David Banner: U, Black Maybe?

posted March 04, 2008 12:00:00 AM CST | 44 comments

David Banner is far from your average rapper. The Mississippi native (both a former hustler and a former teacher at different points of his life) has made it a point to never forget where he comes from. But more so, instead of simply remembering but never consciously helping (as many rappers are guilty of), Banner has donated his time, money, and voice to the betterment of his community as well as for the future of the Hip Hop generation as a whole.

This week, HipHopDX sat down with this self proclaimed revolutionary to talk about the upcoming election, the plight of black men, the medias detrimental influence on rap, and how Banners career was almost ruined by his generosity.

HipHopDX: Rappers like Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco are always quick to say that they arent political even though they discuss issues that could be labeled as such. Do you consider yourself to be political?
David Banner:
UmI wouldnt consider myself political because I think a person who labels themselves as political is always trying to get into the political spotlight. I think with me, I stand for whats right, and when I feel like no one else is; I do. You know what Im sayin'? Political people, in common termsalways have ulterior motives. And when you have ulterior motives thats not right. When you have a predetermined thought about things, I dont care if its Democrat, Republican, Independent; it doesnt matter. If you right, you right. This presidential race has shown you how hypocritical people are because you basically got white, black, male, femaleand people are picking their gangs and throwin' up their gang signs.

DX: Rightso who are you voting for?
Thats supposed to be a private processbut at this point Im supporting Barack because we already know what the Republicans are about. I think they showed their card with Bush, and I think they even burned bridges with even some of they own supporters. But as far as Clinton, [the Clinton family] is really not much different [from the Bush family] besides the ability to play the saxophone. [Laughs]

DX: True. [Laughs]
Their families are almost one now. If you look at Daddy Bush and Clinton the husband- theyre running partners now. They got situations together. Organizations together. So if you look at the history it was Bush the daddy, then Clinton, then Bush the son, now they tryin' to make it Hillary. Theyre trying to keep the regime going on.

DX: This past fall you participated in the National Congressional hearing on Hip Hop. I saw your speech; I thought it was fantastic. It was well thought out, and you could really tell that a lot of the audience understood where you were coming from and even if they didnt completely agree they were still understanding and respecting your point because your points were valid. At the end of the day, do you feel like it was worth it? Do you think speaking at the hearings helped the cause at all?
I definitely think it was worth it, and yes I do think it helped the cause. I knew what I was up against, but I didnt actually think people was gonna be in there really listening. But there were a few people in there actually listening. Whether we prove that our generation does have thinkers and that not all rappers are just ignorant and running around smoking weed and whatever the case may be. We do have articulate, well-spoken artists who are still relevant and young and who are in the streets to see what people want and need, but then theyre also able to articulate it in a way that people can understand whether you from the streets or in congress.

DX: But at the same time, you gave this stirring speech to congress about the value of even the most offensive of rap lyricsand right after you Master P came in and basically groveled for forgiveness apologizing for his lyrics. What do you make of that?
I mean, everyone has their own opinion. One of my biggest gripes about Hip Hop is that everyone is always worrying about what someone else says. What I said was the truth; nothing that Master P says can tarnish that. I dont agree with what he said, but its not my place [to talk about what he said]. I really dont care about what he said to be honest with you. I feel bad that our people chose to allow him to be there, but thats cool. Thats his opinion and hes entitled to it and I respect that. I will always respect any mans opinion. But we have to see what peoples motives are and understand why they do it and then understand the people that put them there. The most amazing thing is that black people were the ones who were really attacking rap. That was the craziest thing- the Democrats were attacking rap, not the Republicans! And [Master P] was there for Oprah and Jesse [Jackson]you know, the "billboard clique." [Laughs]

DX: [Laughs] Speaking of Jesse and Oprah and Sharpton and all of themI find it comical how Al Sharpton somehow over the years became the national spokesperson for all black people. Like anytime anyone offends a black person, they gotta go run and meet with Al and the rest of them as if they can speak on behalf of all of us
Thats mostly our fault. I really think we allowed it to happen. We havent established our own voice for our generation. We dont have any leaders in our generation. People dont wanna be leaders. Colin Powell actually said this and it was so powerful, he said, "You know why we dont have any leaders or why I wont even run for president? Its because we dont pay people enough or support people enough that do right." David Banner went and defended Hip Hop in front of congress and he said and did the right thingdo you think thats gonna help me as an artist? Hell no! All them people talkin' about positive rap on the internet chat lines, you think theyre gonna fuckin support David Banner? No. [The public] loves assholes. Its the truth. [The public] supports assholes. We support everything thats negative. America is the most hypocriticalwait-before I start going off on my tangent, who is this interview for again?

DX: [Laughs] Its for HipHopDX.com
Oh word, someone shoulda told me that before! I can go off on my tangent now! [Laughs]Its amazing to mewe talk about weapons of mass destruction but were the ones with the most weapons of mass destruction ourselves. We talk about immigration laws but the people who run this country are immigrants; theyre from England! Native Americans should be the only ones who really got something to say about America, and they dont get shit but casinos!

DX: Very true.
So all this shit is hypocritical. As far as Al and them are concerneddid you see when I spoke up and I tapped Als ass and he never said another thing about Hip Hop again? You seen him at Jay-Zs party throwin up the Roc-A-Fella sign all of a suddenbut we allow that to happen. Didnt no rapper say nothing to Al Sharpton while he was in the building. After the White folks attacked him and ran up in his house; then he ran back to us. But thats how weve been since slavery; were so forgiving and so loving, "Oh, you just killed my family but now come eat ham hocks with me." But thats why black folks are in the condition we in right now; were much too forgiving.

DX: February was obviously Black History Month, and Ive always had a love/hate relationship with Black History Month. While I think its important to celebrate our peoples contributions, at the same time I think year-in and year-out its the same people being talked about to the point where its almost comical and trite. On top of that why limit ourselves to just one month? Why cant observations of our historical contributions be integrated throughout the entire year? How do you feel about Black History month?
I think they gave us the coldest month of the year knowing that were people of the sun. We didnt come from a cold climate. So if its really Black History Month it needs to be during the summer. But once again it goes back to what I said about acceptance. Black history is American history. Be built this bitch. I call it the soul food mentality: we accept unhealthy food. We accept an unhealthy environment. Its so bad now that thats what we want. If you think about us as a race of peoplethe type of music, the type of television, the type of things we want. If a black man is going to jail, we throw him a party. If a black man get outta jail, we throw him a party. But if a black man gets into college, hes by himself. Black man get a job and [others think] he think he better than the rest of the niggas. Its the same with positive music. [People] talk a good game but [they] want drugs, sex, and money. Thats it.

DX: A lot of rappers talk about the crack game and violence and guns when a lot of them arent even living that life anymore. But it seems that some of them are still trying to juggle their past life with their present. Or that they feel that they need to maintain that gangsta persona to be popular. I dont know about you, but if Im making multi-millions of dollars a year, Im not gonna be pushin drugs because I wouldnt need to anymore
But the conflict between that isthats something that America does to us also. You cant blame us for continuing that. I feel like I sold out my fans more than anybody else did by trying to do something [different]. You gotta understand that regardless of what we say or what we do, positive people that listen to Talib Kweli didnt put David Banner on. People that listen to Young Jeezy put David Banner on. People that listen to T.I. put David Banner on. So when I try to do any other kind of music, Im really betraying the people that made me rich. And thats what America tries to get every black person to do. We came in the game as a thug then they expect people to switch. Look at Michael Vick came into the league with braidsthen they wanted him to cut them off when he got big. David Banner got rich off of Like a Pimp and Play," but now that Im making money they want me to do something different. America will kill you for treasonbut they want you to snitch, and rat, and betray everybody else but them. Its music and you do what sells. It ain't personal.

DX: Why did you get into music then?
I been doing this since I was in the sixth grade.

DX: No, what I mean is that I know there are some artists who talk about getting into the rap game so they could stop hustling. But then they make it big and theyre still out there doing the same dumbass shit, but now just with more money backing them.
But you gotta understand, most of these men--and I know a lot of them personally--most of theses men didnt have the proper training and the proper guidance in the first place. They didnt have no money. Then when they get it people expect them to be something different than what they where before but thats all they know. I use to be the same way financially. I didnt know about taxes and if its getting towards the end of the year, dont take that money yet if it will put you in a higher tax bracket. When we dont have proper mentors how can people expect us to be different that what we were before? People expect us to change when we havent done anything to start that process. If we were niggas before, we gon' be niggas with money. A nigga is gonna be a nigga. Once these young black men get money, why should we listen to anybody at that point? There wasnt nobody wanting to be around us back then to mentor us or teach us anything about money before we were millionaires, why should we listen now?

DX: So youre saying that throwing money at a problem isnt going to change it"A nigga is always gonna be a nigga." But do you think thats whats keeping conservative America from realizing the artistic value of rap music?
No, thats not whats keeping America from seeing the artistic value; our skin color is. The truth is, and I mean this literally, name one A-list starnot like a David Banner, but like a Tiger Woods or an Oprahtell me one that stands for anything. Show me one that got dreads or provocative African looking hairstyles. We dont have one star that stands for anything or that is gonna stand up and make America feel uncomfortable. In order to reach that [high level of success) you gotta be a do-boy. America wont let you reach that level until the first prove that youve been broken.

DX: One of our bloggers, Charmalagne Tha God from The Wendy Williams Show, recently blogged about how there are no black people making black history. He basically said that Jay-Z isnt making black history, 50 Cent isnt, and neither is Lil Wayne. They might be making a whole lot of money, but they arent doing anything to uplift black people. Why do you think that so few rappers use their public platform to stand for something or uplift us?
Well number one its not their responsibility. But thats what Americas doing to rappers. If a dog gets killed in Lithuania it's 50 Cents fault. [Laughs] I just happen to take responsibility because I was raised that way. Thats how my mother and father built me. They built a revolutionary, not just a rapper. I gave money to the hood when I was hustlin, I gave money to the hood when I was a teacher, and thats what I still do now. I give scholarships. And Ill give you an example of how hypocritical the press is: I am one of the few people that uses my platform! I threw the largest urban relief concert in history. Did they put that on the front of Time Magazine? But I bet if I got shot 15 times in the face, [they would]. Black people will do anything thats worth it. But its not worth it to be a revolutionary, because if you black and revolutionary do you know what happens to you? You die. You name me one person that stood up for anything that didnt die. They killed Malcolm, they killed Martin Luther King, thats what history shows. If you stand up for anything, you die.

DX: Do you think theyll kill Obama if hes elected?
Probably will. But it will be worth it. You dont stop something 'cause you scared. I knew I was gonna die soon as I opened my mouth. I got about four or five more years before they do me in. I just look so good that they wanna marvel at me first before they kill me. [Laughs] Im like a big doeno wait-- Im like a big buck! Im a big buck and they wanna look at my antlers before they chop off my head. [Laughs]

DX: [Laughs]. So back to the medias role in Hip Hop the media makes this defined distinction between different regions of rap music: its East coast and West coast. Dirty South and Midwest. Why do you think that the media makes that distinction with rap, but not with any other genre?
Have you ever heard of the Willie Lynch Letter?

DX: Of course.
Its the same principle. What they did with slaves is they divided them by their color, by age, by their region of where they were from. They separated us, but we continue to let them. We continue to let them do that to us. We still eat the same unhealthy food, we still treat each other the way the slave master treated us; its been beat into us and we feed into it. And there has to be some sort of effort that we make as a people to stop it. Like you said, they dont have "Southern Rock n Roll"its so stupid. I hear a lot of east coast rappers talkin about southern rap, and its so stupid! It dont fuckin' matter! As long as someone is rapping and records is sellin' then we can all continue to have opportunities! If there was no west coast rap or southern rap, it would all be dead. It woulda died when the east coast died down. So what we have to do is understand that as long as we can keep the [rap] business going then we can all have a another chance. Look at Common. If it wasnt for the south, Common wouldnt have had that time to come back when Kanye helped him. You understand what Im saying? It would be over.

DX: Now on a personal note, I know that Pimp C was a very close friend and influential mentor to you. How have you been coping with his loss?
Aw man, its been hardIts been hard. Pimp C wasnt only a friend, he was a mentor and a supporter of David Banner. It wasnt just a relationship where I looked up to him; we sorta looked up to each other in a strange way. And to have someone of that magnitude and that much power and to know that I could call up Pimp C at any time and be honestI meantheres two things that I think are the death of black men, besides [other] black men, and thats not having mentors and not having strong black women to support them. There are strong black women out there, but black women dont give a fuck about niggas no more! They got their jobs. And the truth is, white men want [black women to work for them] because they can complete two quotas by hiring a [black] woman. They get the woman quota and the minority quotabut thats a whole other story.

Pimp C was from a small town called Port Arthur. He ain't have a clique around him, just like I didnt. So I had someone I could talk to about my situation, even about the dangers of staying in Mississippi once I [became famous] coming from a town that ain't never had nothing. Pimp C came from that situation, and there wasnt many people that could tell me about that situation. So to have somebody that close to me diehes on my album, so every time I listen to the album, I gotta hear his voiceits a crazy situation. It hurts.

DX: So whats next for you?
Im working on a movie with Ice Cube called The Comeback. Its a true story about a girl who played Pop Warner football and she was like the best quarterback in the league and just the rigors that she had to go through being female and being black, being poor and coming from a single family home Its a great movie. I also got about three or four tracks on Lil Waynes album, and new singles with Chris Brown coming out.

DX: Dope. And I know you mentioned earlier about the charity work you do that never gets any media attention, so are you still going strong with that?
Well Im not going as strong with that particular project. I gave about $30,000 towards it; Ive been still doing stuff for Katrina. My mentality has changed this yearmy career was almost ruined; I spent seven months helping people with Katrina. Did the rap community come back and say, "David Banner you did a good job, let me make sure that you get back on your feet?" Did deejays give me extra support? Na, they was like, "See you on your next album, pimp!" and that was my fault. I chose to do that. But God gave me blessings 'cause thats how I discovered movies. But I realized I have to be a superstar in order to do superstar things. If Im at the level of a Will Smith, then I can give $2 million instead of $100,000. So please, please, put this in bold print: If people want people to do good things then we have to support good people. We support assholes and thats why we get so much shit.

DX: Couldnt have said it better myself.

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