Every so often, an artist drops the formalities and speaks freely. David Banner, who's always been known for his candor, finds a way to even shock those who might know him best. As southern charm only gets one so far, Banner openly proclaims that his album is better than yours - whomever you may be. Equally, the Mississippi veteran wants to measure bank accounts, talent, ability, and charity in the balance too. Like the Jay-Z lyric, Banner believes he will not lose.
In a beefy discussion on God and glory, the Crooked Lettaz frontman turned super-producer, benefactor and man-of-the-people isn't short on harsh words for his critics or on adjectives for himself. As he puts it, sometimes one has to speak their own destiny for it to come true.
David Banner has been polite for too long. Although his compassion remains intact, his humility vanishes as AllHipHop.com witnesses a man with a fiery glow in his eyes and conviction in his heart. The Greatest Story Ever Told may be just thought, and perhaps this interview, which skewers Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, reveals Banner's mental health, and champions many bold claims, is just the prologue.
AllHipHop.com: You're a respected rapper, a sought after producer, and you recently got into acting. One role in particular I was curious about is you reading for the new Batman movie. What was your audition like?
David Banner: My thing is... anytime I step into the room, I say, "David Banner is..." I say that because, in my understanding of religion, God spoke the world into existence. Same way T.I. told fools he was the king and everybody was [saying] "what?" Lil' Wayne told everybody he was the best rapper alive since Jay-Z retired, [and] look at [them] now. You've got to speak your destiny. A lot of us allow people to [add] their own opinions of what we're going to be. No, I'm telling you what I'm going to be. I'm speaking my destiny. I'm smashing these fools this year.
AllHipHop.com: So will we be seeing you in a Batman movie sometime soon?
David Banner: I really don't know what happened with that but I'm pretty sure at this point if they ain't call me, it's probably a negative. But the movie s**t...I caught a real bug on that s**t. That's all I want to do right now. That s**t feels like when I did my first talent show when I was in the sixth grade. As rappers, they beat that s**t out of us, man. I tell people you have to get the most out of every situation. That fact that I was even considered for a movie like Batman is crazy for someone like me. People don't know I went to acting school before my first three albums. I was turning down roles until I felt I was ready. Like, I tell kids all the time, "You can't just pop up and think you're the best at something. You need practice. You can't think you're going to the NBA if you've never shot a jumpshot in your life. It just don't happen." I work hella hard. The movie/acting thing is my baby right now. I love L.A. That's where my baby is at.
AllHipHop.com: Will it ever come to a point where you won't concern yourself with music anymore and just focus on movies?
David Banner: The music industry has changed. There's too many b***hes in the game, too many b***h ass n***as, and too much bad business. I know I'm one of the most talented n***as to ever do this s**t. There may be somebody who can do a beat better than me, maybe a couple n***as that can rap better than me, may be one that perform better than me, but there's no one that can do it all from the studio to the stage better. If they put a bunch of n***as in a room and see who can do the best in every category, I don't think there's many that can see me. We're about to start a new religion called Bannerism.
AllHipHop.com: So do you feel like you're not getting recognized for your artistry or showmanship?
David Banner: I think, as southerners, people don't listen to our albums for lyricism. They don't listen to how we construct our albums with stuff like live bass players. Like, my arrangement alone, the way I arranged everything on this album is genius. The fact is, a lot of n***as don't want that from David Banner. As much as they say they want us to take rap to another level, no, they want their favorite rapper to take it to the next level. Well, whoever your favorite rapper is, e-mail them and say, "David Banner is the s**t." Tell them I said my album is better than yours. I'm telling y'all what it is this year. If you don't fall in line you're going to miss the boat. I'm the greatest story ever told and if you don't get down with it now you're goin to have to pay for it later either with money or getting it kicked out of their ass.
AllHipHop.com: So it's a respect thing no just you being bitter?
David Banner: Nah, I ain't tripping. A lot of people lifted a lot of s**t from me. I'm not the type of rapper/producer to b***h and moan about whoever bit my style. I hate that. If you're so dope and you did what you said you did you can do it again. Jay-Z said the dopest s**t: "You said you made me, make another Hov." That was one of the most epic lines I heard in life. If you're as dope as you said you were and somebody bit you're s**t, make a new style. Let them bite but this time, you take ownership of what you did. I watched R&B producers take my s**t, slow it down and make more money off of it than I did. When it comes to producing I showed producers how to brand their name. Who started putting their name in the beats? Who taught producers to put their names before their beats? I'm not tripping but this year I demand a certain level of respect.
AllHipHop.com: You mentioned earlier that you feel you're more blessed than talented. Is that why you put so much effort into giving back?
David Banner: My personal thing is that it's not a rapper's responsibility to give back; it's your responsibility as a man. That's the kind of man I was when I was in the streets. I always gave back. That's how I was when I was teaching. I always gave back to my kids. That's the kind of rapper I am because that's the kind of man I am. People always say, "Some of these rappers be acting like b***hes." Well, that's because they are b***hes. Some people say, "These rappers get big and change." No, they were always like that. The money and fame let them be who they really are.
AllHipHop.com: So as a people, you feel we should look out for each other, not just entertainers?
David Banner: We don't protect ourselves that's why America crucifies young Black men and nobody comes to their rescue, not even their own people. Michael Vick, why isn't anyone standing up for that man? Akon, it wasn't his fault a 14 year-old girl got into a club. It's not his responsibility to card everybody. He was in an adult club where we do adult s**t. And the funny thing is, we like it. People want [sex] and violence. Then we'll sit there and watch when someone gets in trouble for it. I can't stand Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson. Al Sharpton looks like a fat pimp. Our own "leaders" treat us worse than the people who try to condemn us. I'm not just talking about Black people, I'm talking about poor people. If you got a problem with my music, see me. You don't have to call us out and embarrass us in front of all of America. I'm the child. Y'all are supposed to be teaching me. What if I didn't know any better. Don't stomp my CDs and talk bad about me. Some of these other "leaders," these old, Black people who ain't standing for their people, their standing for whoever endorses them. They don't stand up for their children because they don't want to lose their contributions or their endorsement money. You Black and you're helping to crucify your children but you won't stand up when Bush is f**king up America. It's easy to crucify a young, Black man because no one stands up for us. Oprah too. She acts like she ain't even a n***a no more. Tell her put me on her show. I'll slap the f**k out of Jesse Jackson's son. I can't lay hands on Jesse Jackson because I believe in respecting my elders, but I'll f**k Jesse Jackson's son up.
AllHipHop.com: Some people might feel that's a harsh statement...
David Banner: God is freedom; God is just, God is right. I don't believe God wants us to be "yes men." God wants us to be soldiers. He wants us to love as hard as we fight.
AllHipHop.com: You've kind of been on and off the radar for the last few years. What are some of the things that were going on during that period?
David Banner: Last year was the worst year of my life. I went through hell. I realized that we have to look at life for what it is. Everything that I've said might seem like I'm joking but I'm serious. I don't like Al Sharpton, I do look better than you, and I am filthy rich. I do have one of the best rap albums you've heard in the last three years. A n***a may have a couple songs that's better than mine but my album is smashing n***as. T.I. said something to the effect of "N***as was balling when they should've been focusing." That s**t hit my heart. While all these n***as are messing around and bulls**tting, I been focused. And here I am coming back with one of the best albums you'll ever hear.
AllHipHop.com: With the industry being more focused on having the hit song versus the dope album, how do you think you'll do when your album comes out?
David Banner: If you have a dope album all your singles are going to be dope too. That's the problem: n***as have good albums at best. Like "Speak" is my throwaway single. That's got Snoop, Akon, and Lil' Wayne on it. That's my, "Here you go, take that to the radio." That would be most people's lead single, but that's nothing to me. That's my gross display of wealth. I got them and [paid them all] in one shot. I got all the people on my single that you can't afford on your album. And even if you got the money they won't f**k with you because you're a lame. I got all them on my single because it's nothing to me. I know my album is going to do good. But if you choose to not respect what I'm doing then it's your fault and your loss because I'm cool.
AllHipHop.com: So you're not concerned with the hype surrounding first week sales?
David Banner: People get caught up in the rap and in the money, but I just lost my daddy. It got so bad I didn't even listen to music. I hated music. I stayed on tour for three years. You think I give a f**k about what these n***as think? We forget about life and the state of our communities. I threw the biggest urban relief concert in history. I made history. Some n***as die and all they are is a song. I 'm an executive producer, I'm starting businesses, I got a cartoon on Cartoon Network. How many n***as can even go into the Cartoon Network building? This rap s**t is my play thing. It's nothin' to me.
AllHipHop.com: You spoke about losing your father not too long ago yet here you are joking and full of energy. How are you able to go on like this?
David Banner: I went to two pastors for counseling. Like rappers don't be honest with people. I'll be honest with y'all. They was trying to put me on medication. I was going to sleep by reading Bible passages and drinking bottles of Nyquil. I wouldn't sleep like three or four days out of the week. My pastor was like, "You can't save everybody." I was trying to put my people on, I'm trying to single-handedly rep Mississippi, and I'm trying to be the number one pusher for Katrina. I'm not Red Cross. Two different pastors had to sit me down and tell me, "You are not Jesus. You can't save everyone. Let that s**t go." If I can help, I will. If I can't, I let it go. All these negative people get away from me. I only want positivity around me. Everyone that messed with me from the beginning, all the DJs and the magazines, come around me. I'm f**king with y'all. Everybody else can take a number. I'll be in Tahiti somewhere walking around naked. If I feel like this rap music is about to do me in, I'll let it go. I will move back to Mississippi with my mama and work at Stop-N-Go and be happy.