David Banner’s been in love with “A Girl Named Cim” since he first surfaced on the national radar over a dozen years ago as one-half of Crooked Lettaz for the duo’s critically-acclaimed (and sadly sole) album, Grey Skies.
But the love for his microphone and music Banner creatively detailed on that conceptual gem hasn’t always been reciprocated by the Rap game to the first spitter to put Mississippi on the map. In the years since he scored solo hits with the time-tested party starter “Like A Pimp” and the salacious whisper-rapped “Play” the rapper/producer has seen fans flock to new Southern stars and his industry homes shift from major (Universal Records) to independent (E1 Entertainment) to none.
And so now Banner is going back to the future and re-employing the same hustle and grind he first put to work a year after Grey Skies failed to connect commercially for his self-distributed solo debut, Them Firewater Boyz, and applying it to the digital era for his latest long-player, Sex, Drugs & Video Games (due May 22nd). The revolutionary project is the first offering in what DB has declared to be the “2M1 Movement” to have $1 donations from two million supporters pour the foundation for him, and hopefully other artists as well, to build self-controlled careers upon.
Banner is banking on fans who have become accustomed to being able to obtain their music for free finding at least one song on Sex, Drugs & Video Games that they feel is worth a dollar donation to his cause, whether it be the club banger “Yao Ming” , the thumping social-commentary stab “Swag” , the Big K.R.I.T. bolstered love song to the ‘Sip “Believe” or one of the other 13 tracks slated to appear with appearances from Lil Wayne, Chris Brown, A$AP Rocky, Game, Snoop Dogg, Bun B and several other notable names.
Yesterday (March 26th), Banner broke down his new business model to HipHopDX and explained how two million (“That was the number God gave to me,” he noted) dollar donations is “not about money” but about amassing email addresses and attaining artistic freedom through them. The always aware artist concluded his powerful discussion with DX by connecting the dots between one of the racially-rooted subjects addressed in “Swag” to the recent shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin that has sparked discussion, debates, diatribes, and per David Banner, a lack of respect for Black folks and a lack of fear of what will happen to those who display that lack of respect.
HipHopDX: We have to begin this quick Q&A by talking about hands-down one of the best songs to be unleashed thus far in 2012, “Believe.” What I wanna know is when are you gonna take this track to a whole ‘nother level by reuniting Jodeci for the song’s remix?
David Banner: Well, honestly brother, the thing is that what I’m trying to do with this movement is I’m trying to show people that it’s not about a single.
Singles [for this movement will] go in two week cycles: the first Wednesday we drop the MP3, then the next Wednesday we drop the video. Then the Wednesday after that we keep it moving; we move to the next song. What I’m trying to show people is that this is not about a single, this is not about an album, this is about a movement. And if “Believe” is that song it will move like it’s supposed to move on its own. But, this Wednesday we dropping “Californication” with me, Snoop [Dogg], Game, Nipsey Hussle, Ras Kass and Kree. This was a song that was supposed to have been a movie that I ended up just writing it into a song. But [again], this is not about a single, this is not about one person, this is not about one album, this is about a movement and we’re gonna continue moving. I’m gonna prove to people that Urban music is still a viable entity and it’s not a single-driven, downloadable thing that’s to be given away.
All I’m asking [for] is a minimum donation of a dollar at DavidBanner.com. I’m asking for two million people to give me at least a dollar. I’ve gotten pledges for $1,000. I’ve gotten $100 donations, $50 donations. Whatever you wanna give is cool, but we gotta show people that – And that’s why I’m calling it an album and not a mixtape, [because] we don’t do mixtapes! This shit ain’t free. We paying for it!
We have allowed our culture to be degraded to a download! Everything about the Urban culture has been emasculated. Our children are being murdered, and folks in America are acting like it’s nothing and are calling it self-defense. We giving our music away for free. People calling us niggas now without even flinching. Like, at what point does it stop, homie? This shit is way bigger than an album for me. I am not playing, dude. … There’s no respect for our culture. There is no more respect for our music!
David Banner Explains Why He Feels Fans Should Donate To Artists
DX: Let me tag on to what you’re saying here about the respect for the music. I asked Chamillionaire about your 2M1 Movement, and he’s very supportive of what you’re doing but he’s also very adamant that he’s worth having his supporters spend regular retail amounts on him. So my question to you is not a patronizing or disrespectful one, but don’t donations equate to desperation in the minds of most fans?
David Banner: No, it doesn’t, and I’m gonna tell you why. What you gotta understand is this movement isn’t about money for me. See, that’s where people get it wrong. It’s not about money, what it’s about is getting two million emails …. It’s about getting a database. It’s about creating a movement.
If the folks wanna get your record for free they’ll get it for free. And speaking on retail prices, we was getting less than a dollar a record back when we were with the labels anyway! So as much as we stick our chest out, we wasn’t getting what, 17, 18 cents? So if you really think about it, it’s not about that, it’s about serving your fans.
The minimum donation is a dollar, but I just told you I’m getting $100 [donations], I’m getting $50. I had somebody pledge $1,000. But it’s not about that. It’s about creating a database of two million people who will move wherever you move, whether it’s politics, whether it’s charity … whether it’s a movie. ‘Cause we’re moving from this, [and] then after we get this $2 million, I’m taking a million and we’re shooting a movie. I’m not worried about putting it in the [theatres], we ain’t gotta do that. We’ll already have two million people that showed you they’ll follow you.
DX: Why two million, where’d that number come from?
David Banner: Meditation. I’m serious, meditation and praying. That was the number God gave to me. I can’t explain to you why.
DX: Now, I was going back today and re-reading your most recent interview with HipHopDX, and I got the sense that the commercial response to your album with 9th Wonder, Death Of A Pop Star, is what really set off this movement. What contribution did the response to that album make to your current mindstate?
David Banner: None at all. I didn’t do Death Of A Pop Star for that reason … because of the type of album that it was.
What really sparked this movement was me auditioning for movies. I was auditioning for all of these movies and when I was looking at the parts that they were offering me it wasn’t even parts that I wanted to play. [But] I was auditioning, giving my all, sacrificing my music career because I wanted to be an actor so bad. And I was like, “Damn, I don’t even want these parts.” I’m more than an ex-convict that’s just getting out of jail or a dope dealer. Like, is this all that they see us as?
That’s really how people see us. And all of it ain’t just because people are mean. That’s really what people think. And what’s crazy, a lot of us, that’s what we think! ‘Cause you look at the movies that we make [and] it supports that [way of thinking].
So I’m thinking like, when I started [my music career] I didn’t send no demo to no record label. That ain’t how I got on. I got on from getting out off my ass and selling my own CDs on the corner. I bought a hundred CDs, sold them at $10 a piece, made a $1,000. After I got a $1,000, bought a thousand CDs, sold them at $10 a piece, made $10,000, and kept moving and kept moving and kept moving. Like, didn’t nobody give a damn about where I was from, about the pain that was going on in the places that I was from. That wasn’t what it was; I had to make it hot. I had to make my people hot. I had to make the shit that they said about the country hot. I had to do that. I couldn’t depend on nobody else to care about Mississippi the way that I cared about Mississippi.
David Banner Explains Meaning Of Sex, Drugs & Video Games
DX: So are you saying that this donation-driven business model is the new out-the-trunk?
David Banner: Um … what I’ll say is that it’s an option. It is definitely a new business model. And it’s a powerful business model. And what it will do is it will perpetually do two things: it will either make other people treat us right, because they know that we don’t need ‘em, or it will just show us that we can do it on our own. And we are businessmen. And we are smart enough. If you’re smart enough to create the song, you’re smart enough to sell it, damn’t.
And this is what I’m trying to get people to see. [But] you gotta understand the place where we are. And that segues into the meaning of the album. And I really wanna explain the meaning of the album ‘cause I had a friend of mine tell me last night and I promised him that I would, that I would explain the title of the album. Most of the time I have a message in my music and people just never get it, so I wanna explain it this time. Sex, Drugs & Video Games stands for the mindstate that we’re in right now, all of us culturally. If you’re an American, and if you’re listening to Hip Hop, I’m talking about the state of most of us mentally. Sex, drugs and violence in most cases are the things that we seem to be drawn to the most on television and in music. And as much as we think it’s our natural choice, if that’s the only stimuli that we have then that’s what we’re gonna be attracted to mentally. So I’m asking people like, “Are you really controlling what you think?”
You think you have a choice, but if you are only given two different things and they are both really on the same level then you really don’t have a choice as much as you think you do. So Sex, Drugs & Video Games is like, yeah, I’m giving you these songs that I normally wouldn’t be comfortable with giving you in the mindstate that I’m in now but I can give it to you while asking you the question, “Why is this what you want from me? Why is this the only thing that you’re allowing me to be? Is that the only thing that you see yourself as?”
If life is really a video game, who has the controller?
David Banner Explains What Trayvon Martin Murder Says About America
DX: I wanna wrap up this quick Q&A with actually an even heavier question. You recently told VIBE that the lack of respect for Black life that was shown in the Trayvon Martin case actually kinda ties back to what you were speaking on in “Swag” about the use of the n-word. Before I let you go, can you elaborate for me a bit on how the indifference to using that word you spoke on in “Swag” ties into the indifference shown to Trayvon?
David Banner: Well, it’s like this … when you were younger wasn’t there a certain anxiety that came about with [a White person using] the word "nigga"? And that anxiety was transferred through respect or through fear. So that meant that whether good or bad, whether it was the influence through good or bad [means], you had a certain level of respect for the people so you wouldn’t use that word around them. So that means now if it’s used freely there is either one of two things [happening]: that people either don’t have respect for themselves, or you just flat out don’t respect them anymore.
Listen to even the things that people are saying about this Trayvon Martin situation, some of the things that the people on the other side are saying. Could you have imagined ten years ago them saying that about a Black child? You’re talking about a child. You’re not talking about a grown Black man, you’re talking about a Black child. That means they don’t have any respect! That means that they don’t have any fear! Because they believe that either we’re not going to do anything or that we can’t do anything.
DX: So how do you change that? If David Banner could wave a magic wand, how do you change that?
David Banner: You can only make America respect you through fear or finance. Those are the only two things that America respects. You either gotta hurt ‘em physically or hurt ‘em financially. Either way, you make the choice.