Indeed, the platinum Mississippi producer, who has paced hits for the likes of T.I., Lil Wayne, and Chris Brown, has been no stranger to taking a stand on social issues. But with the release of his upcoming March 22nd project Sex, Drugs & Video—a star-studded set that is being billed a “free” album—Banner is in a very conscious mood. VIBE caught up with the rapper, beatman, activist, actor and adman (his ABV company has produced commercials for such companies as Gatorade and Mercedes Benz) to talk about Martin and how his new project means much more than just music.—Keith Murphy
Before we talk about your Sex, Drugs & Video project, let’s get into what seems to be on everyone’s mind: the unarmed murder of Florida teen Trayvon Martin. What’s your take on his tragic death and the protest surrounding his shooting? And is this par-for-the-course for people of color?
Anytime we have a complaint about anything we have to remember that we as black people have allowed that word to be desensitized so much that anyone can say it. There’s no respect for a black life or the struggle that black folks have gone through historically. If that shooting happened to any other race the guy that shot the kid would have never walked free.
So you don’t subscribe to the whole self-defense excuse in Martin’s shooting?
No. For a person just to say, ‘Oh, it’s self defense…’ Come on dude, you are talking about a child, man. And the thing is, hip-hop is supposed to be the voice of the streets, the voice of the people. That’s why this new project I’m doing is so important. We wouldn’t have to worry about what a label thinks if we want to make a song about Trayvon. We can communicate with our fans the way that we want to without worrying about anything. If we want to make a song today about Trayvon and get it to our fans directly this is what I’m trying to do.
So, let’s talk about that free album project. What’s the concept?
It’s the ‘2M1 Movement’. The name of the free album is called Sex, Drugs & Video Games. Again, it’s a movement, and I’ very blessed and I thank God it. The album is really more about freedom…the fans and the artists. We want two million people to download the album. The whole industry has gotten to the point where the most important people are made to feel powerless. I saw what the comedian Louis C.K. did…how he put out his project and went straight to the fans. What I’m trying to say with this project is that urban music is not looked at as a viable entity anymore. The urban DJ’s can’t really get work. You see a person in a club now with just a laptop. You don’t see us in advertisement or all the places we used to be. So instead of begging or hoping that people see some worth in our music, how about we get together and show that our music is still a viable entity? And the way that we can do that is through paper.
So since you are giving this album for free, where does gaining power come in?
Everyone can download the album for free on my site at davidbanner.com. But I am asking for a donation. 2 million people donating a dollar…that’s power. This is a jamming album. We got Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, A$AP Rocky, the Game, Bun B, Nipsey Hussle, Ras Kass…and it goes on and on. And we shot a video for every song. So every Wednesday up until the album drops on May 22, we are dropping a song a week. Then we will drop a video the following Wednesday. I have a song called ‘Californication’ with me, Snoop Dogg, Nipsey, and Ras. I’m going to show people that we can still make albums. Because people got tired of buying albums because it wasn’t nothing but the single on it. So I’m about to show ‘em…we are not tripping on one single. The whole album is jamming.
What was your process of picking the artists for this album, especially a newcomer like Rocky A$AP?
I got three tracks on Rocky’s new album. I knew about Rocky early on. We knew the same people so we ended up meeting. It was just an incredible vibe. He was like a little cousin to me. Ever since then we have been working together. I told Rocky about the project and he was, ‘Big bruh, I’m with you.’ And the crazy thing about it is it’s so much bigger than music. I want 2 million people to download the album.
What do you hope to do with those two million people?
By July 22, I want to have those two million emails and change the world. I want us to have the ability to make our power felt. After we raise this $2 million, I’m going to shoot a movie and release it the same way. Instead of us begging people to shoot the kind of movies that represents our culture properly we have to do it ourselves. Like I said, I’m going to take the same equation of Louis C.K. He showed it can work.
You also have had success with your own Ad Company, which did a very high profile campaign for Gatorade. How is that part of the biz going for you?
My Ad company is still here. We’ve worked with Mercedes Benz, Marvel, and Capcom. And we are about to do some work for the Resident Evil game. It ranges from so many things. It’s just another avenue to show people that we are a viable entity. We did work on the Footloose movie that was just released. It’s bigger than hip-hop. I want any kid to know, especially people that come from impoverished situations, that we shouldn’t limit ourselves. And this is what this ‘2M1’ movement is all about. If you notice, it’s not just about a song or a free album. I want people to know that we are giving our culture away. Everything is for free. It’s to the point now where people look at hip-hop and say, ‘Wow…should I pay for it?’
That’s just the downloading culture we live in today, right?
But it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m giving you Chris Brown, A$AP Rocky, Wayne and more and yet you still want to complain about a dollar? The people that donate will get all the videos too, and I’ll be hitting their emails with exclusive songs; songs that didn’t make the mixtape. I’m showing artists how to treat their fans. We don’t look at what we are doing. We have allowed our music to be degraded. If people don’t pay for it, it’s not an art. This is what I’m trying to say with everything that I’m doing.