On paper, one might think that Lloyd Banks appears to be in limbo. No longer on music powerhouse Interscope and three years removed from his last album, which failed to match the critical and commercial success of his first, its not hard to see why some fans have counted G-Units top lyricist down for the count.
Unless, of course, you ask Banks himself.
While G-Units buzz may not be what it was in 2003, you can hear from the way Christopher Lloyd talks shop that hes none too worried. Self-aware, determined, and considerably more humble that you might expect, the 09 Banks is one thats ready to come out swinging. In fact, the following interview had to be postponed the first time because Banks was in the studio, still recording a testament to his drive.
After stumbling upon stardom just at the age of 21, its clear that the past six years have had a tremendous impact on the former "Mixtape Artist of the Year." Having survived beefs, label politics and personal tragedies, the G-Unit rapper has emerged from the process not too much worse for the wear. In fact, the way Lloyd Banks tells it, he's matured behind a microphone, and the grown man era is upon us.
HipHopDX: First and foremost, Ive wanted to tell you this for years you bodied Eminem and 50 on Dont Push Me. Being the Em fan that I am, thats difficult to admit.
Lloyd Banks: [Laughing] Thank you so much I think that was actually my first record with Em. Thats off the Get Rich or Die Tryin [click to read] album, if Im correct?
Lloyd Banks: That was my first record with Em, that was at the studio in Detroit. We took a break fromI think we came back from Barcelona. Thats when Ja Rule [click to read] was talkin a bunch of shit. Something just told me to write that verse. I wasnt supposed to be on that record. I just came into the room, and they were trying to figure out what to do with the third verse whether to make it a bridge or not and I just said, Yo, I got a verse. Em loved it, and I ended up on the album.
DX: Yeah, you killed em on that one.
Lloyd Banks: Now Im ready to make another one. Gotta get on another album.
DX: Before we get into the new album, lets bring it back to Rotten Apple. Now, youve given the impression that you werent entirely satisfied with the outcome, particularly given the circumstances surrounding its release. What were you unhappy with?
Lloyd Banks: I think I was unhappy with the actual lane that the label wanted me to go with. It was likethat was the actual start, the beginning, of the economic crisis. There were a lot of albums that probably couldve done more than they did. Now they look at an album that has 130-140,000 in the first week sold, and thats considered to be a good album. That album, I think I debuted about 147 the first week, which would be very good for this time. I just think that at that time, the original numbers from [my first album] The Hunger For More [click to read], anything that wasnt close to the numbers I did previously I wasnt happy with that.
On top of that, theres a lot of different kinds of artists, and I dont think they actually knew how to push a Hip Hop artist. Thats why I came out with Cake, the first record I released. I would have preferred to go with a whole album thats just directed towards my street core, rather than try to make a for-the-radio record that doesnt actually perform as well. I think it wouldve sat better with me in my stomach knowing that its the record I wanted to come out. I also had a whole record about 18 songs that were actually leaked prior to [Rotten Apple] [click to read] coming out. Im not gonna say it was rushed, but the album was put together in about 30 days, as opposed to me having another 18 records to pick from. It was a lot of different things that slowed down the process of the album, but overall I was happy with it. We all sat down and thought it was good work and I still feel that way about the project, and the project is 400 [songs] and change right now. If that album came out right now, itd be considered one of the biggest albums of the year. I just dont think people were aware of the economic crisis we were in it that time.
DX: So when you say the label, are you specifically speaking about Interscope?
Lloyd Banks: Yeah. And its because of my first release. When you have an artist that sells two million records on his first album, they envision different things. They want you to do records with Pop artists. For mine, they kept wanting to push it back, they kept wanting to do three, four singles before coming out. Nowadays, thats the norm. Most of the albums that come out, you hear three or four records before the album drops. But at the time, I felt like I was being bamboozled.
I just wanted to go with it I wanted my date, I didnt want to keep pushing it back. [The label said,] Lets go sit with this producer, lets go sit with this artist, [but] I really was just focused on my core, and I was happy with the project that actually came out.
DX: Aside from not leaving your CDs laying around after a mnage a trios, what did you learn from the experience?
Lloyd Banks: For one, have more than enough material. Two, dont be careless with the stuff. Thats the first time I had ever lost any material not even a record had leaked from my side. Just record like youre going on your next album. And thats what I do now. Even now, in preparation for my new album, I have literally about 87 records tucked [away] outside of what I put on mixtapes. So if something like that happens, it wouldnt really have an effect on my project.
DX: How did it feel not to get the instant love that G-Unit, at that point, was accustomed to getting with essentially every release?
Lloyd Banks: I think [Blood Money by] [click to read] Mobb Deep [click to read] was the first release of that year, if Im not mistaken. I think they came out February-March. I fell in love with that project too. Nothing stays the same forever. Youre not gonna have the energy that you had when you came out with your first project. Its hard to make them feel the way you made them feel when your first project came out. They were in places in they lifemusic marks a time. So its hard to repeat that same success.
At the same time, I feel like there was a lot of hate sprinkled around, and I feel like I mainly came from our dominance. I think a part of it had to do with a lot of labels feeling alienated. At that time, having management, there were a lot of phone callsits a lot of politics you dont know of. You dont know that its taking place. I would go on promo tours, and I would go to certain radio stations, and I wouldnt get the same welcome as I got last time! And it was based off of an actual argument or agreement that [fell through] with the label. And then I realized, Its beyond you. I had certain people tell me, Nothing personal, they just dont like the label!
We were viewed as a machine. A lot of artists were complaining when our single hit the radio, and felt like it was a machine, and not looking at the actual artists. And that was the difficulty that I had, dealing with that shit. Im like, Listen, Im an artist. I just want my music played. But like I said, its a lot of politics back then, and its still a lot of politics now. I just feel like Ive got a whole new start. Id rather push me independent for the time being, because all Ive heard is good things. Its like the Lakers. When the Lakers lose, everyone want them to win again. Its confusing at times, but you gotta keep pushin on. I was making music before I actually had I record deal, so at the end of the day, I just want people to know that its something Im going to do with or without a record deal.
DX: Is the new album still titled The Famine?
Lloyd Banks: Nah, I never had a title for the record. Im working on a bunch of records, but when I get together and sit with 50 [click to read], hopefully get a chance to go sit with Em, then Ill probably create an official title for the album.
DX: Can you clarify the label situation? I understand youre not on Interscope anymore, but youre still on G-Unit, right?
Lloyd Banks: Yeah, Im on G-Unit as a record label, but Im not on Interscope Records.
DX: Speaking of Interscope, over the past few years, with artists being dropped, criticisms about such a low rate of musical output, and the situation with Eminems drug problems, did that have an impact on your growth as an artist?
Lloyd Banks: Of course! Of course. When the records were movin like hot cakes, I think everyone was gettin credit. It was like we couldve sold shit on a stick. Its because of the chain of command that things were happening. Youd have [Dr.] Dre come out, youd have Em come out, youd have 50 come out, youd have me come out, youd have [Young] Buck [click to read] come out it was a domino effect. But the fact of the matter is, those artists the Eminems and the 50 Cents and the Dr. Dres they can put out an album at their leisure! They dont have to; theyre at a comfort level in their career where theyve already established themselves. Theyre legends. Their projects are masterpieces, so Im pretty sure the label was sitting, twiddling their fingers wondering when thats actually going to be executed [again]. And youve got a lot of Pop acts coming out on the side, so I felt like I needed a new energy, a new place where Ill be the sole focus, because it does have an effect.
If 50s out touring, and Im out touring with him, and Im touching 20,000 people a night, thats going to have an impact on my record sales. This is the reason why when the Roc The Mic Tour was happening and the Anger Management Tour was happening, so many more records were being sold. Because youre touching 20-25,000 a night for like 40 some nights straight! So if you can go and have a dominant performance, you can send people out to the record store.
DX: With Interscope, did you feel like they were preventing your growth or that you needed to branch out? How did that conversation go?
Lloyd Banks: At the end of the day, its their choice and mine at the same time. There were things I had seen firsthand, doing promo tours, being on the road. Whatever agreements were being made and not carried through, that shit falls back on the artist. If a label says, Nah, were not sending our artist to Summer Jam, the artist doesnt know that hes not gonna get no record spins from that decision being made! But thats who ends up suffering. When all these things are taking place, youre just looking around like, what the fuck is going on?
Maybe its time for me to be more appreciated, thats what I felt. If you go on the Internet, every record I release is getting four, four-and-a-half, five stars. On every site especially HipHopDX! Every record Ive put out since last September has gotten four to five stars. This shows me the appreciation, and its enough to keep me going. And you cant tell me that Im not relevant when I get comments like, Best rapper under 30! I do it for the fans, man. All that politics and shit, Im not too comfortable with that. And if I get the hit record before I land a deal, Im not doing a deal. Ill push myself independently through my own brand.
DX: Can you reveal anything about the album at this point? Features, producers?
Lloyd Banks: I can say this: Ive been spreading my actions a lot more. I think thats something else, too. I think we had so much success as a whole, as G-Unit the group, that a lot of people didnt feel that we were open to actually do features and things of that nature. And its not that, its just that we come from the street. We come from a family-oriented structure. Were close-knit. We were thinking how we could do everything in-house because we were rollin at that time. But now if you look what Ive been doing, I got records with Nipsey Hussle [click to read], I got records with Jay Rock, records with Uncle Murda [click to read], records with Ron Browz, I got a record with Juelz Santana [click to read] on the way, Jadakiss [click to read] and Fabolous on the way. Ive been spreading my actions more, getting next to everybody. You know, let the public know that its okay. If people didnt get the memo, the time to hate is over. Time to get that money.
I think thats going to be the biggest change with this album, sitting down with different producers. I never sat down with big-time producers outside of Eminem, really. Now its time to sit in there with Swizz Beatz [click to read], Pharrell [click to read], Kanye [West], Scott Storch, and sit with these producers and see what I can come up with not to leave out Timbaland. Thats where I want to go with it. You need to hear Lloyd Banks with whatevers hot out there at the time. I was doing things on Interscope that they wasnt ready for. I went through about eight artists when I was making the record Help, and ended up working with Keri Hilson. The label wasnt even ready to push Keri Hilson at the time. Now the labels putting all their money behind Keri Hilson. I felt like I was a step above. They had to catch up I had to go somewhere else.
DX: So this year, Em and allegedly Dre are both dropping albums. Last time that happened was in 99, which sort of started the Aftermath domination in its early stages. Em held it down, and then in 03 G-Unit came on the scenes and really took over until 05. With Em and Dre dropping again, what do you hope to do, in your capacity with G-Unit, to contribute to repeating that dynasty?
Lloyd Banks: I feel the same domino effect coming. Me, as an artist, I feel like Im a lyrical artist. Im lyrically driven. I write my verses before I write the chorus. Thats just how I am I write every day. So when you have someone like Eminem come into the mix, I think he makes people appreciate lyricists again, because Im just absolutely stunned by that album. The Relapse album [click to read] is incredible to me, and it just shows me that theres levels, as far as lyrics go its another level I can take it. And thats exciting to me. But when everybody come out doing dances and snapping their fingers and shit, it makes people more geared for that. Other dance records slide through based on the success of one. But when you have somebody like Em come through with that substance behind it, I think it makes you appreciate what I do more.
Thats why I want to come with the energy of a 50 Cent project, a Dr. Dre project, an Eminem project. Its gonna to be a complete album: theres gonna be songs about gettin high. Theres gonna be songs about gettin pussy. Theres gonna be positive records. Theres gonna be records about the industry its gonna be a well-rounded album. And that energy is gonna come the way it did the first time around.
DX: What can you bring to the table in 09 that you werent able to in 06?
Lloyd Banks: Just more of my actual presence Im not going to take a break. Actually, Im gonna send yall a new record I did last night [click to listen] today. The Internet world is takin over. Whoever is seen the most is the most relevant. If youve got fuckin 10 videos out every two weeks, in the publics eye youre doin something whether its quantity or quality. And Im like, let me give them quality. At the end of the year, I can guarantee that theyll be like, Oh shit, he put out five mixtapes and an album? Similar to what [Lil] Wayne [click to read] did.
DX: Moving on to one of the many other beefs, you dont appear to have been nearly as vocal about the Young Buck situation as you have Game and Rick Ross. Does this mean you two are still on good terms?
Lloyd Banks: I havent spoke to Buck since the last time 50 spoke to Buck, or the last time [Tony] Yayo spoke to Buck. It is what it is; I dont have any hatred towards Buck. I think there were a lot of mistakes that were made, a lack of communication and things of that nature. Buck showed his discomfort; I just think he went about it the wrong way. Weve always been a tight-knit family, so I think it was something that shouldve been discussed within the four walls of the crew.
DX: Right. But it seems like you handled the situation differently than with The Game and Rick Ross. With Game and Ross you released diss tracks.
Lloyd Banks: Yeah, because they were actually targeting me. You never heard Buck target Banks as an individual. You never even heard him target 50 or Yayo as an individual. But those guys, Game [click to read] was actually targeting me. He was making it his business to say something about me. Rick Ross [click to read] was making it his business to say things to everybody but me. He was saying shit like, Fuck Yayo, fuck 50, and um, Banks is cool. Im not with that shit. Thats how niggas get smoked where Im from. I dont play both sides of the fence. You cant diss my nigga and not diss me when I see you, youre gonna have a rude awakening. Im not no corny-type nigga, and thats what the game has turned into. Youre not gonna have me on stage with Game. Youre never gonna see me on stage with Rick Ross, regardless of whether Im down with G-Unit or not! I think thats the realness thats missing from Hip Hop. Youre not gonna see Method Man [click to view] on stage with a nigga whos beefin with Wu-Tang [Clan]! So why shouldnt that same rule apply to me?
Thats just how it goes. They were being disrespectful. And thanks to Rick Ross, because Im in a position where I have a direct deal with iTunes and a direct deal with Microsoft Im getting 70 cent off a record. They can diss me, and Im gonna make a diss record and Im gonna sell it to the fans. I found something to make money off of, beef-wise. I will step on somebody who has something to say about me but at this point, Buck hasnt really took that lane. I think hes trying to iron out his deal and move on with his career.
DX: Is there a verse of yours you feel you havent topped?
Lloyd Banks: Ah, man. I have a lot of verses that stick out with me because I went behind this thing of 50 bars a lot of verses I have spit that have been very memorable are 50 bars or better. Its hard to hold somebodys interest for that long. But a record like Officer Down, [click to listen] I wrote that in a matter of a couple of hours, and Im so happy with the way that record came out. It was one of my biggest records as far as the Internet goes so big that it actually reached the attention of iTunes and they contacted me to put the record on sale. Now Im trying to top that record lyrically.
DX: You came onto the scene when you were 21 now youre 27, which is a huge difference in terms of your place in life
Lloyd Banks: I came onto the mainstream when I around 21. Ive been on the mixtape scene since I was 19.
DX: Right right, thats what I mean into public consciousness. How has your outlook on Hip Hop, both as an artist and a fan, changed?
Lloyd Banks: It changed a lot. I came from one of my friends basements rapping. When the reality of having a record deal on a major and selling millions of recordslike, none of that shit really seemed in plain sight to me because I didnt know. Its a dream to me, coming into the game. But once you come into the game, you realize that its a business, and Ive been unhappy with it. And its not just me; Ive spoken to a lot of artists about it that Im cool with, and they expressed the same things. If you listen to Jadakiss, he said he fell back. His last solo album came out when my first solo album came out in 2004. So he had a five year break! Because hes sitting back and hes not seeing a lane for lyricists. Its going everywhere else but to the lyricists. So sometimes it gets frustrating. Now I guess Im just waiting for the time when people start appreciating the words. Ill be here waiting. Until then Im going to dominate in my lane and do what I do. Im not going to compromise myself as an artist just to stay in the mix.
DX: How do you feel youve personally changed in that time?
Lloyd Banks: Ive changed a lot of ways. For one, I got older, and two, I practice every day. Like Michael Jordan, he didnt have his field goal percentage for nothing. That comes from actually practicing and being in the gym. So I just think over time, if youre not getting better, youre not doing something right. Youre not working hard enough. I hear people say, Oh, it doesnt sound like the old Lloyd Banks! It better not sound like the old Lloyd Banks! If I sound like the old Lloyd Banks, it means that theres no new Lloyd Banks. Thats going totally backwards. You have to show growth and development, and thats what Im doing. Theres never been a time that Ive listened to a record and havent felt like I hadnt grown from the last record.
[Ive changed] maturity-wise too. Just knowing how to carry yourself from doing so many shows Ive done 300 shows in a year for a couple years. And that makes your stage presence a lot better. Being on tour with artists like Busta Rhymes and Jay-Z [click to read] and Fabolous Ive been on tour with everybody. You get a chance to see what works for you, and you get a chance to see what works for them, and you get a chance to see what to do and what not to do.
That all comes with experience. You know how to answer questions. Ive been on most of the talk shows that you could possibly be on, Ive touched on every stage you could possibly touch. Im actually on my way to Rio de Janeiro this Thursday, and these are things Im doing on my own. But its because of the performance that I left when I was out with 50, when I was out on the stage with Em, I made sure I performed like I was doing a show for the last time. Rick Ross isnt doing any shows here! Hes not doing shows in Iraq and Pakistan, and West Africa and South Africa and Russia! Hes never been to these places! I can send you my passport to prove it to you and Ive been there by myself. Ive been to some places that 50 hasnt had a chance to yet! That comes from me actually paying attention and being a student to the game. So over the years, Ive learned to be more appreciative and more humble.
If you put Snoop Dogg [click to read], Busta Rhymes, Ice Cube [click to read], LL Cool J, Jay-Zif you put all these guys in a room and you put a new artist in there, theres no reason for them to feel any discomfort! Like, youre gonna get some of the best advice you ever had, because theyve lived the life. Youve looked up to them for so many years, and when I met all those guys, they all said something positive. I never get no funny vibe from them, or felt like they were just sayin something just to say it. They loved what they did.
DX: Do you intend on branching out from G-Unit at some point?
Lloyd Banks: Thats a tough question, because I feel like Im just as a part of G-Unit as 50 Cent or Tony Yayo. Its not like youre saying branch away from Interscope this is something that we sat in a room and came up with. It wasnt just a 50 Cent idea thats like asking would he branch away from G-Unit. I dont think anyone would ask him that question, so I dont see why I should have to answer that question. When G-Unit was created, it was Tony Yayo, 50 Cent and Lloyd Banks, so thats like asking me if Im gonna branch away from my group or asking Method Man if hes gonna branch away from the Wu-Tang Clan.
DX: Are you on Twitter, or is that too much?
Lloyd Banks: Yeah, Im on Twitter. Twitter.com/LloydBanks. I just actually found out how to use it through my phone, but then you have to be careful with that shit. Im hearing that they can actually track the location I aint tryin to get knocked over Twitter.
DX: [Laughing] Thatd be an embarrassing way to go out.
Lloyd Banks: Very, very much so. Ill be anti-Twitter after that. I keep it professional though. I keep em updated on when Im working in the studio. Im actually damn, I dont even want to tell you my idea but my next mixtape, thisll be the last mixtape before Im completely locked in for production on my new album, but its gonna have a very, very different twist on this next mixtapeyoure going to be able to understand my recording process. Im gonna take you in my studio so you can see step-by-step how easy it is to actually come out. Thats my whole thing to the label, Im like, Come on, man, you think this is how my material would sound if it was my last? This is practice for me, Ive been doing this since I was 11, 12 years old, and Im not gonna stop my grind for anybody.
DX: When you spoke to us in 2006, you said you were going to take up Spanish lessons. Have you gotten started on that?
Lloyd Banks: Its funny you ask me that, because Ive been in and out ofshit, Ive been to Chile, Ive been to so many places Colombia, Puerto Rico since the last time we spoke. I have this girl, but she only speaks to me in the bed, you know what Im sayin? I gotta get her to teach me. I gotta get the tape out there, I know you seen the commercial. I gotta pick it up and learn that shit. I have records with Daddy Yankee [click to read] and [other Hispanic artists], so its something I would definitely love to learn. And I have to learn. I have to because its part of me. I got little brothers that dont speak it either, so if I dont teach em, then whos gonna teach em? Unfortunately, I left school at an early age, so I never got a chance to do Spanish class or anything of that nature, so its something Id love to learn. And not just Spanish Id love to learn as many languages as possible! Kobe Bryantll sit there and talk to you in several different languages! I could make a Reggaeton record and speak Spanish, who knows where I could take it?
DX: Why should people check for Lloyd Banks in 2009?
Lloyd Banks: I think Im the strongest engine right now, I think Im the best lyricist under 30, and I have a lot to bring to the table. And if you havent been up on what Ive been doing lately, you could go to HipHopDX and you could just go to the mixtape section, and all my mixtapes are gonna pop up, dating back to the first Return of the PLK [click to listen] CD. There should be about four or five CDs on there and, you know, skim through that and see what lane Im in right now. Like I said, Im working with a lot of people this year, and I think people have heard me by myself for so long that they dont understand what Ill do until Im standing next to someone else they like. Like if Kobe [Bryant] was playing by himself, its not the same a him bustin somebodys ass. If I can be heard next to whatever else it is that they consider great, I can be considered great too.
DX: I appreciate it, man. Thanks for taking the time.
Lloyd Banks: What time is it right now, 3:00? Yall gonna have a new record by about 5-6:00 today.