Interview: David Banner (Mississippi)
Published in Indie Street Magazine
By Kandis Knight
“Levell Crump is a college graduate, a philanthropist and a long-time community activist. Sup wit’ all those beautiful nice things that people have a tendency to call me?” asks the Mississippi-born, black, superhero better known to the Hip-Hop world as David Banner. “Like Hulk, I can be a very rambunctious person and like David Banner, I am very intelligent.”
Banner, recently known for his political taunts loves to express his opinion. “The biggest issue facing America is how the International community perceives us. America has been such a bully for so long. You know and we are going to have to pay one day for our wrong doings. We have pushed so many people around, if anything was to happen to America we are going to have to serve for it because no one else is going to come to our rescue. Why should they?”
Banner a.k.a. “Big Face” graduated from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana however we all know Banner is 100% hood-certified and always will be. That is why we can’t get enough of him.
“I intelligently talk gangsta’ shit!” explains Banner (laughing hysterically). “I grew up in a gangster environment. I think President Bush is a gangster. When I was growing up Jackson Mississippi was the murder capital of the United States, do I need to say anything else?”
Banner’s decorated music career began the day his Uncle James Edwards, a northern DJ, brought a stack of records to Mississippi. “He brought Mantronix, Stetsasonic, you know, and my life changed ever since then.”
Soon after Banner became part of a group called Crooked Lettaz (released the album Grey Skies, 1999). When Crooked Lettaz disbanded Banner released his first solo album which sold over 10,000 copies. (Them Fire Water Boyz, Vol. 1, 2000). Banner’s first major album went gold thanks to hits like, "Like A Pimp” with the help of Lil’ Flip (Mississippi: The Album, 2003). Banner has since released two major albums (MTA2: Baptized in Dirty Water, 2003 and Certified September 2005). His latest and highly anticipated album, The Greatest Story Ever Told will be released October 2007.
No one will ever doubt Banner’s prolific music industry track record, just when he had reached all of his goals in the music game, Hurricane Katrina pushed him into yet another public arena. Most recently Banner has been making headlines on the political front. Since Hurricane Katrina Banner has been busy blasting and shaming community leaders who he feels have dropped the ball when it comes to the plight of the African-American community.
The majority of Banner’s work with Katrina victims was largely a labor of love and went unrecognized until he was awarded the Visionary Award by the National Black Caucus in November 2007. When Banner’s award was questioned by conservatives and some civil rights leaders, who object to the lyrics in his music, Banner naturally fired back. He’s David Banner.
Although the white media (sometimes using a black face) loves to crucify him, he continues to stand for what many marginalized young African-American youth feel and remains loyal to the thousands of voiceless fans in urban ghettos and slums.
“Sharpton can say what he wants, because what I said is true. . . Oprah should listen to Hip-Hop music, it might put some more black back in her. I would say they don’t know me, it amazes me how people have opened their mouths and they have not done research. I’ve always been an activist. I was student government president in school, I have always been active in the community. I have always been outspoken. . .The thing is. . .They don’t know me and that is fine with me. I go to God at the end of the day. As long as he knows my heart I am fine because my only goal is really to be with him in the end. I don’t give a fuck what people say. I care less.”
Heal The Hood is yet another example of Banner’s philanthropic endeavors. Heal The Hood is community program founded and directed by Banner that has been assisting people in neighborhoods that are usually over looked by mainstream organizations since 2005. “I do all kinds of things, I do scholarship programs, I take kids out of the hood on trips. . .the better question would be, what don’t I do? I think children know that I tell them the truth and that I don’t cut corners on them, I just love kids,” his mood changes.
“I used to love black people but now I just love kids. Niggas don’t give a fuck about nobody but themselves for the most part. People want you to step out there so they can watch you get killed. Fuck it, kids are my main focus now.”
With all the misogyny, violence and materialism Hip-Hop is notorious for, community activists like Al Sharpton have been challenging artists to take responsibility for their lyrics however Banner believes that Al Sharpton and others who are attacking Hip-Hop are wrong for trying to interfere with a way of life that has afforded many young African-American’s a way out of the ghetto. In addition, Banner staunchly believes critics are wrong for attacking Hip-Hop and Freedom of Speech when parenting should begin at home.
“I think parents should raise their own m*therfucking kids. And women should stop having children in situations when they know they can’t even take care of their own situation and stop looking for people to raise their damn kids! Raise your own f*cking kids. We need to stop having kids when we know we ain’t ready. Move away from the dick, move away from the dick, it’s dangerous!” Banner adamantly screams.
Banner, the elder son of esteemed firefighter and strict disciplinarian, Zeno Crump Jr. (who passed away in June 2007, R.I.P.), definitely believes in old school principles of child-rearing.
“Yeah, my parents were activists too, they were very active in beating my ass!” laughs the animated emcee who admits, outside of reprimanding, he and his father exchanged few words growing up.
Banner’s unyielding spirit, his gift of music, his father’s discipline and his college education have brought him a long way. On September 25, 2007, Banner exchanged a few words to Congress about the way African-Americans are portrayed in American media (aired nationally on C-Span 2). "I can admit there are some problems in Hip-Hop but it is only a reflection of what’s taking place in our society. Hip-Hop is sick because America is sick," Banner explained to Congress and the world. He went on to comment on the attack on Hip-Hop (The First Amendment). "If this is not a sign that we need to stand together nothing is. It started with homeland security and now the 1st Amendment. Everyday we are moving closer to a dictatorship."
Although he has found himself comfortable speaking before the masses Banner sometimes feels misunderstood. “I am not really a conflict oriented individual, as much as people would like to think I am. I really just like peace. I like being by myself, I like reading and being myself. I like sitting by the lake and watching the fish. But m*therfuckers want me to bust they ass!”
In addition, to music and politics, Banner’s Hollywood acting career is also running in overdrive. He recently starred along side Christina Ricci and Samuel Jackson in the movie Black Snake Moan, where he played the role of Ricci’s personal black booty call, Tehronne. Sadly, Banner lost out on a role in Batman to actor Michael Jai White but with one of the best Hollywood agents on his team, Sarah Ramaker, it will only be a matter of time before we see Banner bring home an Oscar and some more of his special flavor to the big screen.
These days, Banner is doing tons of press interviews daily, while sticking to a strict diet and recovering from a near fatal depression. “I eat five balanced meals a day, no sugar, no salt add a gallon of water, vegetables and chicken breast and nothing fried. . . I went through a very bad depression last year, near fatal. A lot of people go through this shit and they don’t know that they depressed. They don’t know what’s going on with their mind. I want to be one of the first to tell people that it is real I don’t care who you are, depression is some fucked up shit.”
Some may attribute Banner’s depression in part to the loss of his father. “It is crazy for me because me and my daddy, just started getting tight. Like we didn’t even talk much growing up me and my daddy didn’t have five hours of normal conversation outside of him reprimanding me. I realized I had been looking for friends in my life and now that I see who my best friend was, he died.”
To overcome his debilitating depression, Banner began analyzing all of his relationships. “I started kicking a lot of negative shit out of my life. I really separated myself from a lot of negativity…ain’t no arguing, or negative vibes or hanging around negative people. I don’t give a fuck if you my momma or my girlfriend if you become negative in my life you got to get out.”
All of the rebuilding has paid off. “It was a time in my life when I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but then I realized I accomplished all of my goals. Maybe not to the level that I thought I should, but shit I got on and produced platinum records, I got gold and platinum plaques. I done worked with just about everybody, I done, done everything. Anything else was excess. I didn’t know what else I wanted to do because I never would of thought I would of made it here. That is the problem, people don’t know what they want to do and we are already so blessed. People are so blessed and they want more and they done already forgot that God already blessed them.”
Banner has successfully reinvented himself in time for the release of his new album The Greatest Story Ever Told.
“Expect hits, not no fillers or experimental bullshit. I am trying to be what the fuck people want. Like McDonald’s, do you know why they are the number one seller? Because you know what the fuck you’re gonna get.”
Speaking of knowing what you are going to get, Banner has a few choice words for the bloggers.
“That is America’s problem, everyone is so obsessed with each other’s personal lives, mind your own damn business!” Even though he did make sure to mention he was single and wants to have seven children, and that he currently has none.
“I think there are too many people talking too much shit that they don’t know about. You don’t have to have no experience or no say so in nothing in order to blog and talk shit. People don’t talk nothing but negative shit. I want to hear something positive. We don’t do nothing but tear each other down and complain and bitch and moan. And the news don’t do nothing but report negative shit. That shit is depressing.”
On a lighter note, Banner is always willing to talk about the music industry. With so many Southern artists successfully chilling at the top of the music charts, Banner seems to be in a great position to really make this album his biggest. However, Banner remains an astute student of the business.
“Southern music didn’t take over the industry, the South was the new region that the music industry raped, Southern niggas ain’t getting nothing out of it. I think T.I. will be the only one who gets anything out of the Southern movement. If you look at any other region, look at Eve, look at Ice Cube, DMX, Snoop Dogg, 50, Jay Z, Puffy they were able to use this rap shit and rise to another level with commercials, endorsements, clothing lines that will last way past their duration in the music industry,” he explains.
“You tell me what a Southern rapper controls? You don’t see Southern rapper’s on commercials. We ain’t doing nothing but “cooning” and rapping. I said it. We ain’t doing shit!”
Call that a challenge or an honest observation, Banner’s love for the South should not questioned. He is quick to praise his fellow Southern brothas’ in the game.
“(When growing up) I was really trying to choose the right or wrong path, you know which direction I was going in, and to see young brothers (Goodie Mob) really stand up and believe in something, I know two of them were thugs, but they chose to represent something different in their music. And that really helped push me in that same direction. UGK, for the way they repped the south and the way that they stood for what they believe in. They were proud for being Southern people. Outkast because they always sat on the edge of music without threatening the mainstream. They always pushed the envelope. Pastor Troy for the way he repped Georgia.”
Through it all, Banner loves the music industry when everything works the way it is supposed to and compares making a hit record to making love to a woman. The things Banner hates about the music industry are the things most of us hate about it. “I hate money hungry record label executives and bitch ass niggas. . .The hardest lesson learned I had to learn about the music business is that it is just a business and nothing else, as much as we as black people want music to be something else, it is just a fucking business, just like selling guns, or selling dope, just like selling bread or electricity. It’s a fucking business, as soon as we realize that and treat it for what it is we will probably be a lot better off.”
To David Banner, “getting money” should be the agenda for young black America, however he does think it can go too far. “I think that is fucked up and I think she (Superhead) should of kept that shit to herself. It ain’t they fault that she was weak and gave her pussy away. That’s terrible to me, but who am I to say, she is making money, fuck it.”
Banner’s advice to aspiring artists, is short and to the point. “Read a fucking book get some knowledge into your head about the business, find God before you find music.”
After you go out and buy your copy of The Greatest Story Ever Told, make sure to turn to the Adult Swim Network and catch Banner’s new cartoon, Crook'd Sipp. Banner is the creator and executive producer of the cartoon, and he also produces all of the music for the off-beat cartoon that takes place in Banner’s home state, Mississippi.
“It is wonderful to be a part of that process and to watch the cartoon process come together and to see my ideas come to fruition is wonderful.”
You can catch Crook'd Sipp airing Sunday nights at 12:15AM EST. The cartoon follows the lives of the Beauregards, a white family who think they are living in the 1800's but are stuck trying to navigate in today's racially integrated world. Banner plays the main character, Virgil; a restaurant owner and the manager of a rap group.
As always Banner is also hot in the studio right now producing music for heavy hitters such as Jim Jones, Lil’ Wayne, Chris Brown, Quincy Jones, Pimp C, UGK.
For more information please visit http://www.david-banner.com/ or visit www.myspace.com/davidbanner .