Florida hip-hop artist Robb Bank$ is not your typical rapper. Last year, he dropped Calendars, his debut mixtape that found him rapping over Aaliyah's "One In A Million" and Master P's "Bout It Bout It". He's down with SpaceGhostPurrp, who's become more of an enigma than a rapper these days, and he's got drama with members of the A$AP Mob. Weirdest of all? He's Shaggy's son, and while rumors swirled, he put them to rest by putting his father on the cover of his latest mixtape, Tha City.
We caught up with Robb to talk in depth about his recording process, his beef with A$AP, and where he gets his inspiration from. Read up on one of the most singular rappers out right now.
VIBE: I’ve seen a lot of people on Tumblr asking what the theme of the “Tha City” is. What would you describe it as?
Rob Bank$: When I was working on the music with Nuri, a lot of the shit wasn’t sounding like the trend of hip-hop right now. Every year or two, hip-hop, especially internet hip-hop, goes through new phases, new artists, blah blah blah. I’m not gonna go into details about who started the trends because I feel like anybody who follows and loves hip-hop knows what I’m talking about. Everything on Calendars [his first mixtape] was mainly happy music, and I feel like hip-hop has reached this point where everybody’s friends, holding hands, and I don’t like that shit. People might think I’m some dumb ass country nigga, but I know my shit when it comes to hip-hop, I know everything there is to know about where it came from. If there’s gonna be a trend, let it be for lyrics to come back.
On the mixtape, people might think I’m a angry ass nigga, and a lot of it is real, but the whole reason I chose to do this is because my last project was based on love and happiness, and Tha City is based on fear. I wanted to see what would happen, because if people liked Calendars, I wanted to see what happens when I drop music with the opposite of that sound. I don’t have any gimmicks, I don’t wear any gold. I’m all about the music. I read shit people say online about how I sold out because I don’t wear Supreme. I knew that being completely truthful and saying things about certain people, like my family and my personal life with women, I knew it’d rub some people the wrong way. That’s why with the album cover, I don’t have anything to hide.
I wanted to be the antagonist on this new project. On some songs I might be going at certain people, but it’d really be just to get things off my chest.
Considering you’ve gotten involved with a bit of the beef between SpaceGhostPurrp and A$AP Rocky, don’t you think they could have put their problems behind them and continued to make dope music?
Honestly, I’ve heard so many stories from both sides at this point, and it’s not even my place to speak on it just because I don’t know exactly what happened and I wasn’t there. But the way I was brought up, it didn’t matter what the person did, if that’s your nigga and you fuck with him, then you’re gonna rock with him no matter what. As far as I’m concerned, I didn’t give a fuck what happened. If they try me dog, they’re trying me. But I felt like the situation went too far. At the end of the day, I don’t have any beef with any A$AP niggas. People might think I’m lying because they hear me diss them on the new project, but I don’t know how people wouldn’t have expected me to talk about certain shit. I haven’t put out a project in a year or two, of course I’m gonna speak about my life and certain situations. But I really have no personal problem with them. I’m not about to get on Twitter with these niggas. Twitter is not a real place.
I see you on Tumblr talking about how you listen to a lot of Sade, Aaliyah, some Lil’ B, Drake. What’s some music that you like listening to and draw influence from?
When I moved to the south, I started listening to Webbie, he’s one of my favorite rappers ever, of course Boosie, and Lil’ Phat. My favorite rapper ever is Biggie, he made me wanna rap. I loved underground rap growing up too, shit like Atmosphere, Brother Ali, Eyedea, that kind of stuff. I would listen to a lot of alternative shit too. Of course Sade, Portishead. As I started picking up producing from Purrp and Nuri, I would incorporate shit I watched into my production, like shit from anime and the soundtracks. Then Purrp got me into like heavy metal rock shit, and I don’t listen to that shit very much, but I started to, and there’s a lot of shit that you can take from there in terms of sampling.
In terms of your sound, it’s definitely dark, and you’ve got almost a snarl in a lot of your delivery. Why is that?
First of all, it’s honesty. It’s what’s going on in my life at the moment that I was recording. I was upset about a lot of things. On Calendars I wasn’t really like that, and on the new project, I was more angry because a lot more things have happened. It was just my mentality going into it, and I didn’t mean to make it like that, it’s just how I was at the time. I was pissed off, the production I was making with Nuri and Purrp was angry, loud, and I had to get that shit out.
I don’t know what could happen next, I could do fucking love music next, some R&B, I donno, whatever I’m feeling. It always comes to me in different ways, like whatever I’m going through in my life at the moment gets put into the music. I always get inspired by something visually, like last time it was the happy shit, which was “Skins”, the U.S. version. And for Tha City, it was inspired by a lot of horror movies on Netflix. But now I’m good. I don’t know what my next mode will be.
You were supposed to drop Year Of The Savage at some point this year, but that got postponed and you decided to drop Tha City first. What’s good with Y.O.T.S.?
I was working on that shit, but that’s the album. I was gonna put it out on a label, but I got a distribution deal instead and I signed with a management team. The management team was like, “Focus on the mixtape. It’s going on two years since you haven’t put out a project in almost two years, so put out a mixtape and then focus on the album.” So I just put everything into Tha City, and it was originally supposed to be a full collab tape with SpaceGhostPurrp, but he was going through his little “I don’t wanna be a rapper shit”, so I ended up doing it all by myself and it grew into something else. Year Of The Savage is still coming, but it just got put on hold because I agreed with the management team and I was enjoying doing the mixtape and dealing with my anger.
I don’t want my album to have such a dark vibe, I’d rather all that be put on a smaller project and have the album be more musical.
What’s your recording and songwriting process like?
Often times SpaceGhostPurrp would send me the beat and I’d be in the studio with Nuri and we’d tweak the beat and add touches to it. Sometimes I’d be in the studio with Purrp, and he’d lay down a drum pattern or a couple sounds, and then Nuri will go in and do his shit, and then I’d find another sample to add on. But Purrp is his own artist at the end of the day in terms of Raider Klan and as a solo artist, so he couldn’t always be there in the studio. But he would always send me beats, or I would hear a beat he put out on the internet, which is how I got the second half of the beat for the intro on Tha City. I’m really cool with his manager too, so his manager would be playing me his beats, and I’d be like “Damn, what’s this?” So I’d call Purrp and ask if he could send it to me, and if it was raw I’d try to think about what I could add, and how I would rap on it.
On Calendars I was writing and on songs like “Practice”, “Zan With That Lean”, “Trust Me”. And then I stopped writing because I felt like with the state of hip-hop, rappers that are seen as lyrical really aren’t that great. So I’d listen to them and it sounded like they were reading from the dictionary or some shit, using big ass words like “mathematical astronomical”, and I don’t want to sound like that. So I started going straight off my head and that’s what I did for Tha City. If I wasn’t in the studio, I’d write down certain lines that I thought of and wanted to say, or I’d just write down references I wanted to use, like Powerpuff Girls or some shit. But the whole process could get tedious as fuck, so that’s why it took so long to get the project out.
Who are some of your favorite artists out right now?
Commercially I think my favorite artists right now are Future and Drake. I like M.I.A., Gucci, Webbie, Young Dolph. I don’t listen to that much new music though, I listen to more old music.
Why’d you get kicked out of high school?
Just stupid shit. Like I got kicked out of real high school my senior year for smoking weed during school, skipping school and shit. I had like a 1.0 GPA, just dumb shit. Then I got sent to alternative school, and from there I honestly just dropped out from the whole thing. I dropped Calendars and I was hopping on planes to do shows so shit just kinda took off, so school was too much to deal with. If you don’t know about alternative school, that shit is like jail, it’s not like real school. It’s almost like getting locked up and put in a holding cell. It’s fucked up.