[Interview] David Banner talks “Sex, Drugs & Videogames,” and how it will change the music industry

Interview by: Martin Bauman

David Banner is on a mission to take back the music industry. With the upcoming release of his album Sex, Drugs & Videogames, and the promotion of his 2M1 movement, Banner believes that with the fans’ help, they can create a whole new future for rap music. Upon the completion of his goals, he plans on making a movie. As Banner explains, “We have to envision greater heights, greater things. We have to know our potential, we have to know who we are.” The Come Up Show recently caught up with David Banner to talk about his upcoming album, the time his van was stolen, when you can expect a David Banner acoustic set, and more. Check out the interview below.

TCUS: Welcome to The Come Up Show, it’s a pleasure to have you. Right off the bat, Sex, Drugs & Videogames drops May 22nd, so far we’ve heard “Believe”, “Let Me In”, and “Californication”. What can we expect from the rest of the album, what’s the goal of the album?

David Banner: To let people know that it’s not just about the singles. To make people fans again, you know? Because there’s so much music that comes out, and we can judge the quality of it, but at the same token, i just feel like [myself] as an artist and as a lover of music… I want to bring people a body of work that they can love again. I know that all of us are “I” this and “I” that, so I would love to make it a community situation again. Where people are actually able to fit in one body of work and get different emotions out of it, instead of something being so scattered. Just quality music, jammin’ ass music that you can get out of it.

TCUS: I also wanted to talk about “Believe” (one of the tracks off Sex, Drugs & Videogames). On “Believe”, you bring along fellow Mississippi rapper Big K.R.I.T., who’s blowing up right now. And you mentioned in another interview that you two have been friends for a while, actually. How did you two first meet?

David Banner: One of the guys that signed K.R.I.T. was a friend of mine, and we were both in New York at the same time while I was recording [myself] and 9th Wonder’s project Death of a Pop Star. So K.R.I.T. came by, we ended up talking for hours and hours, and we just kept in contact. Talked over the phone a lot, whenever we were in the same area, we made sure that we connected. And, you know, the relationship just got stronger from that point.

TCUS: Let’s talk about the cover art for Sex, Drugs & Videogames. Obviously, there’s a connection to the Grand Theft Auto series. What was the inspiration behind that?

David Banner: [Laughs] I would much rather strike it out the conversation, I don’t wanna bring any attention to the obvious. [Laughs].

TCUS: Ok, could you talk about what the title means to you then?

David Banner: Well, for me, Sex, Drugs & Videogames really just talks about the fact that, you know, that’s what’s so prevalent in American music. It’s funny that I’m talking to you guys, because one of the things that really influenced my mindset was when I was on tour with 50 [Cent] in Canada. And we were able to watch the news, and the news in Canada and the news abroad isn’t always about sex, drugs and violence. I remember, it was funny, because I saw a story about a panda bear that was in the zoo. Like, we don’t ever get to see that in America. It’s always violence, it’s always just anarchy or something that will keep people stressed out. And the thing that I was saying is that, you wonder why the murder rates are so high, you wonder why there’s so much trivial stuff that’s going on, because all that our kids are getting is that type of stimuli. And the thing is, in the same token, I’m asking people, if life is truly a videogame, then who has the controller? You know, people know the stimuli that they give our people. And then it’s all for finance. Even the news is controlled by private people. It’s not really a public service. So people are trying to get their ratings up, and usually the way that you get your ratings up is by any means necessary. It’s usually about sex, drugs and violence, right?

TCUS: You’re currently promoting the 2M1 movement, I see it’s getting a lot of support from the music community, and I’ve also heard you talk about a movie that you’re going to be shooting afterwards. What’s the movie going to be about?

David Banner: Well, the thing is, I don’t really want to talk about the movie until it’s time to talk about the movie, because the thing I’m telling people is that we have to take things one at a time. We gotta make sure that we get these 2 million. So we’ve got to make sure that we reach our goals, because a lot of times, when you start talking about things beforehand, they may never come into fruition. I think the most important thing that we need to make sure that people do is make sure that they go to www.davidbanner.com, and they donate at least one dollar. What I will say is that the whole 2M1 movement was formed so that people from our culture can control our image. You know, if you look at a lot of the people that control the images that come out about the urban community, they’re not from our generation, they’re not from our culture, they’re not from our neighbourhood, they’re not from our mindset. They don’t look, speak, or act like we do. And then we wonder why the lines are so blurred between reality and what you see on the screen, it’s because we’re not controlling it. So, even the singles that we’ve put out… in most of the situations that albums are made, the singles come out, and artists are fighting with the establishment to express what they want to express. And if it doesn’t fall in line with what [the establishment] believes it should be, then it doesn’t come out, or it doesn’t get the proper push. And that’s why it’s important for us to go directly to the fans. And also, if you think about it, the two most important factors in the equation of music are the fans and the art.

TCUS: Definitely.

David Banner: And artists doesn’t necessarily mean rappers or singers, it could be the skateboarders, the motorcyclists, the basketball players, the football players, the hockey players, whatever they end up being. If you look at just about any sport, or anything that has to do with entertainment, the artist and the fans have been reduced to feel like they are not worth anything. And we’re changing that with this movement.

TCUS: How is Louis CK related to this?

David Banner: I was just influenced by the way he put out his last comedy special. He went directly to the fans, and told his fans, “listen, I paid for this with my own money, I know you can get it for free, I’m just asking you to pay five dollars.” And, you know, it worked. And that’s similar to what I’m doing, but what I’m trying to tell people is let’s not just stop at this two million. Let’s continue to keep it going, let’s keep this together, let’s keep this conglomerate effort and move it in so many directions, ’cause think about how many people [Louis] was able to get together if he was able to generate a million dollars. [Imagine] what they could do socially, what they could do politically, what they could do philosophically, if motivated. I’m not asking anybody for anything for free, I’m telling them they get the album which is perpetually free. I mean, because all music is free right now, if you really think about it. But it’s those who choose to do the right thing. When you think about it in the store, really, stuff is free in the store if you choose to take it, but that doesn’t make it right. So I’m challenging fans to show that they have love for not just David Banner, but for the establishment that’s called urban music. And, we’re telling them, they’re getting value that’s never been seen before. You get sixteen songs with Lil’ Wayne, Snoop Dogg, A$AP Rocky, Kardinal Offishall, The Game… I mean, you name it, they’re on there. You’re getting those artists, you get sixteen videos, and I’m already showing you the value of the album by dropping “Believe” with K.R.I.T., by dropping “Let Me In” with Tank, and then “Californication”, and “Yao Ming” with A$AP Rocky, Lil’ Wayne and Chris Brown. That’s already showing you that you have value. And if we can’t pledge a dollar, it really shows where we are as a culture.

TCUS: I want to get away from music and go back to your childhood for a bit. What can you tell me about Raines Elementary School?

David Banner: [Laughs] That’s the elementary school that I went to. Good research, kind sir.

TCUS: How did it contribute to your musical progress at all?

David Banner: I wouldn’t necessarily say that it contributed to my musical progress, but what I can say is that it was part of the environment that I grew up in, so of course it influenced me, but I can’t necessarily say that it was the catalyst. I think more than anything, it was junior high and high school that influenced that. I was first introduced to rap music when I was going to Raines, but it wasn’t that elementary school even knew how to nurture me wanting to be a rapper. I don’t think they had the capacity… at the time, they weren’t even playing rap music on the radio. They were only playing it on Sunday.

TCUS: But was it during Raines that you started playing the piano?

David Banner: No, I started teaching myself how to play the piano more in junior high school. And that was [at] Hardy Junior High, and Northwest Junior High.

TCUS: I wanted to ask you about this, because this seems like something straight out of a movie to me. This is from 1999. You’re sleeping on the floor of your friend’s house and your van gets stolen. What happened next?

David Banner: What happened was, I wasn’t actually sleeping on my friend’s floor at the time. I had actually went to a hotel. And I figured out later on that what I think what happened was the girl that was working in the hotel, you know, once certain people would come into the hotel, she would call her boyfriend, and him and his friends would come over and steal the cars of the people who were staying in the hotel. I left and went to the radio station, and when I came back from the radio station, somebody had stolen my van. And everything that I had in my life was in that van. The only thing I had on me was the pistol that I had on me at the time, which was registered, and which was legal, and which I still have. And I felt in my heart that I knew where [the van] was, and a voice literally told me, it was God telling me to turn around. And I ended up calling a friend, and they came and picked me up, and I didn’t go. My van was in the direction that I thought it would be in, and if I would have gone to find my van, or found my van at night, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you. But when I signed my deal with Steve Rifkin, I was actually driving through Birmingham, and that’s where my van got stolen. And I signed my deal in Kinko’s, they faxed me my deal memo, and that’s where I signed my deal. And to me, that was God telling me that if you listen to my voice, if you follow my instructions and my plans, then I’ll bring you back to the place everything was taken from you and give you ten times, twenty times, thirty times, forty times more than you would have ever imagined. And that’s what happened.

TCUS: See, what I had read was that the thieves had thrown the master copies of a CD that you were working on out of the van, and that you found those CDs. Is that not true?

David Banner: No, what happened was they took everything but what was important. They left the disk for my drum machine, all that stuff, and that’s in there. They took what they thought was important, but the stuff that was the most important to me, they left.

TCUS: Alright, well I’m glad we cleared that up. So, you’ve been rapping since the mid 90s, what motivates you to make music after all these years?

David Banner: I mean, I enjoy music. People are still interested. I’m still interested in people. I love my occupation, and I love the opportunity that’s been given me. There’s nothing like being able to sustain yourself by doing something that you dreamed about doing all of your life. It’s one of the best feelings ever.

TCUS: And along with that, what do you think the key to longevity is as an artist?

David Banner: It’s staying original. You know, stay original, and follow your own path. That’s the best thing that I would tell people, just stay original and follow your own plot.

TCUS: You’re going to be speaking at Harvard University on April 28th as part of the 20th anniversary of the LA riots. Obviously, these issues are still very much relevant today, with the recent shooting of Trayvon Martin. What does being a part of this event mean to you?

David Banner: It’s important, and I’m really honoured that they chose to give me this opportunity. And I just want to make sure that I represent, and that I’m as functioning as I possibly can be to help bring some light to the situation.

TCUS: Now, you’re also into acting, and were recently in an episode of Vin Diesel’s series “The Ropes”, what was that experience like?

David Banner: It was a great experience. I was honoured that they wanted me to be there. I enjoyed being a part of something that was new, that was something just getting off the ground. To be able to see him create something like that also motivated me to know that we can take our own images in our hands and create our own content, cause that’s exactly what Vin did.

TCUS: What was your role in the episode?

David Banner: It was more or less me being me, actually… In LA, and you know, going to the club… what they considered a normal LA night at the club. And it was cool.

TCUS: Alright, I also wanted to ask you, are you learning how to play guitar right now?

David Banner: Yes, I am.

TCUS: Whose songs would you play when you’re playing guitar?

David Banner: Mine. I usually play new songs, or really old songs…. The first song I learned how to play on guitar was Tony, Toni, Toné’s “Anniversary” [laughs]. So that was exciting.

TCUS: So, I’m sure the next question is, when can we expect a David Banner acoustic set?

David Banner: Really soon, hopefully it won’t be too long. One of my dreams is the next time I win a Grammy for a song, whatever artist that may end up being, whether it’s me or somebody else, cause what I try to do is, every time I do a new song, I try to learn the acoustic version for it so I’ll be ready for that moment when it comes. So it’s not too long away… I’m getting better.

TCUS: What can you tell me about Think and Grow Rich, the book you just read?

David Banner: It’s strange that you ask that, because one thing that I’m learning about that book is it’s about visualization. And that’s the same thing that we’re talking about sex, drugs and videogames, is the fact that we have to visualize better for ourselves. We have to envision greater heights, greater things. We have to know our potential, we have to know who we are. And that’s basically what Think and Grow Rich is about, and that’s what I’m trying to do for our generation. We have to want to be more than rappers, we have to want to be more than just what we see on TV, or other people’s images of us. We have to just want more. And once we figure out what those things are, we have to visualize them and know that they’re possible. That they can come true.

TCUS: So, you’re an actor, a filmmaker, a musician, an activist… what’s next for you?

David Banner: Just really hone in and focus more on making movies, and controlling our images. That’s really, really important. Hopefully, sometime soon, be a father.

TCUS: Well, that’s all from me, is there anything else that you wanted to say to the fans?

David Banner: I just want them to know that this movement is very, very important. Not just to me, but to the music industry, period. And one of the things that I’m most excited about is, you know, having a concept to really create something that may be the foundation to being a new way that we distribute music to fans. Hopefully people will support me, and know that it’s bigger than the songs. That they’ll go to www.davidbanner.com, and pledge, and be a part of 2M1. I know this can change the future of music. That’s it.

TCUS: Thank you very much for your time, and best of luck in the future!

David Banner: Thanks. Oh, and make sure you shout out Kardinal Offishall up there.

TCUS: Of course.

David Banner: Make sure, you know, shout out the boy.