Jacob Banks
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The “Necessity Of Expression,” As Explained By Jacob Banks

A few stolen moments before his sold-out New York show reveal the sureness of Jacob Banks.

Jacob Banks is pressed for time. With just a few hours before his headlining show at New York’s massive Brooklyn Steele, the Nigerian-born, Birmingham, UK-raised artist has gone all day without so much as a bite to eat. “Can we make it 10 minutes, 15 tops for the interview?” his tour manager asks. “It’s been a crazy day. He still has meet-n-greets and hasn’t eaten yet.”

Seconds later, Banks emerges from a backdoor inside the Williamsburg venue. He smiles and offers hugs, possibly sensing a brewing push-and-pull between press and a protective handler. He quickly diffuses potential rising tensions by giving an OK to his camp and escorting me into a tiny greenroom.

“Just do your thing,” Banks says at the onset of the interview. The irony of his statement is that I, and the rest of the nearly 2,000-person crowd, chose to spend their Friday night watching him do his.

On stage, the 27-year-old is a behemoth. Standing at 6-foot-4, he never scowls nor grins at the audience during his songs. Instead, his eyes are focused and his face, stoic. It’s intentional and penetrative. Mr. Banks and the mandem—Danny his guitarist, HB his drummer and bass player, and musical director Smoove—are there purely to serve the moment. You bought a ticket? Cool. Jacob & Co. are there to deliver.

 

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NYC, the gang and I are ever so grateful, thank you so much 🌹 Boston, let’s show out tonight 🚀

A post shared by Jacob Banks (@mrjacobbanks) on

However, before the night’s performance, and in the midst of choreographed chaos backstage, Banks is chill, soft-spoken and full. Not full of himself, but full of experience, which translates to a gentle but firm assurance. He crosses his legs while he sits and adjusts his glasses from time to time when they slide down the bridge of his nose. That fullness allows for him to have great empathy, a byproduct of the many villages he says raised him.

“I was raised by culture: African culture, Caribbean culture, youth British culture, which is Caribbean culture,” he says. “I was raised by the streets. I was raised by the nerds. I was raised by cartoons. I was raised by happily ever afters and real life tragic endings as well.”

Speaking of those very cultures, there’s a knock at the door. His food has arrived. “What did you have?” his tour manager questions. Take a gander at Banks’ Twitter profile and you’ll read that he considers himself a jerk chicken connoisseur. However, someone else will be partaking in his beloved dish. Tonight, Banks is having the curry, while the oxtail will go to another famished member of the tour. How the British entertainer was able to get authentic Jamaican dishes in Williamsburg is equal parts impressive and mind boggling, but I digress. There are more important things to dive into right now.

Banks released his debut album Village via Interscope in November 2018 and to celebrate, he played FIFA at home with his two cats. For the singer-songwriter, music is “purely a necessity of expression” that he doesn’t let get to his head. “I have meticulously created a life where I don’t need that validation. I exist outside of music,” he says.

It’s odd to hear him speak so humbly about his art. As the night rolled in and fans stood eager to hear his robust voice, Banks performed songs from Village and his EPs The Paradox and The Boy Who Cried Freedom, which merited everything from a woman’s shrill “Sing daddy!” to the New York male equivalent “Yerrr!” from the diverse crowd.

The stand out moment of the night, however, came during his delivery of the pensive, almost spiritual “Slow Up.” Written as a note to himself that he wished he stayed younger for longer, Banks reflected on exactly when he knew he wasn’t a kid anymore: “What I've learnt from a mirror/Look too hard and you’ll find you a stranger/Love is just a decision/The choice is yours.”

“When I look back, I think I was eight. I remember thinking—well, obviously at the time I didn’t know, it was just life happening—but at eight I thought I have to be my own cheerleader,” he reflects. “I realized it wasn’t going to come from nowhere else.”

As Banks reached the second chorus of the triggering ballad, a growl from the deepest hollows of his belly emerged, setting the audience ablaze and prompting many to abandon their phones and inherit the vulnerability of the moment. At the close of the song, he hung onto the microphone and rested his head into the crease of his arm, almost spent from the effort of mentally referring to his adolescent self. In return, a chorus of applause came barreling toward the stage.

Banks’ voice is Thor’s hammer, a lightning strike against mediocre industry standards. The cacophony of car alarms you may suddenly hear outside of your window isn’t caused by a neighborhood perp. It’s because of Banks’ rich baritone, nothing more, beloved.

When we’d almost forgotten our 15 minutes together were coming to a close, a prompt second knock at the door served as a gentle reminder. “We’ll take five more minutes. I was on the phone for a bit,” Banks lies to his publicist, Stefanie. There was no such call, but giving to the moment is what he does and if the moment needs more time, then so be it. There are more questions to ask the man of the moment.

I prod about the several drug references on standout tracks like “Mexico,” “Kumbaya,” “Nostalgia” and “Witness.” As a man who doesn’t drink or partake in substances, Banks says the lyrics (“You're so far away but when someone drops your name/You come pourin' through my veins/Like that Hollywood cocaine”) are less about a habit and more about needing a place to go.

“Drugs are in pop culture. I see it everywhere. It doesn’t bother me really. Do what you want, it’ll kill you, but do what you want,” he laughs. “Ultimately, I understand escapism. I understand needing a place to go. One can make the argument I’m addicted to expressing myself.”

He chats more about recognition versus representation and the importance of being seen but also realizing it’s not just important that you’re seen. But whether Jacob is visible or not, whether you hear his music or not, it’s still all good. He’s still G, as he’s often says, because Jacob made it so. Jacob will always be speaking his mind as Jacob, regardless.

“It was important for me that when my album came I didn’t let it define me,” he says. “I exist outside of Jacob Banks the artist,“ he said.

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Devi Love and Charlamagne tha God attend AfroTech 2019 at Oakland Marriott City Center on November 08, 2019 in Oakland, California.
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At AfroTech, Black Tech Innovators Ban Together To Make Their Voices Heard

Entrepreneur Delane Parnell made history last year after his esports software company PlayVS raised $15 million for its Series-A funding round, making it the largest Series-A ever raised by a Black founder in consumer internet. In September of this year PlayVS, which provides a platform for competitive high school esports competitions, again made headlines when it announced that it raised an additional $81 million in funding from a group of notable investors that included Adidas, Samsung, Sean “Diddy” Combs, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Over the course of 15 months, the company raised a combined total of $96 million in funding to expand the business and a 27-year-old Parnell, who serves as the company’s CEO, became one of the most talked-about Black founders in tech.

During a time when only 1 percent of venture capital funding is going to Black founders and only 0.2 percent of venture capital funding is going to Black women founders, Parnell’s recent success represents an anomaly in the tech startup world. Despite a major increase in press concerning the lack of access and opportunities that Black founders in tech receive and an incredible growth in minority-focused venture capital funds and resources, the PlayVS founder remains a part of a small but growing crop of Black millennial tech founders that have created innovative business solutions so desirable that even the predominantly white-male dominated tech world has been forced to recognize and support them.

Blavity Inc. Founder and CEO Morgan DeBaun is also a member of this burgeoning class of Black millennial startup founders making noise in the industry. Last year, Blavity Inc., which owns Black millennial media and event platforms Blavity, Shadow and Act, Travel Noire, 21 Ninety, AfroTech, and Summit 21, raised a $6.5 million Series-A funding round and grew the company from one office and 30 employees to two offices and over 80 employees. DeBaun, who founded media company Blavity Inc. in 2014 with her three co-founders Jonathan Jackson, Jeff Nelson and Aaron Samuels, is vocal about the struggles not only Black tech founders face but the ones Black tech employees experience working at large white tech companies. Last month, DeBaun once again had a platform to speak on these issues during Blavity’s fourth annual AfroTech Conference, a tech conference geared toward Black millennial founders.

 

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#AfroTech has information and knowledge for everyone. You can find advice from other founders, VCs to pitch your company to, or the tech talent you may need to get your idea going. Don't miss out on new connections that can help you succeed. #linkinbio #careeropportunities #careergoals #venturecapitalist #founders

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AfroTech was created in 2016 as an event to highlight Black tech innovators and provide more opportunities and information for them to succeed. The first three years of the conference took place in San Francisco, Calif., the U.S. epicenter of technology startups. This year, the festival was moved to Oakland, Calif., a strategic move meant to honor a city with a rich Black history and patronize the small Black businesses, that despite aggressive gentrification, are still operating today. During the second weekend of November, Downtown Oakland hosted 10,000 Black tech innovators from around the U.S. looking to form meaningful connections, learn from one another, and celebrate the rising profile of Black people in tech.

One of AfroTech’s primary missions is to address the lack of information Black millennials have about the technology industry. The dozens of high-profile guest speakers, which included Parnell, The ShadeRoom founder Angelica Nwandu, lawyer and political commentator Angela Rye, and media personality Charlamagne Tha God, were carefully selected to provide Black founders, college students, and employees access to knowledge that would better equip them to lead successful tech careers. Across four different stages, speakers shared their experiences and advice on venture capital funding, coding, the cannabis industry, media, and blockchain.

“We don’t always have the vocabulary to frame our success so that we can have opportunities like getting venture capital,” DeBaun tells VIBE prior to taking the main stage at day one of AfroTech. “Part of AfroTech is creating information so that people know how to talk about what they are already doing. We don’t have to change much besides just the vocabulary and breaking down some of the biases we have been taught about ourself.”

Although knowledge plays a big part in enabling Black people in tech to receive greater opportunities, a supportive and well-connected network pipeline is another key factor necessary to fuel the group’s success. In tech, warm introductions and word of mouth rivals technical skills and ability during the job selection process. Ivy League and country club connections make it difficult for non-white people to penetrate the exclusive tech veil. A harsh reality that new diversity and inclusion departments and new executives are apparently working hard to change.

 

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Reports revealed #Al's discriminatory instincts — including mislabeling Black people as gorillas — are only getting worse. What can we do to improve the future of artificial intelligence and remedy the tech industry's diversity problem? #Tech #Afrotech #Al #artificialintelligence

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“Unfortunately we have been trained to have a mindset of deficit, that we can be one of only,” says DeBaun about the lack of representation in tech spaces. “The vision of AfroTech is that we show that it’s an abundance, it’s unlimited potential, unlimited power. So if you have access you should give it to someone else. That’s your duty and your responsibility because you wouldn’t have gotten here if someone hadn’t given you access most likely. AfroTech is actually designed to try to speed that up.”

AfroTech’s socialization component may be the most valuable part of the weekend. Dozens of high-profile tech companies from Google to Twitter, Lyft to YouTube, sent representatives to set up booths to recruit potential job candidates and share valuable information about its diversity efforts. Diversity-focused venture capital firms like Harlem Capital Partners and Precursor Ventures were also engaged with founders and swapped business cards during the conference’s designated networking periods. For Black people who did not attend an Ivy League school or grow up with a country club membership, these moments provided a valuable and direct pipeline to the world’s largest companies.

AfroTech’s opportunities for connection and knowledge distribution did not simply end once the conference did. The AfroTech app, website, and Slack channel have continued to provide helpful resources and opportunities for Black people in tech to communicate with one another. With platforms like AfroTech, Black Women Talk Tech, Black Girls Code and Black Founders, Black people in tech are provided with opportunities to not only empower themselves in this industry but support and empower other Black people in the process.

 

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"A lot of the opportunities I have is because I invited myself instead of waiting to be invited. I don’t often wait for people to validate whether or not I should be in the room. I make that decision myself. In this world, you can’t be afraid of “no” or “sorry, I can’t help you”. You let that be fuel to keep going no matter what. 👊🏾" - @carterlove⠀ ⠀ We found this story in our mentions and just had to reshare these inspirational vibes! We know many #BlacksInTech can wait forever to "be invited" to the table, so it's so important to be the change and invite ourselves! ✊🏾Or better yet, make our own 💁🏾.⠀ ⠀ What are some ways you invite yourself to opportunities? Let's talk about it!👇🏾

A post shared by AfroTech (@afro.tech) on Nov 20, 2019 at 5:31pm PST

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Solange Uses Her Divine Spirit To Calm The Mind And Body For "Bridge-s" Performance Piece

There's a serene feeling over the bodies standing in the iconic architecture at the Getty Center Museum. Jazzy horns, peaceful keys, and crisp guitar riffs gently interrupt the soothing silence as dancers dripped in marigold threads swayed to "Counting," a composition created by Solange. A series of odd numbers like "5", "7" and "9" are recited on a loop by half of her dancers while the others chant "6", "4" and "2." It's just a preview of her latest creation Bridge-s but felt like a dynamic meditation.

Bridge-s brings yet another magnetic piece into her series of interdisciplinary works that spawned after the release of her magnum opus, A Seat At The Table. The world was introduced to Solange's artistic side thanks to performance art pieces at the Guggenheim in New York and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.

Composed by Solange and choreographed by Gerard & Kelly, Bridge-s was created with the pillars, beams, and columns around the museum in mind. Dancers and the orchestra used the space to their advantage, with tuba players catching the peripheral of attendees from afar.

Four rollouts will take place November 16-17, curated with a selection of films that include Black to Techno by Jenn Nkiru, AFRONAUTS and Boneshaker by Nuotama Bodomo, The State of Things by singer-songwriter Kish Robinson (Kilo Kish) and more. In its entirety, Bridge-s was designed to explore "transitions through time."

This was felt throughout the performance piece as dancers move with the intent of love, internal struggle, and unity. In a stunning zine designed by Sablā Stays, Gerard & Kelly shared the emphasis behind their modernist and inclusive approach.

"Our work, like hers, is part of an interdisciplinary effort throughout the arts and humanities to redefine modernism by critically engaging its prevailing narratives. By accounting for differences of gender, sexuality, and race. By focusing on intimate and collective histories. By centering our work around the body, dance and movement," they said.

Solange also opened up about the importance the museum and the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg played in the performance piece. "Both Elbphilharmonie Hamburg and the Getty Museum have sure strong distinctive voices spatially, and so the intention is that all of the work, the movement, the language, the songs all align with those principles," she said. "Working with Gerard and Kelly, who share many of the same philosophies on their approach to interpreting time and space through performance has really built the foundation [for] the spirit of this collaboration."

Like the rest of us, the artist watched closely the dancers glide across the floor, while bandmembers release enchanting sonnets with vocalists dropping a few high notes in between. Guests like Thundercat (and his Pikachu backpack), Kilo Kish, Dev Hynes of Blood Orange and Tyler, The Creator were also left speechless after the performance.

“I just want to thank you guys for allowing me the space to evolve, experiment and express new frontiers,” Solange said to the crowd after the assembly provided endless cheers.

Learn more about Bridge-s and get free tickets here.

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Scott Legato

Rick Ross' ‘Port Of Miami 2 Tour' Is Motivation To Hustlers Far And Wide

“I can spot a millionaire—from the guy working at the carwash,” Rick Ross said to a sold-out crowd at New York City’s Gramercy Theatre on his “Port of Miami 2 Tour.” “He got the rag hanging out of his pocket, to the way he rock his [pants]. I see the millionaire in him,” Rozay continued.

For nearly two hours on Tuesday (Oct. 15), the MMG bawse galvanized the hustler’s spirit, thanks to the preciseness of words used to explain his “came from the bottom” narrative combined with first hand accounts of the imperative mental spaces that dope boys experience.

But before Rozay graced the stage at the Gramercy Theatre, MMG’s baby boomer Yowda entertained the crowd for a brief set before passing the mic to lifelong MMG soldier Gunplay.

Rocking a black Dickies outfit, the Triple C member, who has been vocal about his cocaine addiction, stormed the stage with coke-like energy while mouthing lyrics to his sobering verse from “The Great Americans,” a song from MMG’s Self Made, Vol. 3.

Gunplay, who was actually born in the Bronx, nimbly bounced across the stage like a point-guard maneuvering through defense closed out his set with his under-the-radar street classics “Blood on the Dope,” “Bible on the Dash,” and his verse from Waka Flacka’s “Rolling.”

With marijuana smoke clouding the venue, liquor relaxing some concert-goers, and the clock inching toward 9:15 p.m., Rozay slowly walked toward the center of the stage—indirectly egging on the standing ovation by confidently nodding his head. Lex Luger’s “B.M.F.” instrumental blasted from the speakers for what seemed like minutes before the Dade County native dived into his verses.

The motivational concert commenced with the words: “I think I’m Big Meech, Larry Hoover,” here Ross is claiming his declaration to be financially independent---probably his No. 1 goal in life.

Less than two minutes into the start of Rozay’s set, The L.O.X.’s Styles P surprised the crowd by appearing onstage to deliver his verse from “B.M.F,” which was followed by ”Good Times (I Get High).” Surprises continued when Jadakiss appeared on stage to help his partner-in-rhyme run through their classic, “We Gonna Make It.”

 

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Elite Mc’ing last night with @richforever . #Dblock #Lox #NYC

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After working up a sweat, a slimmer-looking Ross shedded his beige designer trench jacket. Dressed in all white—like the cocaine money that he raps about—with shining jewels wrapped around his neck and wrists, Ross played the visual representation of success to kids from every coast.

Ross proceeded the show with his get-money classics like “I’m Not a Star,” where when he rapped: “Nine for the slice, dummy that’s a Dan Marino/Talking quarterbacks, meaning talking quarter kilos,” concert-goers enthusiasm seemed to max-out as they rapped with words with Ross.

After performing a list of favorites like “Aston Martin Music” and “Hustlin’,” the Box Chevy anthem that set the rapper’s career in motion, and “Where My Money (I Need That),” Rozay surprised New Yorkers by inviting Brooklyn native Fabolous onstage.

The Young OG entertained the Gramercy with hits like “Breathe” and “Cuffin Season” before closing his set with his verse from Meek Mill’s “Uptown.”

As the night grew to a close, Ross decided to remind fans that it’s totally fine for hustlers to shed tears. With that, the 43-year-old delivered his masterful verse from Kanye West’s “Devil in a New Dress.”

The place erupted with emotion with lines like “Whole clique appetite had tapeworms/Spinning Teddy Pendergrass vinyl as my J burns/I shed a tear before the night’s over.”

 

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Elite Mc’ing last night with @richforever . #Dblock #Lox #NYC

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Tears continued to fall as Ross ran through the CeeLo Green-assisted “Tears of Joy,” a woeful hip-hop ballad that shows the imperativeness—from a dope boys POV—of financial freedom.

Overall, Rozay’s performance is not filled with animation and routines. His stage presence isn’t as strong as fellow hustler-turned-rappers Jay-Z and Pusha T. However, Ross’ words of encouragement are powerful tools that incites the “give me liberty or death” mentality that birthed the hustlers spirit of America, and birthed America.

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