Lee Bannon could easily be mistaken for just another newcomer with a set of production programs and a Twitter account. The Sacramento native quickly proves he’s anything but. While immersed as one of today’s go-to producers for independent artists, the Northern Cali beat-maker studied under greats like DJ Khalil and Alchemist to get a sounded rooted in Rap’s glory years, but still all its own. Already in his young career, Bannon has worked with the likes of Big Shug, Planet Asia, U-N-I, Consequence, Inspectah Deck and a forthcoming full-length with Strong Arm Steady.
Bannon’s first solo project, Me & Marvin exclusively used Marvin Gaye samples “as a tribute to the 25th anniversary of the passing of the beloved soul singer” and featured verses from the likes of Sha Stimuli, Termanology, Skyzoo, Donny Goines, and Torae. He later released an instrumental album, The Big Toy Box, which puts the Sac-town hopeful’s beats in front of new ears. DXnext sits down with its first producer since J. Wells, as we get to know one of NoCal’s brightest new faces.
The Sacramento Connection: Well I’m from Northern [California], Sacramento, The Bay area. I really got into it all from listening to groups like The Pharcyde. When I was in high school, I made a couple of relationships that led to me getting to put in a lot of work with more California artist like Planet Asia, Strong Arm Steady [and] The Jacka which eventually led me to Dan [Green], my manager.
Wu-Tang Fan Ain’t Nothin’ To Fuck Wit’: I’ve worked with Inspectah Deck, and that was really cool. I really look up to [the Wu-Tang Clan]. [Enter The 36 Chambers] and [6 Feet Deep by] Gravediggaz, [the album co-produced by] RZA were the best. RZA is one of the people that I’ve imitated for a long time while trying to perfect my own sound. I even used to same type of equipment that I had heard he used.
Mentor Movement: I was in an environment where influences were just everywhere. I graduated high school in the middle of the Hyphy movement out here. A lot of my beats were just boom-bap sounds, so they got picked up by a lot of east coast artists. I then went to making more traditional-sounding beats from the golden age of Hip Hop, but without copying anyone because it has a modern twist to it.
The mentors that actually kept me going when everyone else was just concerned with being trendy was DJ Khalil, who helped me out a lot. He would give me drums and let come by the studio to see what he was working on. Even being around Alchemist for the Red & Meth [Blackout 2!] Tour helped to give me direction. My time spent around other west coast producers helped me to develop a sound that will have longevity.
Beatmaker To Producer: When I first started I would do a lot of beat CDs and just throw them out there to people hoping to just get on. As I became more developed and spent more time with the music, I began to have a different mindframe. I began to have a skeleton of a beat them build it with the artist through the different phases. So now instead of sending out a beat tape now I usually try to sit down and build the track around the artist because I like to see what it is that their trying to achieve with the track, ya know. But I still do my instrumental beat series like The Big Toy Box.
Me & Marvin: I was just sitting around and doing a lot of moving and I noticed that I had a lot of [Marvin Gaye records]. I had like 20 of his records, some of them were duplicates and others were rare. I’m always in work mode so I was like here’s a chance to do something creative so I decided to do a beat CD of all Marvin Gaye samples. I split it up and mixed it with the boom bap and left in all of his essence then let some emcees jump on it and released it as a free EP.
A Brand You Can Trust: Honestly, I treat [my beat tapes] like freestyles: I’ll do them and just move on. I did it just to polish my skills and not to really just dwell on one thing in particular. I think that over all it demonstrates my work ethic. It also lets people hear that I have a consistent sound in my music. My series are all about me being able to think outside of the box.
Never A Dull Moment with Willie The Kid: Never A Dull Moment got kicked off when we had a conversation after his Gangsta Grillz mixtape. He really liked what I was doing with my music and wanted to work together. He liked the element of my gritty, none-cleaned-up beats. We just built from there and the project took off and people would hear it and want to jump on which led to all the features. It’s like an evolved version of House Of Pain. It’s a harder caliber of Rap.
On The Way: I’m just continuing with a certain legacy and keep it going. For future projects, I have the new Big Toy Box Vol. 2 coming out. I also have a project coming out with a west coast artist named Chewy. It’s a part of the Sleep Over series that I’m putting together featuring all of the good artist that I think are being slept on. I have a full project coming out with Strong Arm Steady, and many more.
Listen to Lee Bannon’s Beat Tape with Justin Bieber.