David Banner Talks Tea Parties, T.I. & 'Death Of A Pop Star'

David Banner has no filter. Since the late ‘90s when he was a member of Crooked Lettaz, Banner has made a career out of sidestepping rapper stereotypes. Throughout the decade, he's hammered out sneering street anthems (2003’s “Like A Pimp”); a strip club soundtrack (“Play”); and a cross-over rap hit (2008’s Chris Brown assisted “Get Like Me”). But it’s his socially conscious work in and out of the music scene that truly separates the ambitious entertainment mogul from his peers.

From his introspective spiritual take on Black life (“Cadillac’s on 22’s”) to his tireless charity work following the devastating Hurricane Katrina (In November 2006 Banner was awarded a Visionary Award by the National Black Caucus of the State Legislature for his relief efforts), the politically-minded talent cannot be placed in a box. Banner’s latest effort, Death Of A Pop Star, a conceptual collaborative album with fellow super producer 9th Wonder due out Nov. 9, dissects the claustrophobic, artistic constraints of the current music scene. It’s yet another bold statement from a man who's also garnered acclaim as a commercial producer and writer of his message-driven “Evolve” Gatorade spot. VIBE sits down with David Banner to talk about the album, the music industry and current affairs. —Keith Murphy

VIBE:  In a recent interview you talked about the inspiration behind Death Of A Pop Star. What was your mindset going into that project?

David Banner: Initially, I was working on my own album when I was going through a lot spiritually and mentally…just growing up. I’ve been able to see just about every aspect of the world, from Third World countries to some of the richest places in Europe and in America. I really got another aspect of how the world looks at Black people, especially young Black males. I didn’t want to die with everyone remembering David Banner for the most for “Play” and “Get Like Me.” Just as a man that bothered me because historically, the only thing people are going to know about you 500 years from now are the things that’s left in books, music and articles. I had a really big problem with that.

So what role did 9th Wonder play in adding on to your legacy?  

Well, I made a list of producers I wanted to work with…it was 9th Wonder, Knots, DJ Khalil, and Madlib. I produce my own music, but I wanted somebody that made me feel different than my music makes me feel. I flew to Mississippi and jumped into my Impala and I started driving. I was going to drive all the way across the United States. My first stop was in North Carolina. I actually met 9th Wonder through a mutual friend, so he was just going to be my first stop, but we hit it off so much beyond music…it was more as black men and what he stood for and his views about life. His views were not exactly like mines, but at the end of the road he wanted the same things for young black men as I did.

The album title is also symbolic of Michael Jackson’s death and what he meant to pop music, right?

That was something that 9th had said, but I think people took it out of context. It wasn’t so much about Michael Jackson. It was that Michael had died around the same time when we started talking about titles for the album. But really it’s about the death of contemporary music. People just look at music as a download. But what they don’t understand is when you get a Lil Wayne on your album, you have to pay for Wayne and you have to get that money back. If you are not able to push units like a Michael or an Usher, how will you be able to possess the power to really move the masses of people? That’s where the power comes in to renegotiate your recording contract; that’s where you have the power to not only move things musically, but to move things socially.

Do you think that because music has become so disposable artists are less inclined to take chances?

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Jay Z's Team Roc Takes Legal Step To Improve Healthcare For Mississippi Inmates

Jay Z and Team Roc, are backing a new lawsuit on behalf of inmates at Mississippi’s Parchman prison. The suit accuses Centene Corp. of providing substandard healthcare to inmates and downplaying the risk of COVID-19 infection within the prison.

The lawsuit, filed in Delaware Chancery Court on Wednesday (May 27) by Centene shareholder, Laura Wood, seeks “basic answers to basic questions about grave injustices perpetrated behind prison walls.” Wood is asking for a court order to “inspect Centene’s books and records in an effort to investigate potential wrongdoing.” Jay Z and Roc Nation lawyer, Alex Spiro, is listed as legal counsel.

Centene is the the parent company of Centurion, which provides healthcare to prisons around the country. According to the legal documents, Centene has a “long history of failing to provide proper health care to the prison populations.”

The company seemingly disputed claims made in the lawsuit. “Centurion and its board of directors are proud of the company’s history of providing outstanding and innovative health-care solutions to this vulnerable population,” spokesperson Marcela Hawnin a statement. “We look forward to sharing more about our role in the delivery of health-care to these individuals during legal proceedings.”

Centurion has faced misconduct allegations in the past, which are outlined in the lawsuit. In 2016, a woman sued the company for forcing her to “give birth in a non-sterile environment without a qualified OBGYN,” and two Centurion health administrators were removed from their positions for failing to disperse medication to inmates at Tennessee Prison for Women in a “timely manner.” In 2018, a third-party audit found that Centurion “jeopardized patient safety in an effort to increase its earnings.”

Parchman inmates were already subjected to inhumane conditions, including no electricity or running water, rodents, and crumbling infrastructure, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. Aside from the operational and janitorial issues, prison overcrowding and lack of proper health care could result in the viral disease wreaking havoc on Parchman's prison population, especially vulnerable inmates who suffer disproportionately from conditions like diabetes, hepatitis, HIV, and asthma.

Forty detainees have died while in custody at Mississippi prisons since late last year. At least one Parchman inmate died from COVID-19. According to the Mississippi Department of Corrections, the inmate battled preexisting health conditions.


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Russell Simmons Accusers Detail Sexual Assault Allegations In ‘On The Record’

On the Record offers a detailed look into multiple sexual assault allegations against Russell Simmons, fears that Black women have about sharing their stories, and the lack of intersectionality within the #MeToo movement.

In the 97-minute film, which debuted on HBO Max on Wednesday (May 27), former record executive Drew Dixon grapples with her decision to go public with accusations against Simmons, and the concept of “race loyalty” that Black women battle when they’re attacker is a Black man.

Directed and produced by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, On the Record does a deep dive into the misogyny and sexism permeating through hip-hop. Of course, hip-hop has never been a monolith. The roots of the culture are steeped in protest, and although the genre didn’t invent misogyny or sexism (which is noted in the film), Black women have had an understandably complicated relationship with hip-hop.

“You stand in solidarity with the movement as a Black woman,” Dixon explains. “You don’t parse the sexism within the movement as a Black woman. We were so excited about hip-hop and what it meant that we laughed it off…and now that I’m older I realize that language set a tone. But I didn’t see it that way at the time.”

Dixon, a former A&R at Def Jam, began her music industry career in the early ‘90s as an A&R for Def Jam where she worked with the likes of Redman and Method Man, Tupac Shakur, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Mary J. Blige, and more.

One night in the mid-1990s, Dixon claims Simmons lured her to his apartment under the pretense of wanting her to listen to a demo track on a stereo located in his bedroom. As Dixon recalls, she walked into the bedroom and attempted to figure out how to turn on the CD player.“The next thing I know he [Simmons] is naked wearing a condom and he just grabbed me…and he threw me in the bed. He wrestles me to the bed and pins me down and I’m fighting and I’m saying ‘no!’ He’s telling me to ‘stop fighting!’ in a very cold, menacing, detached voice that I’d never, ever heard from him before.”

Dixon says she blacked out during the alleged assault. “Which is something survivors often do. It’s like a self-preservation tactic.” The next thing that she remembers is being naked in a tub with Simmons whom she says was casually talking to her as if they had had a consensual encounter. Dixon says she left his apartment, walked 22 blocks home, climbed in the shower and began to sob. “I was reduced to nothing. In that moment, I was trash. Nothing about anything that makes me who I am mattered. I was a physical object. A physical device. Some physical thing that he [Simmons] utilized for his pleasure.”

A few days later, Dixon says that she told a friend and former A&R, Miguel Mojica, about the sexual assault. She also continued working at Def Jam for a “little while longer” before resigning. Dixon went on to work at Arista Records where she says that she endured sexual harassment from L.A. Reid.

Reid denies Dixon’s claims calling the allegations “unfounded, not true, and represent a complete misrepresentation and fabrication of any facts or events alleged therein as having occurred.”

Dixon didn’t speak publicly about the accusations against Simmons and Reid until a 2017 New York Times interview. On the Record chronicles the moments leading up to the article's release, the NYT’s vetting process -- which included an extensive background check-- and the ripple effect that the experience had on Dixon's life and career, namely in that she quit the music industry.

“For 22 years I took one for the team,” she says of keeping allegations against Simmons quiet for decades out of fear of letting “the culture” down and not being believed. “Russell Simmons was the king of hip-hop and I was proud of him. I didn’t want to let the culture down. I loved the culture. I loved Russell too.”

In the film, Dixon also opens up about her children and the life that she built after the music industry. She split from her husband and moved from New York to California to start a new chapter. The film also features a discussion between Dixon and two other Simmons accusers, screenwriter, Jenny Lumet, and Sil Lai Abrams and activist writer, and former Def Jam executive assistant.

More than a dozen women have accused Simmons of sexual assault or misconduct, eight of which are featured in the film. Some of Simmon’s accusers share similar accounts to Dixon’s allegations.

“I have issued countless denials of the false allegations against me,” Simmons notes in a written statement featured in the film. “I have lived my life honorably as an open book for decades, devoid of any kind of violence against anyone.”

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George Floyd’s Family Wants Minneapolis Police Officers Arrested For His Murder

The family of George Floyd are demanding justice after the 46 year old was killed by Minneapolis police earlier in the week. Floyd’s cousin and brothers want the four officers involved to be arrested and convicted of murder.

“We need to see justice happen,” Floyd’s cousin, Tera Brown, told CBS This Morning. “This was clearly murder. We want to see them arrested. We want to see them charged, we want to see them convicted. He did not deserve what happened to him.”

In reactions to the Floyd's murder, tens of thousands of people took to the street in Minneapolis, Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities around the country.

“I don’t want the protests to just be for show. I want to see action,” continued Brown. “I want to see these people pay for what they did. We need to hold them accountable.”

Floyd was described as an “amazing” person who was well loved and “never did anything” to anyone. “Everybody loved my brother. I just don’t understand why people want to hurt people, killed people, they didn’t have to do that to my brother,” said his brother, Philonise Floyd.

Two of the four officers involved have been identified as Tou Thao, and Derek Chauvin, the latter of whom is the officer who put his knee in Floyd’s neck as he begged for air and later died. All four officers have been fired.

Former NBA player Steven Jackson took to social media to pay tribute to his longtime friend whom he called his twin. “Floyd was my brother, we called each other twin,” Jackson said in an emotional video. “My boy was doing what he was supposed to do and ya’ll go and kill my brother.”


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Where we from not many make it out but my Twin was happy I did. I’m gonna continue to make u proud fam. It makes me so angry that after all the things u been through when u get to your best self that they take u out like this. Fuk Rest Easy Twin

A post shared by Stephen Jackson Sr. (@_stak5_) on May 26, 2020 at 7:04pm PDT

Minnesota is no stranger to police brutality. The Star-Tribune published a list of the 193 people who have died “after a physical confrontation with Minnesota police” since the year 2000 (excluding car accidents during police pursuits). The database includes Philando Castile, the 32-year-old cafeteria worker killed by a Minneapolis cop during a traffic stop in 2016. Castile’s murder was the first, and possibly only time, that a Minnesota police officer was criminally charged for killing a civilian, although the former officer, Jeronimo Yanez, was acquitted.

Watch the interview with Flynn's family below.


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