In House With David Banner: MC Debuts Free Album, Stars in ‘7500’ Film, Producing on Ne-Yo’s LP
David Banner is confident about three things: his music career, his acting abilities and his teeth. The Mississippi native, who debuted his free album, Sex, Drugs & Video Games, last week (May 22), paid a sweet sum to perfect his pearly whites, all in an effort to cash in on some lucrative movie deals and demonstrate his positive attitude towards life with a flashy grin.
With his new 18-track project, dubbed the “2M1Movement” and available on DavidBanner.com, the 38-year-old rapper utilizes his lively persona to ask fans thought-provoking questions like, “If life is a video game, then who really has the controller?” Banner’s assisted by top dogs Chris Brown, A$AP Rocky, Bun B, Lil Wayne and Tank, among others, who help serve his message to the masses.
During his New York City visit to The BoomBox office, David Banner gives details on why his fifth album is a “philanthropic” effort, admits that Chris Brown needs to be in the spotlight, explains his role in the forthcoming “7500” film and reveals that he’ll be producing on the “most talented” Ne-Yo’s new LP. He also traded his mean mug for a smile.
Explain the difference between this being a mixtape or an album.
It’s a free album. The reason I wanted be clear about that is because we have a lot of music to be degraded, diluted to a download, free download. When saying it’s a mixtape, historically a mixtape is when we rapped over other people’s instrumentals. That was the reason why they were free, they really weren’t songs. Even if you gave a real song you mixed them in or mixed them out, mixed them with other songs, so it would force you to buy the album or song. Now there are really free albums, we have to start being real about what they are. So people can start wanting to buy and support. Chris Brown, Lil Wayne aren’t free. A$ap Rocky isn’t free. A damn David Banner beat is not free. I’m a Grammy award-winning producer, hint, hint.
Why did you choose the name Sex, Drugs and Video Games?
I named it Sex, Drugs & Video Games because I want to pose the question to people, “Why are they so enthralled with sex, drugs and violence?” As much as we say we want better music, what do we consume? Out of our mouths we say we want better music, but the TV shows that are No. 1 TV shows, or the artists that usually go straight to the top, are usually involved in what, exactly. You did wonder, and want to blame violence on the music of young black men. But where did their stimuli come from? If you got three glasses of water, even if one is a mug, one is in a sauce pan, and one is in a straw, it’s still water. No matter where we go, whether it’s the music, whether it’s TV, movies, whatever it may be, it’s usually sex, drugs or violence.
Then I turn and ask another question, “If life is a video game, then who really has the controller?” So I’m giving you all the music that you like from David Banner, but I’m posing a question to you first. The strip club song on the album, I asked the first question, I said right before the song, “Why do we protect our little girls until they’re grown but then when they’re grown, we tell them ‘money over hoes.'” Then I play the song, then they think about it. The amazing thing about it is, if you strip the movement away and take all of that away, it’s still sex, drugs and video games, what people like, and it’s still jammin’. I just happen to want it to mean a little more.
This is a two-in-one movement, because, in actuality what I’m having people do, I’m asking people to donate at DavidBanner.com with a minimum donation of $1. What’s going to happen is, what I want to do, is get a group of 2 million people — and not Twitter, Facebook followers, that shit is free — people who are active, activated. If you can get off your ass and give $1, you’ll give $2, you’ll give $100. You will do something. You can have a million Twitter followers and you tell them to do something, and they ain’t gonna do nothing. But people who have invested in you, who have shown that out of all this free music, I believe in you enough to at least give you my personal information and a dollar, they’ll do anything. Imagine when I get 2 million of them. Imagine the power that that would give me as a person. It’s social, philanthropic. Whether it’s for money, movies, whatever it may be.
You worked with Chris Brown for “Amazing,” which is on Sex, Drugs & Video Games. Why is that when so many people still bash him for his past mistakes?
Chris is my little brother, I look at him as a little brother. I don’t know how you look at me. A lot of time Chris sees me and says, “Oh, here comes Banner with that positive shit. I just want to party man.” He’s growing up, he’s a man now. I had to realize that. Chris actually rapped on this record. He had done another single for me, that we just got cleared from the label that’s going up on my next album, the Make Believe album.
He heard the “Yao Ming” single that he did [for Sex, Drugs & Video Games] and loved the beat so much he rapped on it. I honestly want Chris to be this super pop star. We need Chris in that position. There are so many things, he has so many demons after him. It’s unwarranted, not fair what they do to Chris. I want him to stay there. We need him. We don’t have people that have the talent. There are a lot of people hovering around that position, but they’re not as talented as that boy is, man is. I really personally don’t want Chris rapping. But he laid the verse, and it was dope. What Chris Brown’s name could do for this movement is so powerful. He’s a man, and that’s what he wants to do, and I have to respect that. So I put him on and he was jamming.
You’ve been in films like “Black Snake Moan.” What’s next for your acting career?
A new project I’m in is called “7500.” I’m excited about that project because I was a pilot, and one of my biggest criticisms is I’m very serious about my acting. Most of the roles that they allow me to audition for, I’m just getting out of jail. I’m the thug, the dope dealer. Craig Brewer, who was the director of “Footloose,” “Black Snake Moan” and “Hustle & Flow,” he told me something after I was in “Black Snake Moan,” he told me, “You have one of the greatest smiles I’ve ever seen since I’ve been working. This industry is going to try and make you frown. Your money’s in your smile.” I was like damn, that’s dope! That’s when I got my teeth straight, and started cleaning them and shit. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to get those roles but it’s nearly impossible. That’s not what they see us as. That’s painful because I said in the song “Swag” thats on [Sex, Drugs & Video Games], “If that’s all these kids hear and see, that’s all they’ll ever be.”
You’re a pilot in “7500”? What’s the premise of the film?
It’s a horror movie. There’s an evil spirit on the plane. There’s a spirit on the plane, but it’s actually a play off of what happened in real life.
Have you been getting other scripts?
I get scripts but honestly I’m tired. On a personal note, I’m getting to a point in my life where I realize we chase after something for so long and you start realizing that’s not even important. I started realizing that we can’t expect those people to properly depict our people. When I say our people, our culture that we grew up in. They’re not from where we’re from, they don’t do the things that we do. In a lot of cases, that part doesn’t have to always do with race, like if they dont know, how can they show.
So I’ma do it myself. I’m gonna start shooting my own movies. I’ve been going to acting class since [my song off the Mississippi: The Album] “Like a Pimp.” People always wondered why I didn’t have a whole bunch of chains. I couldn’t afford them because I was buying first class plane tickets every week flying to L.A. to acting class. I’ve been going to acting class for seven years now. When people say I’m a good actor, it’s not that I’m an asshole like, “Yeah I know,” but shit, I done worked. I’m very serious. I’m trying to be the best actor, not the best rapper-actor.
What’s your personal life like now? Do you have a family?
I’m single. I actually wanted seven kids initially. I want to be a father. That’s the difference between me and a lot of people. I don’t know what fun is. I’ve been alone for so long. When most rappers go home, I go to produce. I’m a rapper now, but as soon I go leave here, I gotta go be a producer, then from there I go be an actor, then from there I got three companies that I run. It’s a perpetual cycle. You’re working to try to make things so you can have a family but you forget about that process. I don’t think it’s really fair to my children if I’m not present. I made a pact to myself in the next two years I’m gonna focus directly on finding a wife and then having kids. I’ll have the foundation after the movement to do that.
Who are some of the people you’ve been producing for recently?
I’m working on T.I.’s Trouble Man [album], Ne-Yo’s new album. It’s amazing because we have these visions of who we think people are by listening to their music. Ne-Yo is literally one of the most talented people I’ve met. We forget that he was a writer first. Ne-Yo deserves to get paid for producing vocals. He is amazing. So to be able to see somebody as meticulous about their craft as I am and humble enough to come in and wanna see your vision, and he’s great in his own right — he has Grammys just like I have Grammys — it’s amazing. That’s one of the things that’s killing music too, is ’cause people don’t work together. That’s why music is so cold. I tell people I do soul music. It comes from the soul. There is no equation to it.