August 10, 2006 @ 2:27 pm

David Banner: He's a Business... Man!

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Rappers nowadays have to hit audiences on all levels to maintain longevity in the business. Rapper/producer/writer and now actor, David Banner (born Lavell Crump) is no exception. He put Jackson, Mississippi on the Southern hip hop map with his major label debut Mississippi: The Album, featuring the hits “Like a Pimp” and “Cadillac’s on 22’s”. His latest album, Certified, got the girls screaming with the self-pleasure song “Play”. He produced “Rubber Band Man” for T.I. and the BET Uncut favorite “Tipdrill (Remix)” by Nelly. Disillusioned with the business side of music, but still motivated, Banner decided to explore other avenues of entertainment, specifically film. He will be appearing in his first film,Black Snake Moan, starring vet Samuel L. Jackson, and directed by Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow), which is due out in 2007. He’s expanding his production repertoire, working with the likes of Brittany Murphy and a few others. He is even in the process of reorganizing Heal the Hood, his non-profit dedicated to helping the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Vibe.com chopped it up with the Southern MC about his new love for acting, representation of women in his videos, his college days and shares some words of wisdom for the young, black youth. Vibe.Com: So tell me about your movie, Black Snake Moan?

David Banner: It’s an experience for me because it’s my first movie. It was a blessing because I came to find out that so many other really, really big name artists had went out for the same role that I have. And to be a young, black male and to be able to have a big role in a movie and not die the first two minutes in the movie is a really big accomplishment–the fact that I was actually able to live from the beginning to the end in a major movie my first time out. God got his hand on me.

What is it about?

David Banner: The plot is really twisted and crazy, but really genius. It shows a lot of the ways people feel about each other right now, but not in a way that’s trying to push ethics on somebody. Just showing the way some people still are but it also shows when two people of like spirits get together, you can heal any situation.

right Did you have any problems with Samuel L. Jackson since rumors have it he doesn’t like rappers as actors?

David Banner: That actually isn’t true. He actually coached me through this movie. We practiced every other night on my lines. He told me a writer had taken what he said out of context. He said all he wants is for people to be serious about his craft. And that’s the same thing I want with rap. You know, I don’t want no sports figure to just jump into rap and think he can be famous. I was homeless for this. That’s the reason why I went to acting school a year before I would accept any roles. When I was at the height of my popularity, I wouldn’t take any roles. They don’t put rapper/actor on Queen Latifah and Will Smith, that’s the point I want to be as an actor.

Where do you hope this acting thing takes you?

David Banner: I want to be to the point where I’m clocking five, ten million for beats and doing about sixteen, seventeen million a movie from acting. I still want to make beats or whatever but I don’t want to have to rap. I want to rap and be around music because I enjoy it, but movies pose a challenge to me. If you don’t get the butterflies in your stomach, then you losing something. I don’t want to step into something and think I’m the best. I like that challenge of being an underdog; I like the challenge of people doubting me. I like the challenge of me even doubting myself. As soon as I feel like I’m getting really good at the movies, then I’ll move on to directing. Then when I get to the end of it, I want to be able to score a movie, to direct a movie, shoot a movie and act in it. And to be able to draw large amounts of people.

Back to the beats, you did “Tip Drill”for Nelly. How do you feel about the negative response it got from the Spelman students?

David Banner: They lame. I think it’s a crock of bullshit.

Please elaborate!

David Banner: Yeah because when you look at it, you have so many other people doing the same type of music. They only attack Nelly because he’s at the level that he is. My thing is, it’s entertainment. An actor can get up and act and do whatever he wants to do. Arnold Schwarzenegger perfect example. He can kill kids, he can blow up half of the United States and become governor of California. But we speak about the things we actually see everyday in our lives and we’re crucified for it. The thing is, nobody beat anybody to be in that video. The women enjoyed themselves, the same way the men enjoyed themselves and they got paid. And if you really want to talk about ethics as far as women are concerned, you can look at football games. Half naked women on the sidelines, don’t have nothing to do with the boys on the field playing football. You see it everyday; it’s a bigger problem. But young black males are the easiest scapegoat for America to crucify. If Spelman is truly concerned about women, they have a bigger target to attack. But that’s not what people really want to do. They want to attack safe targets, they want to attack their own people and that’s sickening to me.

So you don’t feel a personal responsibility to portray black women in a more positive light than they were in the videos?

David Banner: And I have. I’ve done it all. The difference is, it’s all entertainment. As far as responsibility is concerned, what we have to understand is there are certain types of music for everybody. We’ve done music like “Cadillac’s on 22s” strictly talking about God. Nelly has so many other songs. We both have songs talking about so many other things. As much positive music as we put out there, nobody really buys that. I call it the ‘Oprah Winfrey answers’. Everybody wants to be seen as doing something positive. I threw the biggest urban relief concert in history according to the New York Times, but nobody talks about that for the most part.

What was your experience at Southern University like? What did you get your Master’s degree in?

David Banner: I got my degree in business and then I went on to the University of Maryland, where I pursued my master’s in education.

And that was because of your mom right?

David Banner: Yeah and it was either that or go back to the streets or go to school so I chose that. I did a lot of negative things but it was only because I had to. I’d rather do positive things. At Southern I was also the student government president. That’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about. When I was at the University of Maryland, I was in the top five of my class and they don’t talk about that. I put that out there but nobody talks about that. Nobody talks about how I was student government president at Southern University but they’ll tell you about how I whooped somebody’s ass. They don’t talk about the positive stuff.

Do you remember the moment you decided you wanted to rap, that it was your passion?

David Banner: I don’t know, I’ve been doing it so long. Rap got to the point where I been doing it for so long, I’d be an idiot to stop now (laughs). I was rapping when it wasn’t cool to rap. The same people who used to laugh at me for having my three-striped Adidas on, are the same cats who trying to rap now. When I started rapping, it was strictly for the love of it. Now that I’m a man, it’s business. It’s cold-hearted business. That’s what I need these young cats to understand. We as young black people, we get into music, we love it, because we’re emotional about it, we want to make it better. But the people on the other side of the table are looking at us like numbers. Black and white numbers. “What’s your Soundscan? How many records can you sell? What’s your demographics? Can your hometown pull enough for you to do 100,000 your first week?” And that’s the way we need to start looking at our music. What can I bring to the table and if I bring it to the table, pay me. A lot of people get upset and say “David Banner you changing”. I’ve been hurt and I’ve been used and everybody who’s hurt and used me used the gall of “business”. So if that’s the cause, then it’s business for me. I thank God for allowing me to go through the things I went through so I can be honest with kids and let them understand. People walk up to me and say, “If you just put me on, I’ll rap for free”. No (sighs). Don’t rap for free. Rap for bunches of money.

What are some artists, people would be surprised you listen to? I know you said you don’t have that passion anymore…?

David Banner: When I say I don’t have the passion, I mean sometimes when you have the passion for something you’re really ignorant, you’re green, you’re really out there. You’re happy. I have the love for it but passion sometimes equates ignorance. Like when you have passion for somebody and you love them so much, but you don’t see the pimping in them. And that’s how this music is. Music is worse than the dope game. My passion is gone but my love is still there. I like people like Bjork, The Police when Sting was still with them, of course Outkast, Jeezy, UGK, Snoop, Sa-ra, Curtis Mayfield. It’s so much. I’m a producer. If I don’t listen to everything, I’m ignorant.

What are you working on with Heal the Hood?

David Banner: What I’m working on more than anything is the business side of it. Once again that was a passion. I jumped into it ignorantly. I didn’t understand the taxes and the rules. I almost had to pay half a million dollars one time in taxes because I didn’t know certain things were not taken care of the right way. We shut Heal the Hood down for five months, we’re staffing it. We’re learning how to get corporate sponsors. Not just off of the backs of our people. One thing about our people, we don’t have a vision, we only react to atrocities. There’s going to be another hurricane, another disaster. We shouldn’t react to it. We should already have things built up and ready when it happens. That’s what Heal the Hood will do.

Did you have any family members personally affected by the hurricane?

David Banner: Hell yeah. A large part of my family is in Louisiana and of course Mississippi. Me and my mother stayed in New Orleans. New Orleans was not hit by a hurricane, the levee broke. Mississippi got hit by the eye of the hurricane. People need to understand that. My state was blown off the map. There are cities in Mississippi where they had to bulldoze the whole city, it doesn’t even exist anymore. My homeboy stayed in Pass Christian and it’s gone. People can’t even imagine that. Imagine your whole city, a slab. The cool thing is that we were able to facilitate our family members.

Your new album, when it is dropping, what’s it titled?

David Banner: It’s called Universal Pay Me. Right now God is blessing me to diversify my portfolio. I’m working on my album but I’m not working on my album. If you’re truly an artist, you never stop recording. But if an artist comes up and he got a check and he wants to buy that song that I’ve done already, until Universal pay me, they can have it. Everything’s for sale except my soul and my manhood. You want that house you seen on Cribs, let’s bid (laughs). It’s a business. I loved my SRC family and the people that I dealt with at Universal. But when I got hurt and when I was down, they told me it was “business”. I’m not mad, I’m not bitter; it’s just a life lesson. I thank God that He allowed me to live through it because there’s so many artists that didn’t come back from what I went through. I just went to New York and sold forty beats. Nobody has ever done that in history. In a week. Sold forty tracks. From that point, I’m not tripping off no money. That’s helps you hold your integrity. I can wait for a year to put an album out. It may hurt my fans because fans move on quickly now because there’s so much music. At the same token, I think they will be able to hear a better David Banner who’s a bigger man, who has been able to hold himself down. I think they’ll respect him a whole lot more. Not having to rush and try and get the next fad that’s coming out. I’m going back to the David Banner that people bought first. The David Banner that they picked up on the first album. I’m going back to that and that’s what I’m going to stick with. If I experiment, it will be in the movies or on tracks with Brittany Murphy or J.Lo, Fergie. I’m going to give people the David Banner that they want.

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