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?