Since releasing Death of Pop Star, with Legendary North Carolina producer 9th Wonder, David Banner has grown as an artist, a man, and he is seeking to use music, films, and media as a vehicle to fulfill his life purpose. In 2009, David Banner testified before The United States House of Representatives about the state of Hip-Hop. During his testimony, Hip-Hop fans got a glimpse of the other side of David Banner. Since testifying in Congress, David Banner has established a multimedia company and he continues to create music, as well as star in films.
Recently, you’ve seen David Banner in The Butler, Hidden Colors 3, Ride Along, and he has two upcoming films that are scheduled for release later this year. Legendary actor and director Bill Duke encouraged David Banner to also get behind the camera which led Banner to develop a film series entitled Walking With Gods.
Earlier this year, David Banner created a buzz on social media because of his interviews on Sway In The Morning, The Breakfast Club, Vlad TV, and panel discussion about events that occurred in Ferguson and Baltimore. Songs like Evil Knievel, My Uzi, La Policia (Remix), and The Who? reflect David Banner’s more focused effort to use his voice to educate, inspire, and uplift his listeners. During my interview with David Banner, we discussed The God Box, his upcoming album, what led to his personal transformation, and his thoughts on natural hair versus relaxed hair.
Phillips: Tell me about The God Box, your upcoming album and its release date?
At the core, I am the same person but I’ve cleaned myself up by eating better, losing weight, practicing meditation, and drinking less.
Banner: I plan to release The God Box this summer. I didn’t want to rush the release of this album because I wanted people to warm up to the concept of The God Box. Especially where I am from, I knew that having the word God in the title of my album would be something that people would have to adjusted to and slowly digest.
When I drop The God Box, I want the weather to be warm. During the winter, I dropped more of the cerebral records. When it’s cold, most people are in the house, so that’s the opportunity that you have to drop cerebral records and to get people to really listen to your music. The connection between weather and music is something that I learned from Anthony Browder, author of From The Browder Files.
Phillips: The David Banner that we’ve seen on CNN, on panel discussions, and testify before The United States Congress seems different than the David Banner rapping on hit songs Like A Pimp and Get Like Me? What led to your transformation from the guy that we knew with the bangin’ southern tracks to the man that we hear and see now?
Banner: It’s the same guy. It’s just that most people only knew one side of me and they concentrated on that side. I’m a semester and a thesis away from a master’s degree. When my group Crooked Lettaz was in Unsigned Hype, I was at the University of Maryland mopping the floors trying to work my way through graduate school. Before I completed my last semester, I dropped out of school and ended up homeless.
The intellectual and spiritual David Banner has always been within me but when you go through what we go through in the streets, it has an effect on you. When you are in the streets and you are homeless, you don’t know how you are going to eat. Then you clearly see the constraints that America places on people and these type of constraints aren’t conducive for producing balance and harmony within human beings.
The book that open my eyes was a book called From The Browder Files.
At the core, I am the same person but I’ve cleaned myself up by eating better, losing weight, practicing meditation, and drinking less. I still love some of the things that I used to do but we are living in a time where plots against black men and women are now manifesting. I don’t think we have the comforts that we had in America before. In light of all these recent events, America has told black men and women that these laws are not made for you. America is telling black men and women that when The Constitution was written, it wasn’t written for you and it’s time for us to start showing you.
As times change, for us to evolve as a species, we have to evolve. What you see now is my evolution. I’m 10 years older. If you are still acting the same way as you were 10 years ago, then you ain’t learned nothing. And that’s one of the problems that I have with Rap music. We are teaching these kids that staying young is cool. If you are young, then you don’t know shit.
Phillips: Can you recall one specific moment that you felt was a life changing moment that served as a catalyst for your transformation?
Banner: Oh Hell Yeah! While I was touring overseas with my Get Like Me record that featured Chris Brown, I had an opportunity to see how people outside of America viewed black men. During this time, reality TV shows started poppin’. Outside of America, the only images that they see of black folks are the images in movies and music videos. In most mainstream movies, unless you are Will Smith, the roles that most black people play are criminals. We aren’t casted as characters like Superman or Batman whose role in the movie is to save the day. Besides the movies, the only other place to see black people is in Rap videos.
When my tour stopped in London, I saw how they viewed black men from a global perspective and I was embarrassed. The whole experience led to me going into a depression. The questions that I posed to myself was “Am I helping with the strategic annihilation of my own people? Am I feeding into this system?” After taking time for self-reflection, I decided that I didn’t want to do it anymore. It’s cool to party. You don’t have to be revolutionary or burn candles and incenses all the time. I just think that life needs balance. We ain’t all dope dealers. Now, we have convinced some of our kids that the only thing we are good at is selling dope. I believe in vibrations and I believe that you are what you say you are. If all we ever say is that we are niggers and bitches, then that’s all that we will ever be. White people told us that we were lazy but black people built America for free. We were doing all the work and they were the ones not working. But they kept telling us that we were lazy and we bought into it while we were doing all the hard work. And now we are lazy forreal because that’s what we said and believed about ourselves.
The intellectual and spiritual David Banner has always been within me.
The experience in London changed my life and caused me to take responsibility as a man. A lot of these rappers get older and feel like they don’t have to grow up because they are artists. But you still have a responsibility as a man to give back to your community. I ain’t knocking the fact that you are hustlin’ but every time in a song when you say that you are selling dope, who are you selling dope to black man? In the songs, when you say that you are pimpin’ who are you pimpin? We are talking about selling dope to black men and pimpin’ black women. We are doing their work for them by glorifying negative stereotypes about black people. They have convinced black men that house niggas are the cool thing to be and one thing you can’t pay me to be is a house nigger.
My father taught me that what makes a man is not what he will do for money but what he won’t do for money. I gotta tell you this story. I was in the studio working with one of the biggest artists in the world. He did something that sort of pissed me off and because I am from the streets I was going to whoop his ass. I walked outside and called my dad for advice on the situation (this was before my dad passed away). I explained the situation to my dad and I asked him how I should handle the situation. My dad asked me how did I feel in my heart and I told him that I didn’t feel like it was right. He said “well go pack your shit.” I told my dad that I could make close to $100,000 for this record. He said “Son, I said pack your shit! I would rather you come back to Mississippi, work in the mailroom, and be a man than for you to become a million dollar bitch with an invisible skirt on.”
When I die, I want women to look at me and say I wish that was my husband. When I’m gone, I want kids to look at me and say I wish that was my dad; when young men look at me, I want them to say that’s what a real man is supposed to be like. It’s in my hair, my speech, and all of that. We are the representation of our race.
Phillips: Do you have any suggestion for your fans who are seeking the truth but don’t know where to begin?
Banner: The book that open my eyes was a book called From The Browder Files by Anthony Browder. I actually stole Browder’s book. My cousin had the book and he stole something from me. So when he went to work, I stole the book from him. I used to go to sleep with From The Browder Files in my hands. That was the first book that I read from cover to cover. I didn’t put the book down.
A lot of books have complex words which makes it hard to comprehend the subject matter. Especially for people who haven’t been reading or aren’t comfortable with trying to read an entire book. The thing that I like about From The Browder Files is that Tony made it comfortable and simple to read. Also, he uses issues and situations that we deal with right now. A lot of times, that’s the disconnect with the church, everything is in the past. We are dealing with modern racism right now. We need to know how to apply information to help us deal with the issues that we are facing today.
Phillips: What inspired you to develop the film entitled Walking With Gods? What message were you trying to communicate to the viewers?
Banner: Walking With Gods was created to express how I felt about black men and women. We are direct descendants of God. We are a part of God. We are Gods. Imagine that realization manifesting physically by you discovering that you are a direct descendent of God. You have unlimited powers but your only kryptonite is your belief. If you believe that you are God, then you are. Then, imagine your responsibility after you find out that you aren’t a Nigger because you are a direct descendent of God. Imagine if young black men knew that they were Gods. If you acted like God, then they would treat you like God. If you acted like God, then they would praise you like God. The Black Madonna and other black deities were black people. In Mexico, they found Olmec heads and those were black people. The early illustration of Buddha was a black man. We were Gods!
By black women trying to change their hair, they are saying that God is not perfect.
I don’t celebrate Halloween, but during that holiday, most black children’s superheroes are Superman and Batman. Both of those characters are white men. They give us bullshit characters like Green Lantern but our kids don’t want to be second-rate superheroes. Similar to the superheroes, most conventional religions depict God as a white man. So our children’s favorite superheroes are white and their God is white, so how are they supposed to feel?
Walking With Gods is about a man name Alex Light, his real name is Het-Heru. He is going through history and every time he gets close to getting knowledge of self, an evil character will trick and kill him. Each time, it appears like Alex is killed but it’s really not death. What happens is that his memory is erased. Every time Alex gets close, something bad will happen. This is no different than our heroes, as soon as Malcom X got close to gaining true enlightenment, what did they do to him? They killed him. As soon as Martin Luther King, Jr. got close to having true enlightenment and true balance, they killed him. As soon as we got Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, they bombed and burned it. I want your readers to check out Walking With Gods. Hopefully, it will create some conversation in barbershops and beauty salons.
Phillips: What are your thoughts on natural hair versus relaxed hair? Do you have a preference?
Banner: When black people were trying to integrate into white society, the black people who looked most like white people were the ones who got the better jobs. So we killed and straightened our hair to make white people feel comfortable. You aren’t supposed to put anything on your body that you can’t eat. By us trying to change our hair, we are saying that God is not perfect. God made you exactly the way that you need to be. You can have different looks by styling your hair but why are we not proud of our own hair? What’s ironic is that they are trying to curl their hair and we are trying to straighten our hair. We are trying to lighten our skin and they are sitting in the sun every day.
It’s not about my preference, I just want a woman that loves herself. Why do I have to pay to see the woman that I love? If I meet a black woman who has long straight blonde hair, I’ve got to pay to see her look that way. I want to fall in love with the person that I see in the morning. But when you don’t look the way you look in the morning, you are selling me a lie. Women expect men to tell the truth but by changing their natural appearance, they lie to us every day.