Lloyd Banks is a movement. It may sound a bit cliché to say such a thing in 2010, but there is no doubt that the young rapper’s third solo album The Hunger for More 2 has gone beyond the regular box of most Hip Hop promotion. From pushing Blue Friday music leaks and Twitter banners (Twibbons), to the consistent release of video footage from worldwide touring, the G-Unit and ThisIs50.com teams have definitely made Banks the Pied Piper of Punchlines. Yes, he’s still the Punch Line King – he’s just got a much bigger network to address directly these days.
When G-Unit transitioned from their long-standing deal with Interscope Records to independent status last year, some fans questioned if the Unit’s legacy was history. Quiet as kept, Banks and his team were fielding offers from different labels, and finally announced in August that HFM2 would be released via EMI distribution. But could the G-Unit label, once powered by such a major machine, survive independence?
Over the past year, the success of Lloyd Banks‘ mixtapes and singles has proven that the fans will gravitate to good music, no matter what the means of promotion or distribution. As he prepped for his NYC listening session and performance (photos below), RadioPlanet.tv nabbed some time with the lyrical virtuoso to find out how he’s grown musically in the past decade, and why he’ll always bet on the underdog.
How do you feel about the movement that’s gotten behind The Hunger For More 2? It’s gone beyond a regular promotion.
Lloyd Banks: It was really “Beamer Benz or Bentley“ that started everything, but a lot of sites on the internet like RadioPlanet and others have seen the work that I’ve been putting in. I put out five mixtapes in the past year and set it up for this. As an artist I’ve paid attention to the times and I’ve realized that it doesn’t work with one record anymore.
There was a time when you could drop one single and the rest of your singles could complement your first one. Nowadays it’s totally different, where you have to put out three or four singles before your album hits the streets. It takes a little more based off of the internet and having the access to hear music every day. It went from being able to put an album once a year, to having an album and having to put out mixtape material in order to stay relevant.
For the people to get behind my movement and what I’ve been doing, I appreciate it – especially from my peers. It’s one thing to be respected by your fans and supporters, it’s another thing to be supported by your peers.
It’s a good thing you say that… In the past G-Unit hasn’t really been into getting other people on tracks, and you said now you wanted to try something different. Have you had artists approaching you about working with you?
LB: Yeah, and vice-versa. I think right now I’m comfortable with who I am as an artist, and a lot of the dumb egotistic rap sh*t that would take place back in the days isn’t there with me. If I hear something and I like it, I’ll compliment it, and if it’s possible to make a collaboration happen then I’m with it.
I’ve always had respect for other people’s music, but at that time we were an entity that was so big with everybody under the G-Unit and Shady umbrellas. You never had a want for anything, because most of the features I got were in the same studio. That’s the way it was, it wasn’t like we blocked everything else out. I’ve always remained a student and a fan to all music that goes on around me.
How is it for you to be independent with the same star power – minus the restrictions of a major label?
LB: It’s always a double-edge when it comes to that, and I’ve been on both sides. I’ve been on a major that was completely cluttered, as a part of one of the bigger labels with 10 different rap acts and five or six pop acts, and it was so easy to go from a priority to a minority.
I think that being on this side now, I’m appreciative to have an opportunity to release my third album and with the point spread my percentage is a lot different. I’m in an independent situation at the peaking point of my career, I feel like I haven’t peaked yet. Most artists that get this opportunity are on their way out… they’re in their 40′s or their late 30′s when they get an opportunity to profit the way I can at this point. I think it was due to a mistake on Interscope’s part – I feel like I was counted out at points.
Do you feel like when you took the EMI deal that people doubted you or looked at you as an underdog, not jumping behind you until recently?
LB: I don’t think people knew any better. The people that know better know that it makes sense, back in the days you would only judge an artist through Soundscan and how many physical CDs they sold. Nowadays they don’t understand that the percentage artists are getting off of physical CDs isn’t worth talking about.
When the Rick Ross beef was going on I released a record called “Officer Down“ which had maybe 800,000 free downloads before iTunes even contacted us, and then we went on to sell about 70,000 more units of that. After that, the same night I dropped “Beamer Benz or Bentley“ it was available for Itunes, and then later on we sold over 500,000 copies of the single. I won’t discuss the percentage split, but it’s very healthy in my favor, so at that point I didn’t care who understood or what people thought because I’m more reserved.
Coming into the game I was naive and ignorant to a lot of things, so I would get $100,000 chains and my want for certain things just isn’t there anymore. I’m more like, “let’s get the money on the low” these days. I want people to underestimate, I almost want to be the underdog because it fits who I am as an artist and as a person. I speak through my music. Some people want different things out of it, but at the end of the day it’s entertainment. You gotta realize there’s people that just rap that aren’t talented, but they entertain people. I don’t want to be that. I’d rather be somebody that’s more of an artist than an entertainer. I’ve always been that way.
But as far as people not knowing what the deal means, they’ll know soon after the numbers come back. We’re looking good, we’re in a good space, it wasn’t like major labels weren’t trying to ink a deal. There were major situations there for me but they just didn’t make sense for me at the time.
Do you think working with an independent A&R team is better or worse than working with a major A&R team?
LB: Either way it didn’t really matter to me, because I was there for the music anyway. I never trust anyone’s ear, wherever I’m at the first rule is I get all of the music. They’ll filter out the music and take what they feel is the best material, but what they feel is the best material might be leaving out a hit record.
At this point I might get 100 CDs of music and throw out 95 of them, but out of those records you get hits like “On Fireâ” and “21 Questions.“ I had the same beat CDs 50 and Yayo had, and with that in mind I don’t let one track go to waste. I listen to every CD regardless of who it’s coming from. The only difference to me is that different A&Rs get music from different producers.
The past few months you’ve toured all over Europe and you have fans everywhere, as the video footage on ThisIs50.com and RadioPlanet.tv shows. What are your favorite things about the fans overseas?
LB: I don’t want to say the fans overseas are more appreciative, but I think the energy is a little different because we’re touching markets we’ve seen and markets we haven’t been to. For example,we just did the Dominican Republic a month ago, there were 70,000 fans and that was our first time there, so the energy was crazy.
The biggest difference is, in New York City you might have four or five shows, same goes for Florida or Georgia, they get a chance to see you a little more frequently, but overseas you feel the same way they do. In London the energy is crazy every time, I just came back from Switzerland and Germany doing sold out shows and packed venues.
The love is just there, it’s like sometimes people love you more when you’re not around. With that in mind, you’re only as good as the last show you do, so with every show you have to put on a good performance.
What’s the craziest thing a fan has ever done to get close to you?
LB: I’ve seen a girl crash her car right in front of club HK in Manhattan. I was coming out of the parking lot and she saw me through the passenger window… she told her friend to move out of the way and she ran right into the car in front of her. That was an accident I felt a little bad about. I’ve seen girls run across the street in moving traffic. These are things that could actually equate to someone getting hurt.
When we went to Tanzania and got out of the car, there were literally 2,000 people outside of the airport. Some places we go, we just have to look at each other and smile, because we come from so far away and at the same time my music has the impact out there that it has at home.
There was an incident in Europe where Tony Yayo got left behind and Whoo Kid was going to fill in his verse, and the rehearsal went really badly. Would you ever consider letting Whoo Kid stand in for you?
LB: Whoo Kid is not the typical DJ, you can’t just put him in a box. He has his own style, he’s crazy. He’s older than me, but he’s a young soul, he makes us feel younger at the same time. Sha Money XL is the same way. It’s rare that I see Whoo Kid and he’s not in a good mood. He definitely capitalizes, he’s not gonna stay in one lane.
Just like some rappers want to be the most lyrical guy in the world and some rappers just want to be content doing what they do with the audience they have, I think Whoo Kid is one of them type of dudes. He doesn’t want to be the best scratching DJ, he looks at it like he wants to be a mogul.
50 Cent just got this great deal for his movie company! Do you think you’ll be stepping into acting?
LB: You think I won’t when I will? I have to get a movie on! Hopefully we can do one and line it up with the release of my next project.
If you could go back in time and re-release any movie and put yourself in a role, what would it be and why?
LB: Harlem Nights – I would play Quick. Before that, I would say How To Be A Player – but I already did that in a video. I think it’s cool now that the way records are received, they don’t have to be built on the video. Back in the days a Hype Williams video might have cost $1 million, and it would sell the record even if the record wasn’t that hot.
Nowadays there’s no limit. Who’s to say what’s a single as far as the internet goes? You could turn a good concept record into a video and use it to get your practice up as far as your acting goes. If I shoot three or four video mini-movies, I’ll be prepared when I do a real movie.
What do you have coming up before the album drops?
LB: I just released another record off of HFM2, it’s called “Start It Up“ featuring Fabolous, Ryan Leslie and Kanye West. We’re just going off of the momentum of that record, and it’s definitely having an impact in New York City. I’ve heard it on the radio for about a half hour straight, it feels like mixtape material the way it’s having an effect. The records you make and have fun with, you exchange those types of records for this type of energy. We’re working off of that and then the next part is choosing a single.
The good part about that is I have a lot of options. The album is still dark with a lot of qualities from the first album, but at the same time it’s 2010 and I’ve grown as an artist. People can expect a new record every Friday until the release of the album on November 23rd. At some point I’m gonna go into overdrive and put things out when I want to, they won’t necessarily be just Fridays. Being that the album is wrapped up, I can freelance a little more. It’s a little easier for me to create knowing there’s no time limit.
Follow Lloyd Banks on Twitter @LloydBanks
Interview by Dove for RadioPlanet.tv
Photos by Dove for RadioPlanet.tv