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INTERVIEW: David Banner, Countdown to The God Box

The most vital voice in the south is back.

On the eve of his brand new album’s release, Mississippi Hip-Hop artist, David Banner, and Salute Magazine headquarters arranged an impromptu interview at 11:30 p.m., which we are now pleased to share. For more on The God Box, check out our review, and be sure to get a copy of his brand new full-length studio album, now available from A Banner Vision.

Photo: Annette Navarro

Photo: Annette Navarro

DAVID: Before we start, I have to say to you something first. I have to say this before 12 o’clock because after 12 o’clock I can’t say this again. So you can say you all have the first The God Box interview officially, once the people have the record, but I honestly believe I have one of the best Hip-Hop albums in history. The reason I was so pleasantly surprised with your review, is because it was the first review I’ve ever seen of my album. When I saw it, it was like a confirmation. That was literally the first review of my album.

As southerners, so many times, unless you’re an egomaniac or very ego driven, then people have a tendency of walking over the south and ignoring the greatness. It’s sort of like when San Antonio wins the Championship, Sports Illustrated only concentrates on them for two days, but if it’s anybody else, it’s almost like you see that commercial over and over again for two months.  

It meant a lot to me, man. It was very very special to me because I worked so hard, and I’ve always worked so hard. I really believe because of the God Box, people are going to go back and realize I’ve been rapping, I’ve always been rapping. I was just drunk and angry mad and depressed and high, all of these different things.  I wasn’t centered. I wasn’t meditating. I didn’t know that I was depressed. I didn’t know I was all these things. I went from being homeless to being a millionaire within two weeks. Homeless, bro.

For me, The God Box means so much. I mixed this album. Some songs I mixed 12-14 times. I mastered this album twice. I paid for this album 100 percent. This is truly an independent album.  Nobody fronted me anything. This is 100 percent me. Every CD that you see.

I paid all the lawyers. I paid all the attorney fees, which a lot of people pay for their entire album to make sure nobody could steal this from me or say it was a sample.

I’ll give you an example how a lot of time people don’t look and see value in black music, especially rap. On “My Uzi,” at the end, that is a real composition that was written by John Debney just for me, who scored Passion of the Christ and Iron Man 1, 2 and 3. That’s an original composition. That’s not a sample. He wrote that for David Banner. I want people to know that. Like that’s not a sample, you feel me?

This means a lot to me. To be honest with you the [physical] God Boxes that go along with the album, actually mean more than the album, because it has books and a flag and DVDs that can help people become conscious. The book that’s in there is the reason why I think the way I think today.

The God Box is more than just a rap album.

I love all kinds of music. What people don’t know bro, I love indie rock music, just like I love Outkast. I’m a big fan of The Police also. I grew up on so many different types of music. 

At one time I had a whole house full of records. You could fill every room with vinyl. People don’t know my history; I was a battle rapper first.

I want you to read the lyrics. There is not a weak line on this album. We went line for fucking line. The only thing they can do is ignore us, they can’t deny it. They’re just going to deny it and hope that we go away. It means a lot for the culture also.

Salute: About how long did it take to record the album?

DAVID: It was about a three-year-long process of actually recording the album, but it was a six-year process of me figuring things out. A lot of people say seven years, but that first year I had quit. I wasn’t gonna rap anymore. I was done. And then this young dude off of Twitter said to me, “David Banner we know you’re doing well at scoring movies and video games and commercials,” because I run a multimedia company called, A Banner Vision, and I was done with music, and he said, “but what if I need you?”

I figured out I was being selfish. What if somebody else needed me? I stopped making music because things were not going how I thought it should go.

The idea that you guys are now seeing with The God Box… I’ve always felt that way about myself. I just used to think my southern drawl was so deep, and that because I cursed so much. It was so violent and the 808 was too strong, that people never would listen to the verses.

This process was crazy because I was also going through a depression. It’s funny, and I was telling my homeboy today because he’s used to me grinding 24:7, and I really was patient with this album. I wasn’t worried about things people were saying about me and me constantly pushing the album back and all that kind of stuff.

I had to tell him I’m getting to know this new guy. This guy that you all are seeing on tv, that you all seeing on Instagram like he’s new to me too. I had to get to know myself again. I was coming out of depression. I was hurt. I was confused. I was figuring out what depression was. I learned transcendental meditation. Bill Duke, the producer, and actor, met my mentor David Moody and as I changed and became a better person. The highest started blessing me with better people. Man, I got a staff that’s so strong and individuals who are willing to die for me and die for my cause. It reflects in the music.

I’m actually at peace. For the first time in my life, I’m happy. I realize without being David Banner… I’m talking as Lavell Crump. I know The God Box is going to show a change in music. Even if it doesn’t, I know what it is. Without you saying it, without your next door neighbor saying it, I know what this album is.

That process was needed, and I needed to live. I needed to live so that I could have new stories. The reason why this album is so good, and the reason why people’s first albums are so good, is that you lived your whole life up until you got famous. The rest of the time you”re on airplanes. You aren’t living. You didn’t get your heart broken. You don’t care about anything because you got money.

This was like seven years of pain, of not recording, and being just a regular person. Being able to walk into the grocery store again and people are excited, that it’s David Banner, but without the “rah rah” and all the people throwing their panties at you and shit. Although, I did like that at the time.

Less than 20 minutes to midnight.

I know you’re very in touch with politics and with what’s going on around you and in the world. I wanted to know, politically speaking, a lot has changed since you recorded [the bonus track] “Evil Knievel.” Do you feel like the recent shift in government [e.g. Trump] made you want to record more or motivated you in some way?

Nah. No. I’m going to tell you why. It hasn’t changed for Black people. We get emotional because the news is flipping out, or middle-class white people are flipping out. Think about it. People are complaining about a recession. There’s always been a fucking recession for Black people.

That’s why I understand why we as black people freak out whenever the news freaks out. Shit isn’t different. It wasn’t any different when Obama was in office. It was the same shit. Statistically, it wasn’t any different.

We had hope. Superficial hope. Bro, the police have been beating our ass. They’ve been out here hanging our people from trees.

The only reason why it’s different is that we have cell phones to prove it. Ain’t shit changed. I’ve been saying the same shit. Go back to Mississippi: The Album, and listen to “Bush,” and I’m basically saying the same thing with less cursing and less aggression.

People want the old David Banner, but if I’m the old David Banner, it’s sort of like The Hulk. Think about the Hulk. The Hulk likes kids and plays with Bambi; he’s all quiet when he’s out in the woods, and then mother fuckers shoot at him. White people come and shoot at him and then have him out to be the bad person because he tore that shit up. Think about the real Hulk, I mean, to be honest; he was never aggressive towards people until they with him and then when they fucked with him they turned around pointed the finger at him like he was the aggressor.

People don’t look at the fucking story. People just want to see what’s beneficial to them.

Think about this, from the time Emmett Till was thrown in that river, and it came out that the white lady was lying. Still no justice. Bro, historically what has ever changed? There may have been one or two exceptions to the rule, but they all have been “not guilty” for the most part. I don’t give a fuck if you got news cameras, Rodney King all the way to right fucking now. I don’t get emotional as it pertains to a shift in America because it has always been that for us. Now people are considering it because, for the most part, Trump has shown middle America and liberal white folks that America is not post-racism. That’s a fucking lie. We knew that as Black people. We don’t control the media. Nobody’s going to fucking listen. Nobody cares about the state of Black people because if they did, we wouldn’t have to be talking about the shit that we’re talking about now.

If old white men, cops, are shooting innocent dogs, would America start passing laws to make sure that wouldn’t happen again? We’re talking about puppies. I know for fucking sure. A person just got 19 fucking years for shooting a police dog.

The same thing happened with Michael Vick. Motherfuckers can kill a Black man and never go to jail, but Mike Vick wasn’t even home when they were fighting those motherfucking dogs, and he went to fucking jail.

America can stop whatever they want to if they really care, but they don’t really care about Black people. If they really cared, they’d do something. They would pass laws.

If policeman felt that if they shot the wrong person, they would go to jail or die, they wouldn’t do it. You don’t see them mistakenly killing White kids at the same rate. If it’s really a mistake, they would kill everyone at the same rate they mistake and kill black kids. There aren’t any fucking mistakes.

Shit isn’t different for Black people, and I have just been blessed financially and mentally to be able to tell my truth. All I ask is for people just to consider, I may be wrong, who knows. But just consider it, I studied.

The track “Elvis,” cuts really deep on the media involvement today, and I kind of wanted to know your take on mainstream media.

What I’ll say is, I was in Ferguson. I watched CNN and all these major conglomerates lie about what was happening in Ferguson. Ask Talib Kweli; he was there. Ask Jasiri X; he was there.

They weren’t lying. The police were instigating shit. They took off their badges, so you couldn’t report who was doing it. It was basically like a Black Beach Weekend with meaning. People were out there cooking and chilling when the cops came out, shit started.

They were tear gassing babies. The first day that all that shit happened was a beacon of light to show what had always been happening. Cops in Ferguson, especially white cops, have always been treating Black people like shit. People were tired, and nobody listens until we burn shit down.

Let’s go back to the hope. People complained about the shit happening in Ferguson. I watched the mainstream media lie. That’s why they’re losing their power.

Where do people go for news today? I can tell you where I go. I go to YouTube, I go to Twitter, I go to Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram. That’s where you get the real breaking information from real fucking people on the ground. That’s where they tell you the real, unadulterated truth.

I’ve seen it, man. You know how you read something fucked up and you still don’t believe it. Then you see it happen in front of you, and you still can’t believe it. I have been rapping about that shit all my life. When I saw it, real in front of my face, I still couldn’t believe they would lie, and they were using Black faces to lie. Like what the fuck yo?

Because of The God Box, I know there’s a strong possibility people are going to try to come at me. I’m not going to ask anyone anything I am going to say to address the problems. Am I telling the truth or not? That’s all you need to answer me. If I am telling the truth, let’s handle some of these problems.

I don’t know if you ever heard me debate against Congress for our First Amendment rights, during the Don Imus case, and I said that I could admit that Hip-Hop is sick. Hip-Hop is sick because America is sick. If you want us to rap about roses, come to our neighborhoods and plant some.

It goes back to what I was telling you again. America doesn’t really care about Black folk. They just want us to keep quiet, buy Gucci and Louis Vuitton, and just shut the fuck up.

They want our Black talent, they want our Black input, but they don’t want our Black bodies or Black faces. The thing that I hope I am able to do is just allow some people to consider.

I don’t have children, so I’m brave enough, I don’t have something to lose. What could somebody else do to me, make me broke? I was born that way. What are you going to do, threaten to kill me? They do that shit every day of our lives.

Sorry, I feel like that question took a real left turn.

Who played guitar on some of the tracks?

There are a couple of guitar players. Watson played on “Judy Blare,” and Brandon Aycock played guitar on just about everything else.

I think it will take new listeners by surprise, but Lil’ Jon and I have been using acoustic guitars since the beginning of my career. I think now that I have people’s attention lyrically, they’ll go back to my old shit and be like “fuck, Banner’s been on this shit the whole time.”

People stereotypically look at the South, and they don’t really listen. No matter what Luda does. Ludacris is one of the best lyricists ever. Bun B is one of the best lyricists ever. Juvenile. KLC from Beats By the Pound revolutionized music. If you really think about it, Pharell and Timbaland too. Although, they get their credit vicariously through other people.

People say the South is running the game, but we still don’t have a Will Smith. We still don’t have an Ice Cube. I think that T.I. is right on the cusp. A few more major movies and he will be.

Killer Mike had to go international, but he has always been rapping.

As a matter fact, fuck that. Fuck all that. My favorite rapper of all-time is Andre 3000. Out of any rapper that fucking walks this earth. He’s gotta be like top two, and he doesn’t even want to be the best rapper, he doesn’t even fucking try. His dopest verse to me doesn’t rhyme.

“He asked her who she wanted to be when she grow up and she told a lie.” WHHAAATT? That doesn’t even rhyme.

About The God Box, my ego wants me to be considered one of the best rappers ever, but I told Big K.R.I.T. this, “our place is bigger on this earth than trying to compete with other men. This is a spiritual war. It’s a social war. Our children are dying. Black people have almost been cut off from their African heritage. If we go another generation without teaching our kids, we may be lost forever.”

Anytime we talk about Black people’s history in this country, it starts with slavery. We were here over 100,000 years before the white gene ever existed. Black people lived over 100,000 years. We were ancient people, before most races of people ever graced this earth, but you never hear that once in school.

I don’t think people get the significance of this time. Once the internet really locks in, and they get all the information they want on there, they’re going to delete our history. That’s one of the reasons why I still make hard copies. People ask me “why did you order 5,000 copies of your own CD to sell ?” Whether people buy CDs anymore or not, they will not be able to wipe me off this earth.

If they get pissed off at you, they can click one button on the internet, and you don’t exist anymore. They can stop all your music on every computer

I watched it happen. I don’t know if you remember Snow Leopard update, but you couldn’t play your movies or iTunes, could you?

Now, we don’t even own our music or our property. A person behind a computer screen can stop you.

Apart from being a multi-talented artist, you’re an activist too. What was the personal significance of releasing the album on Malcolm X’s birthday?

Somebody asked me if I could meet anybody in history who would it be? I shocked a lot of people and told them, Malcolm. He was dead before I was born, but had more influence on me, besides my father, than any other person on this earth.

Malcolm changed my whole life. I don’t know if you understand the significance of that for a man to have that kind of influence, even though he wasn’t here… Well, I guess Jesus did. Malcolm changed my life. I don’t even know how to explain what that dude did to my mind.

It was almost a silent way to thank him because this is my best album ever.

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