on a lot of tours so…. We have footage of all the shows, I have to leave that up to the fans, because every show I feel like I killed it. So I’ll leave it up to the fans to decide which was the most memorable.
ILM: You were raised in Jamaica, Queens. I was speaking to Yummy Bingham [Chaka Khan’s god-daughter, who also grew up in Queens. Like her, you sought to escape the poverty and stuff. You did escape through music. What advice would you give to others caught up in stuff they want out of, and to young musicians who are just starting out?
Banks: To market yourself, you’ve really got to acknowledge your flaws and your pluses. You’re going to notice them before anyone else does, so you want to acknowledge them and you want to fix them. Whatever needs to be fixed, you do it before you put yourself out there prematurely. You only have one chance to leave a first impression. You can’t rush music. Half of the records you hear now are records from 15 or 20 years ago. Everybody has a time for their sound. You see people who stick around in the game for ten years and in the tenth year they have their blow out year. You definitely want to market yourself. My mother told me a long time ago, “Nobody can sell you better than you can sell yourself.” Network, shake hands, even if you don’t know who’s hand you’re shaking, or you’ll walk right by a programme director or something.
ILM: Your parents must be proud. What do they think of your success?
Banks: Definitely, my mother of course… There was a time not so long ago when she would not even believe or couldn’t even understand how her son could be attractive to so many people and have an influence in hip hop the way I did. It definitely feels good and it feels good for her also. Just knowing that, coming up the way we came up, something actually came good from it.
ILM: What’s your favourite Lloyd Banks track to play live?
Banks: It’s a record called Playboy, it’s track two on the Hunger for More album. I made the record with crowd participation already in it, so I’m telling you to put your hands up, and you know what to do at the end of it. And it outperforms all my records in concerts, even On Fire. I’ve performed that record all around the world and everywhere I go there’s an immediate response to that record. It has like a rock and roll/hip hop feel to it. They go crazy when it comes on, and so do we.