Alfred Banks & Marco Pavé Make A Difference
Just because an artist has talent, doesn’t always mean they know what to do with it. Several musicians have taken advantage and squandered their talents… but this is not a story about them.
No, this is about how two up-and-coming, young lyricists have spent years working to hone their craft and perfect it. Two rappers who went from home-brewed freestyles, guest appearances, and hustling concert tickets, on to build a cult following that is rapidly growing.
Salute Magazine caught up with New Orleans Hip-Hop artist Alfred Banks and Memphis artist/activist Marco Pavé, to talk about the release of Banks’ debut album, The Beautiful; Pavés TED Talk; their upcoming River Kings tour; mental health, Southern Hip-Hop and life on the road.
Salute: How has life in the south, both Memphis and New Orleans respectively, influenced your music? Your greater world views??
Marco: My biggest influence is Memphis. There’s no greater influence than that. It’s the place where I grew up. I learned stuff from old heads from Memphis, about Stax [Records] to the Civil Rights Movement and other things that made Memphis so dope.
You see a lot of people go from nothing to be something. Three 6 Mafia; Al Capone; Yo Gotti.
I remember when Yo Gotti dropped in. That just motivated me to do the same thing. He came from the same neighborhood that I came from. When “Gangster Party” came out in ‘06, I was in sixth grade. I remember I skipped school one day to go to that video shoot. [Because I went to the shoot] he reached out to me to go out to L.A. for the first time to record my EP. I didn’t even know [Producer Carlos] Broady / Yo Gotti.
It has influenced me to keep going on with what I’m doing. Memphis is my biggest influence.
Alfred: New Orleans is similar to me in the “independent hustle.” I grind and make moves for myself. I don’t make moves with the intent to get discovered. I think about all the people who made it that way. Cash Money was selling 20-30 out the trunk before [they] got a deal; Master P was selling 20-30 out the trunk before he got a deal.
New Orleans influences me with that grind. There’s a lot of history there. We invented jazz music and other than Atlanta, it is one of the biggest Hip-Hop cities.
I have a reputation to uphold. It inspires me to keep that rep going. I gotta flex. I gotta go hard. I gotta make it myself.
Salute: Who are some of the artists that have had the biggest influence on your sound?
Alfred: A lot of my influence comes from New Orleans. Mickey Factz, I love what he does; Charles Hamilton is a friend of mind; and Lupe Fiasco, who is the reason why I started out in the first place. Also Busta Rhymes and Redman. Muddy Waters was one of the first hip-hop albums I ever listened to.
Marco: Gotti, for sure. Juicy J is one of the most underrated producers in hip-hop. Remember he did all that Three 6 Mafia stuff. I think if Juicy and 9th Wonder did a rhythm roulette challenge, he would probably win. He made “International Players Anthem” with UGK. Definitely Outkast. One of the first hip-hop records I ever heard was “Rosa Parks.” That was super dope to me. Big K.R.I.T. is beyond a rapper. He’s one of the best around in southern Hip-Hop today. He really picks some great beats.
Kanye West was one of the biggest influences on the way I rap. And even more contemporary artists, like Kendrick [Lamar]and Chance [The Rapper], for his music and just how he approaches things as an artist. He really cares about Chicago.
Salute: Having been all over the country, do you feel like performing in your hometown differs from more Metropolitan cities, such as Philadelphia, New York, Dallas, Los Angeles?
Marco: If you perform at home too much, it doesn’t matter. It could be cool, but you can wear your fan base out. That’s why I decided to take a step back, give less and less to my city to make them appreciate it more. I would perform there every day if I could, but when you step back and look at it like that, there’s this really, really dope energy that you get [playing in your hometown]. But there is no other place that I like to perform than Memphis.
Alfred: I have a weird relationship with New Orleans. From 2009 to 2014, was when I was just key grinding fam. It wasn’t until 2015 when things started to get crazy. I remember I did a show at the Big Top, which isn’t open anymore, and only nine people in my hometown came out. I was hurting. I didn’t headline a show for years.
The first show we did got more than 100 people. I know some people say New York and other east coast cities are tough… nah, New Orleans is the toughest city to perform in. You can be famous as hell and they still don’t care. Everyone in New Orleans plays music or knows someone who does.
If you don’t come with the heat, they’ll treat you like you ain’t worth it. I love performing here, but it is different. There is definitely much more appreciation when you go somewhere else.
Salute: How did you come up with the name, The River Kings?
Alfred: Marco came up with it. It was our first run and we were like, “so what should be the name?” He was like “that’s cool, but we on the river man. How about the River Kings?”
That’s hot. The first one went so well. Marco is the man in Memphis.
Salute: Have you collaborated on anything in the past? Any plans to work on a record together in the future?
Marco: That’s in the plans. Something could come from the tour, musically.
Alfred: Surprisingly, we have not collabed yet. It’s going to happen eventually. We gotta go get this money first. I really just want to rap with my man, because he rap really well, and booking is not easy.
Salute: Marco, what was it like to host your own TED Talk?
Marco: I was at Miami University of Ohio [and] I usually write stuff for these things, but I decided to just shoot from the hip. When it was over, I just had to sit back and be like “wow, I actually did that?”
It’s one of the most informative [talks] I’ve ever done and it’s like it’s not even me up there doing it. I was just like, “how in the zone was I?” It’s one of the biggest accolades of my career. One of my proudest moments. There were 1,100 people, and at least 300 of the tickets I sold myself. I really tried to promote that. It put me on a whole other level and is something I will always have under my belt.
Alfred: That’s an accolade. My man was only 22 when he did that.
Salute: Tell me more about your new single, “The Funeral of Orlandas Banks”
Alfred: That song… I knew I took a chance putting it out. My music in the past wasn’t so fluid. It was more like a “miracle, lyrical, in a swimming pool.”
My brother passed away in 2014. I never knew how to capture what I felt and how to put it on record. I had that beat since 2012 and I just never knew what to do with it until my brother passed away.
That song means the world to me. For one, what it’s about. Everything in that song was real, except for that part about me having schizophrenia. My brother was a Marine. So the part where I talk about how they handed [my mother] an American flag, while she was breaking down, I tried to recreate some of that energy I saw.
I am in love with that song. I think it is the joint that defines my career. I went all the way out there and I am very grateful and honored that people can feel and relate with what they’re going through.
Salute: Mental health has been a cause that you have been very vocal about. Why do you feel this an important issue? What do you feel people should be made more aware of concerning mental health?
Alfred: We’ve done interviews together a lot and mental health is something that is seen as taboo in African American communities. Slavery doesn’t define our history, but it is a part of our history, unfortunately.
We had to lick our wounds and keep going, and that type of work ethic has gotten to a point where we do have issues like mental health.
My brother was one of the strongest people I’ve ever met. For me, I just want to break down that stigma. I want people to be more open. Let’s be more comfortable with each other.
The album doesn’t talk to mental health all the way through. It shows how we can talk about something like mental health and still have fun.
Marco: I’m with that as well. Mental health effects all of us. My mom lives with bipolar and manic depression disorder. It hit home with me. I didn’t grow up with my mom and I was always told a story about why she wasn’t around, but nobody was really helpful. It took a long time for me to learn what it was.
Black people with [mental health] problems are no different than white people, but the fact that racism is on top of that makes it more traumatic.
In 2004, before the financial crisis was making its way to national outlets, my Dad’s business was destroyed. It affected a lot of people. People moved away because they got evicted or kicked out of their homes. Today [approximately] 65 percent of the homes in Memphis are abandoned and boarded up. It has an effect on people’s mental health.
I’m not embarrassed to admit that I am finally in therapy myself, to deal with some of my issues while growing up. Therapy helps you to manage your anger. That’s what this tour is about. Learning more about ourselves and being open about it.
Salute: Why do you feel it is significant to be both, an artist and an activist?
Marco: It’s super important, and with today’s mainstream culture, it’s more prevalent. Those things have been separated, except the history that I studied those two things were the exact same. We’re human beings. Artists are not only jukeboxes. We’re not only here to entertain. If we’re not using our platform to address these issues, we’re doing an injustice.
Alfred: I’ve only grown comfortable. Every other day somebody’s going viral. Every other day, somebody is getting 10,000 followers. They get their voice and they don’t deserve it or they don’t know how to use it.
We still got something to say. Whatever level that may be. What we have to say is very important too. Whether it be ways to live a better life, health (mental or physical) and any injustices that may go on in the world.
Salute :What was it like to work with Common on the Netflix series, Burning Sands?
Alfred: I didn’t work with him, personally. Some people in my past help initiate that situation in September 2016.
I didn’t know the movie would be what it came out to be. After it came out, my phone blew up. I didn’t even know Common was the executive producer until I saw the credits. That was super cool. To know that he heard my music and was like, “yo, I want that one.”
Common is one of the OG’s of Hip-Hop. That was a dream come true. We’ll be in Chicago on March 30th. Hopefully, he’ll come check us out.
Salute : This one is for Marco. What made you decide to start your own imprint label, Rahim Radio?
Marco: The same reason for Banks being on the wave he’s on. I’m not thinking of my career starting when I get a deal. We break it down. But I am very close to 10,000 hours if we broke it down. I basically have a Ph.D in Rap and we’ve been putting it to the test. I’m not going to wait on the label or anybody else to do it for me.
I’m proving what I can do for myself. Eventually, I will want to partner, but this way I can say “I did XYZ for myself and my records and I brought in 100 percent of the profit.” It’s fully self-done, obviously with the help of other entities, but I am the person in control of picking those people.
Salute: Tell me more about your debut album, The Beautiful, which drops this Monday, March 20th.
Alfred: Yo, my album just came in. It took two and a half years to make. I really look forward to seeing all this work come together.
Salute: What are you most looking forward to on tour?
Alfred: What am I most excited about? How long is it going to be before me and Marco yell at each other. There might be a day a show doesn’t go well and I want to see how he’ll react. I look forward to seeing how all this work comes together.
We’ve been talking to each other more than we’ve been talking to our spouses… from all the phone calls, the emails, text messages, all these different things.
This go around we’re going to be out here for a month and some change. I look forward to seeing the different dynamic and seeing what happens. I’m excited to make this happen.
Marco: The work that we put into this whole situation… every show on that tour is important. We’ll be kicking off one of the tours with Alfred’s album release show in New Orleans, so the energy from that alone is going to be intense.
I’m interested in seeing how long it’s going to be and to learn as much about these places as possible.
Alfred Banks’ debut album, The Beautiful, is available on iTunes and Bandcamp on March 20. And be sure to check Banks on The River Kings 2 Tour, with Marco Pavé, sponsored by Kilo Brands, Back2Backhiphop.com, Citygear, DefendNewOrleans.com and Millionaire Grind Clothing, throughout March and April.
Watch : Alfred Banks ” The Funeral Of Orlandas Banks” Video
Watch: Marco Pavé Does Ted Talk
Sunday, March 19 The Beautiful Album Release Party @ Hi-Ho Lounge, 2239 St. Claude Ave. in New Orleans, LA
Thursday, March 30 @ North Bar, 1637 W North Ave., Chicago, IL
Saturday, April 1 @ Rhodes College, Memphis, TN
Monday, April 3 @ Carl’s Tavern, Fort Wayne, IN
Tuesday, April 4 @ The Royal Peacock, Atlanta, Ga.
Wednesday, April 5 @ The Nick Rocks, Birmingham, AL
Thursday, April 6 @ Playhouse at the Square, Memphis, TN
Friday, April 7 @ SouthSounds Music & Arts Festival, Mobile, AL
Saturday, April 8 @ Egansbar, Tuscaloosa, AL
Monday, April 10 @ Proud Larry’s, Oxford, MS
Tuesday, April 11 @ Delta State University, Cleveland, MS
Thursday, April 13 @ UNC Campus, Chapel Hill, NC
Friday, April 14 @ Deep South Bar, Raleigh, NC
Sunday, April 16 @ The Coffee Pot, Roanoke, VA
Monday, April 17 @ Smith Public Trust, Washington D.C.
Tuesday, April 18 @ The Hall At MP, Brooklyn, NY
Saturday, April 22 @ Rain Dogs, Jacksonville, FL