Lloyd Banks: The Rotten Apple Out The Bunch
The most talked about faction in Hip-Hop is still the biggest selling one regardless of what anyone says. You cant ignore the digits and with Soundscan being understood by more and many as time marches on, the writing on the wall is more than clear. Sales might not be what they were, but they are still ahead. Hate it or love it.
With sophomore projects from Young Buck and Lloyd Banks closing out the quarter the pressure has to be upon them but when HipHopDX caught up with them, apparently it isnt. As rumors have circulated that the Unit is crumbling, the disastrous results with Mobb Deep and Tony Yayo, its going to be left to the Bs to raise the bar and solidify the relevance of this collective. But G Unit take everything in their stride.
Lloyd Banks is ready. He hasnt stopped since his Hunger for More hit the shelves back in 2004. Performing globally and relentlessly recording he couldnt wait for The Rotten Apple to be available. Having time to craft this one, thanks to time being on his side and a home recording studio, Banks is dead set it will be just as readily accepted than the last. Shows, kids and hate, he holds nothing back in this exclusive interview with HipHopDX.com
I saw you perform the other night on stage, you were here in NYC, do you find holding down a NY audience hard?
It is a whole different vibe at home man. Everybody is a star, so it is kind of hard, about 50% of the crowd probably raps too. If you really paid attention in every corner of the club, that is the fastest way to find a rapper. Because if he is standing in a corner with twenty of his entourage with him and four of those crews makes a hundred people and they dont move as much because of who they are or who they think they are going to be doesnt allow them to have a good time. Its cool though man. As long as the New York crowd doesnt leave on you, you did good.
You came on last and the crowd stayed.
Well they came to see me to be totally honest with you. New York City knows how hard I go, they know what I put into my shows and I am probably the only artist who leaves out the same door that they leave out of and I make sure I go in the crowd and touch the people.
Is that something you do in every performance, walk through the crowd and exit the same way they do, as you dont see much of that at concerts nowadays?
You dont see that now no, but the reality of this is, those are my people. I tour a lot and have been overseas a lot and when I have been stuck in the crib finishing the album and that was really was one of my first times of seeing New York again in terms of being on stage and the crowd; so I just wanted to touch bases with the people, touch as many hands and hug as many of the females as I could because at the end of the day it counts.
You were happy with the reception you got then?
Definitely, you know I had a show the Sunday before that at Club Deep and it was a Latina crowd and it was bananas so I was coming off the momentum of that which was crazy. I actually had a show the next day at Shea Stadium. Unfortunately, once again, the police didnt let me go ahead on that. They see me coming through the building, they didnt want me to sign autographs and they didnt want me to shake hands.
Is this something you face a lot?
We face it, but that situation was like Come on now, there was 15,000 people there and I am the headliner. It is just messed up that people spend their money and then they can only see me from the other side of a barricade.
Doesnt that make you go harder to reach your fans?
That is the reason why I go in the crowd. You know it is almost like you cant be a person no more, you are just supposed to do your time on stage and thats it. Then they wonder why I call the album The Rotten Apple.
We saw Hunger for More, now we see The Rotten Apple, when you rep New York so hard, why opt for that name?
The title came about because one of the biggest tourist attractions there is and they see the big buildings and the lights that you see on the postcards but I just wanted to take them a little deeper and into Queens, where I grew up, into Brooklyn, into The Bronx, into Staten Island and Harlem all these places where we have similar stories and give them a better idea as to where my music actually comes from as it comes from these environments. That is really why it is called that and a perfect example of this is what happened at Shea Stadium. We are still going through these little petty things that dont allow us to grown and it is sad, you go through weeks of promotion and I get there and I can't get on stage. Those are all those things that make The Apple rotten and the NYPD are the biggest reason.
What are you supposed to do to prevent that from happening, the cops shutting down your shows, pay them off?
Man I dont know what it is. It is more than just the music though, its your presence, they didnt let me go on stage so I was like Ok I am going to go in the crowd and chill, its like they are petty, they want to put a stop to it period. Its not about the music, its about who you are and where you come from and they know that.
So why is there so much animosity towards G-Unit in your estimation?
I just think they know the story isnt fabricated. They can track us down to our neighborhood precinct and they know at the same time, the people were responsible for our success. The people made us that force on the radio and made the deal come through and they know we have such a close bond to that and they dont want that to be a representation of Hip-Hop and that is where it started in the streets.
Does it bring you satisfaction knowing you are considered such a threat?
It does, but if you werent important, they wouldnt be watching you. But that is why the album is called The Rotten Apple because there are some things that need to be fixed and I had to speak on it.
In terms of the album, what was your approach as your first album you spend years preparing?
Like you said you spend your whole life working on your first album but there is only so much you can get out in sixty minutes. The thing that was different this time was I recorded that album at the same time I was recording my performance for the Beg for Mercy album. So not only that, I was on a major tour, The Roc the Mic tour and dealing with all these new obstacles to get over. I recorded my whole album on a tour bus, just that alone can do something to you as you are coming off stage and straight to the booth, your voice may not sound the same. I had none of those things this time. I have a studio in my house, I was able to be a perfectionist and get it to sound the way I wanted it to sound before it actually goes out and it helped. You know if you have your studio right there the more you can record and the more you become comfortable with yourself as an artist as far as where you can take your music. I did have a lot more time to complete this album than I did with the first album.
As well as an artist you are a fan of Hip-Hop, what do you think it takes to make a well rounded album?
I mean my thing is of course, top lyrics, you have to say something to me to make me keep listening. Your beat selection has to be, if not flawless, it has to be very good as that keeps peoples attention. You know the first ten second for your record are important, you know if you listen to most of my records they come right on. Theres not like a big build up, I dont do a bunch of yo yo yo before I come on. I dont use skits; I think that slows down the album. You just have to hit them, stay consistent from 1-16 and people will accept it.
Nowadays though you could buy an album where you see the artist riding solo on maybe four tracks out of eighteen.
As far as collaborations go, I have a large crew and I have to get them on. You know Fifty is on there of course, Young Buck, Yayo, Mobb Deep is on the album these are all separate songs. These are all my camp, so after my camp I really dont have a lot of room. I am thinking the same way you are thinking; I know people dont spend sixteen dollars to hear sixteen different rappers. But I do outside of my crew have Musiq Soulchild on a track called Addictive.
Were you a fan of his? That is a, I want to say different, collaboration right there.
Yeah I think that is what makes that song unique as it is not expected. I have 8Ball and Scarface on the same record and I have Rakim on a record.
Do you go after people that you have respect for in the game, I mean Rakim is a legend?
Thats my whole thing; 8Ball is ten years or better in the game. I mean it just worked out that way, I wasnt targeting to work with people that had longevity, and it just panned out that way.
I mean I couldnt help notice the shape you are in (laughing), I mean being female we notice these things. How easy or hard is it for you to stay in shape?
(laughing) You know whats crazy; I kick myself today for it. I was there when Fifty first started to work out. When he left the hospital, he weighed less than I weigh now and I would watch him go from the studio to the gym every day. I smoke a lot and while he was waking up to go to the gym I was just going to sleep, me and Yayo, thats how it was. I wanted to change something this time and I wanted to be in the best shape as possible and take it all the way with it.
Being out on the road doesnt that take its toll on you? Eating habits and all that.
Yes it really does, you know especially when you are overseas because when you go overseas you dont know what is a good substitute. You know you may get something that you have never tasted before and you have to keep all those things in mind and its hard but you have to stay disciplined and dedicated to it.
My experience of Interscope artists and execs, the ones I have had the pleasure of talking to, yall seem to have mantra, you live your lives a certain way. Do you have one and if so how does it work?
You know what that filters down, as far as my work ethic towards the studio now is very high just because of my influences of my examples. You know I have seen Em in the studio, I have seen Dre in the studio, I have seen Fifty in the studio, I have seen these guys go from five in the afternoon to five in the morning and these are the little things that keep you humble. It is too hard for me to have an ego because the people I look up to are doing damn good. It just lets me know that I am not satisfied where I am at right now.
When you look at what you have achieved up to this point, what do you still have to achieve?
I wont be satisfied until I see all positive reviews and I am respected; until I do so well it is undeniable and that is my intention. I have been a fan of Hip-Hop, its not just like I am in it. This is what I do, its like when I get off the phone with you I am going straight back into the studio, my album is finished but I am still doing mixtape material. I enjoy the music period and I just want people, even the haters to respect what I bring every time I bring it. Bottom line, as far as longevity, you dont have to have a whole lot of albums to remain relevant for ten years past your time, look at Biggie Smalls. I want to grow, all I ask is for the media to grow with me. Dont expect from me based on other peoples expectations.
Do you think the media give you a hard time?
They agree to disagree a lot of the times and it is hard for them to see success and that is why I said that on stage, there hasnt been somebody out of New York City with a debut as big as mine since 50 Cent. So you speak about New York City falling off, what percentage have we to make up. We are the bum ass dudes from Southside Jamaica who made it this far and they dont want to give it to us. When you dont give us the credit, you kind of snatch that from the hood as that is what put us here, so at least let them know that the dudes from Southside Jamaica Queens started a movement that brought in other rappers and sold over 30 million records in three years, that has to count for something. The easy part is making a record but the hard part is staying out of trouble.
Are you going out on the road?
I am a workaholic, I just came back from Boston, Rhode Island, DC and Baltimore and then I will be going Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Nashville, I am not coming home once I leave until after the album is released.
Do you miss home when you are away?
No. I keep pushing; I dont have any kids or anything like that, so it is a go get the money situation. I mean I miss my brothers but I fly back and meet up with them or my brother can come with me on the road so its not that hard. I like to grind, I like to be in front of the people.
So maybe home is like being in front of a crowd?
Yeah, when I am in front of a crowd it's like everybody understands me and that is what is going through my head when I am standing on a stage. It's one thing to make a hit record, but it is another for it to be received by thousands of people and you know I been through bad situations, had some of the worst news of my life and then gone on stage a few hours later. When I am on stage that kind of clears my head.
Did you have to work at the performing?
I always wanted to be a performer. You know everybodys character has something about them. I had wanted to do certain things. Ice Cube was mad his whole career, you know if you had put him on a talk show where there was a lot of laughter he would have to adapt. I was always the laid back type but I always had respect for performers like Busta, KRS One, Dougie Fresh, Big Daddy Kane and I always wanted to do that. You know just my experiences of being around Fifty would enable us to have that time and I had a good reference as Fifty had just come out and sold eleven million records so performing with him, I started in stadiums. I did one show at a club in Puerto Rico for the Mixtape Summit and then after that it was straight to the stadiums and that was something to adjust to. I definitely wanted to work on it because I knew there was going to be a time where I would be on the road myself and I wanted to be ready and I did over 170 shows since September 13th 2004 up until now and thats not counting including the shows with Buck and the whole crew. That was something to work on. Friday night when you saw me I was rusty. You know Hip-Hop is about growth, I want to get better with every show.
People try to stipulate problems with G Unit?
There is no friction in G-Unit; we just X-ed out all the competition. The only competition is us. You know the media was excited to talk about Jada and The Lox, Fat Joe and Terror Squad, Game, but what happens is, once all those people dont shine through the cracks and the take extra push they are getting from the beef, they didnt capitalize off it so its like it didnt work, so the other option they look for is divide and conquer. They have to understand that we come from the streets, we grew up together, you know when I leave my house I am going to Yayos house. It is just that kind of thing, the little things that might get between crews doesnt happen in mine. We came up together, we sit tight for the little things and I think why people all around the world embrace us, nothing gets in the way. But the positive energy is what makes Mobb Deep comfortable and secure and MOP. It is a cool system we live by and it is respect first.
Talking about all over the world if you had to pinpoint one place you enjoy where would it be?
Thats a hard one. I have been to a lot of different places that stand out for different reasons. I have been to Africa, did a big show in Nigeria; I did a show for the troops in Iraq and that has to be the hottest show I ever did, and I am talking about heat. It was like 120 degrees outside and I had the uniform on and it was hot as hell out there. Japan is crazy, they appreciate Hip-Hop so much and I really look forward to going back there. Puerto Rico too, you know for those that dont know I am half Puerto Rican, so when I go there I just get a feeling. I be embarrassed a little bit as I dont speak Spanish.
You werent encouraged to speak Spanish then?
Nah, my Grandfather was the only person that spoke Spanish fluently but that is something I am going to take up in the near future.
What if you were to have kids, would you want them to speak Spanish?
Yeah, I wouldnt want them to go through what I am going through. You know going over there and not being able to communicate, I want to start them off early. But lets not talk about that (laughing) I am 24 years old.