David Banner is taking his time with his upcoming The Make Believe Album. Forget what you may think you know about the project, except that he's focused on doing only what he wants. Fans also know Banner can showcase his aggressive and raspy flow without hesitation. On this album, Banner returns to many staples that have created the Mississippi native’s reputation: club, street and introspective tracks with a Southern twist. Banner's latest single “Do Work” featuring Don Trip is his transformation back into brute mode, letting loose an in-your-face account of his daily hustle.
Banner’s music ventures are just one side of the multi-faceted artist. He’s also known to be outspoken about the current social issues in hip-hop and political news. Banner’s vehement criticisms have stirred conversations about his beliefs in the past but have never caused him to apologize. The 38-year-old spoke to VIBE on his upcoming projects, his track "Malcolm," Heavy D and more. --Eric Diep
VIBE: Which album, MTA3: The Trinity Movement or The Make Believe Album, are you working on right now?
Banner: I am working on The Make Believe Album. This is the one I’m working on first. That’s like my main focus. Nobody knows this--you’re the first person I told. The Don Trip … that record is not actually on the Make Believe Album. This is just a record me and Don Trip did that I really like. And I just wanted to give it to the fans.
Are you working with anybody on The Make Believe Album? Or did you want to take the production and raps into your own hands?
I’m taking the production totally in my hands. Honestly, and you can tell people, I’m about to take it on the production side. What I’m on right now, I think people will go back to school to learn how to play something to really understand what I’m about to do.
Do you plan on making this album with a socially conscious message like Death Of A Popstar while still supplying fans with club-bangers and street hits?
I don’t have a plan, I’m just being me. Think about who I am as an artist. I am probably the biggest example of a walking oxymoron. I just am. I want to do me. I am political. I am spiritual. I do love to fight. I do love to make peace. I am all of that. And anybody who says they are 100 percent of anything is a liar. I don’t have a plan. I’m just doing what I feel. And right now I feel like there is no consciousness in music. So I’m going to give a little extra. When music is conscious again, then I’m back on gangsta shit. I am whatever you not.
The first possible single “Malcolm" sounds inspired by Public Enemy. Why did you look at such a politically-driven hip-hop group for inspiration?
“Malcolm” wasn’t inspired by Public Enemy. Malcolm was more or less inspired by where we are as Americans. America has turned into a nation of talk. We just talk. I’m looking at TV shows and people who are making the most money are the people with no talent. How can you grow so much money? You can’t sing, you can’t shoot a basketball, you can’t rap. But you are making all this money because of who you are having sex with? Is that what America is really built on right now? I just got tired. As much as people say it is political, it’s not. It’s just the truth. The hook on Malcolm was: “All my favorite rappers are either dead or in jail.” And that’s a problem.
On a more personal note, Hip-Hop lost one of the most popular figures, Heavy D. Were you close to him?
Yeah, I knew Heavy. That’s real touchy topic. Heavy was a really good dude. Heavy was so much more than a rapper. He was one of the few cats that were actually really good people.
What did he do to impact hip-hop?
I don’t want to talk about Heavy D, the rapper. It was Heavy D, the man that was amazing to me. When I first moved out to LA, and Heavy saw that I was acting, Heavy came to me and was like, “Dude, anything that you need …” Because he had moved out there four, five years before I did. And he already got into the acting game and knew the loopholes and tricks and all the stuff. And he said, “If you ever need me brother, I’m here for you. I’ll help you figure it all out.” That’s the type of thing that I’m talking about. Just good people. Nowadays, any kid can rap. For me, if you get a chance to ask somebody, don’t ask about the rapper, ask about the man. Because Heavy, the man is what I want people to know about.
So how did Heavy help David Banner, the man?
Just showed me that you can be yourself. You don’t have to walk around with the rapper façade. Just be you. Just be you, whoever that is. It’s ok to smile. One thing I remember about Heavy the most is his ability to smile. Regardless of what, just smile dude. Just the ability to smile; it’s ok.