David Banner releases Sex, Drugs & Video Games and challenges fans, industry & President Obama [Interview]
Jackson, MS – Do you really value free music? Is it possible for you to truly place value on something you’re constantly getting for nothing? Is the widespread act in hip hop of giving away music actually detrimental to people’s respect for the culture? And why are we as fans drawn so much to the negative images and stories in music and television? These are some of the questions David Banner is asking and answering with his new project Sex, Drugs & Video Games (now available at DavidBanner.com)
In an age where free mixtapes are the status quo, David Banner is stepping out of the box and challenging the fans, the industry and the culture. Instead of giving away the album, he’s asking for a donation of at least $1 from his fans. With a new song and video dropping every week for the last few months leading up to today’s release date, Banner is banking that his audience will collectively donate $2 million. The project features names like Chris Brown, Big Krit, Snoop Dogg, Lil Wayne and more along with David Banner and his infectious beats. HipHopCanada’s Central Region Editor Jonathon “Bizz” Brown recently spoke with David Banner at length about this ambitious new business model, hip-hop culture, President Obama and his creative process. Click the jump for the full interview.
HipHopCanada: Welcome, I’m up here in Toronto. Sex, Drugs and Video Games actually comes out two days before my birthday so shout out for the timing! How long have you worked on this project?
David Banner: The way that I work now, I work every Tuesday on David Banner. What that does is, when it’s time for a project I don’t have to rush. That’s when the vision doesn’t come to fruition when you rush. I’ve been working on certain aspects for a while but the full vision didn’t come to me till about 5 months ago.
On this next album, make believe album it’s going to be a new Banner, a totally new banner. I had to find a way to give my fans that supported me all these years what I thought they wanted from me. I don’t know if that matched where my spirit was but I had to find a way to do it with my heart.
This is what I came up with was the concept of Sex, Drugs & Video Games. And its asking the question, I’m going to give you a certain amount of these songs and then I’ma ask u why is this what you want? Why are we so enthralled with the negative aspects of our culture now? Why is it so negative to a certain degree? From reality TV shows to a lot of the music we here. A lot of people think it’s free thought but it’s not, if you’re constantly bombarded with negative visions, you’re going to react to that at some point. So the concept of sex, drugs and video games: is life is truly a video game who has the controller?
Who is playing and who is getting played?
HipHopCanada: And really what you’re doing is challenging your fan base.
David Banner: Right. And I think once we come to an understanding of what it is together and not someone trying to force it on you it sticks then. There’s nothing wrong with any type of music but there has to be a balance.
HipHopCanada: Balance how?
David Banner: There has to be a balance in life period, on all fronts. That’s when the universe is thrown off when there is no balance.
When it comes to the culture, at one point it was too much so called “happy music.” We needed N.W.A.. That was a whole other aspect of things going on in the streets that wasn’t being focused on. We needed that voice. That voice was balance just like we needed Outkast, Tribe, Scarface, Chuck D needed Flava Flav. We need balance. And I think that comes about by us showing a certain level of respect for our music. And I’m making sure people don’t call this a mixtape. This is a free album. We’ve been giving away music to the point where it almost doesn’t have value. People don’t believe they should buy hip-hop anymore because we’ve been given so much.
So why should a person give proper deals or be given an opportunity if there is no return. How can we call it an art if no one is paying for it? Be honest, do you respect anything that’s free? No matter the underlying value of it, if we don’t pay for it there is no value.
The thing im doing with my movement. You can get the mixtape for free on livemixtapes.com and the only reason I’m allowing it to do that is to bring attention to the movement. I’m asking people how is hip-hop supposed to survive if we ain’t paying for it?
The most important thing I hope people see is the power base I’m going to create. I’m trying to let people understand is for that dollar we getting 2 million emails and getting their opinion not only on music but on politics, on activities happening in the world and we discuss it among ourselves. Say what’s going on with Trevon Martin. We can hop on Ustream with these millions of people and talk about it and hear what they have to say and what I have to say instead of doing it in front of a TV camera all the time. We’re creating a power base and a power structure.
HipHopCanada: I never considered that side of it. So you plan to take the contacts that you gather from this movement and engage them on subjects other than this project?
David Banner: Oh ya. It’s the whole point. It’s about controlling our images. It’s about cutting out the middle man. Because think about hip-hop. The business side of entertainment and hip-hop period has made the most important people feel helpless and that’s the artists and the fans. And artists I don’t just mean the rapper or singer. I mean the graphic designer, the DJ, I mean the writer. Whoever is the person given the talent. We made to feel like we’re workers. And the fans are made like they ain’t important anymore. And this is in every aspect of business. You can’t get people on the phone and you’re giving them money.
I’m trying to show the kids like dude, we’re just asking for a minimum donation of a dollar, but look at what we’re giving you. And this is also going to teach people how to put their stuff together because people going to be like ‘well damn, if David Banner can do that then what stops everybody else from doing it? Hopefully it can perpetually change the way we look at the culture. This is way bigger than Sex, Drugs & Video Games.
HipHopCanada: What if 2 million people don’t donate? What if your experiment fails?
David Banner: We not gonna fail. I don’t even think on those terms. That’s only limits in your brain. There’s no way this is not going work because it’s time. I see it already. As a matter of fact, the people are waiting on me to do what I’m supposed to do. This is what I should’ve been doing. But it took me going through all this stuff to realize it.
I’ve been the artist that taken advantage of. I’ve been the one that started movements and helped everybody else. But if you notice about our culture, we give millions of free advertising to people who don’t even give back or even mention our culture. Look at the higher brands we support. The brands we support, those folks don’t care about us. But we demand so much from people who try. Our own clothing lines that come from our culture, we don’t support those brands like the higher brands that don’t care about us, that don’t give anything to our community at all or even give mention to the artists that give them millions of dollars in free promotion.
In America for the most part, people don’t respect our culture because we don’t respect it. We’ve been giving it away for free. The land, our children, our music, our energy is just given away without no respect at all and it’s not going to change until we respect it.
Even if a people only support for the cause and to spit into the system one time, imagine how amazing that is. If a person doesn’t want to be a part of that, then that shows us exactly where we are.
Because at the end of the day im only asking you for a dollar for Chris Brown, Snoop Dogg, all these people on the album, 16 videos, David Banner beats. How much more could you want?!
HipHopCanada: This is obviously a passion project as much as it is you trying to make any commercial hits out of this. But it seems like you’re ready and willing to put whatever you have to into this even if it doesn’t make a profit at the end of the day, just to make a statement that it can be done.
David Banner: Oh it’s going to make a profit! See the thing is this, is along with giving people quality product, they won’t respect it. I’ve had people come back who donated a dollar who just heard the songs out so far who are giving every week. I’ve got $50 donations, I’ve got $100 donations. It’s going to be profitable because we gotta get outta the mentality of seeing people come from our culture, we got to stop people from thinking making them think we want to see them suffer and in the hood. Why don’t we want to see them successful as the people we send thousands of dollars off to without any responsibility?
No we going to make a profit off this. You have no idea how much I’ve invested in this. And yes it’s going to be profitable and people are going to be proud of what they got. Because I believe when people hear this project in its entirety, they are going to come back and give more. Because you’re supposed to. This is not free. People should not expect to get anything without giving something back. Nothing worth while in life is like that. That’s not the real world.
HipHopCanada: Now, Obama is getting set for a run at re-election and you’ve spoken about Obama since he first came on the national scene. After four years in office, what are you focused on when it comes to Obama?
David Banner: The number one criticism I have, is I believe when it coems to our culture. There’s nothing wrong with catering to where you come from, or who you come from. Everybody does it. Every President does it. If you get a Republican president, he’s going to cater to republicans, right or wrong?
HipHopCanada: Yes, if you have a Republican president you’d expect Republican positions at the heart of their policy.
David Banner: Right. So who put or who helped start Obama’s presidency? When you go from getting support on a grass roots level to being America’s president, I understand being America’s president, but you have to make sure you do take care of some of the issues of the grass roots and the people who helped spark the movement. That’s my one criticism.
The thing I’ll say in his defense is the funny thing is Obama came in after arguably our worst president. So the things he’s had to clean up before he could even get to the initial problem was so big its going to take more than one presidency to even get to the real problem. The one criticism I have about America is America is so about their parties and the specialized interests these parties have is they never get to the needs of the actual people. I always wondered who is really for the people?
So for me I think his criticism is not warranted. They’ve transferred the problems that somebody else started and given it to him without giving him credit for the things he has done.
HipHopCanada: Moving away from politics back to music, you’ve done production work for Mercedes and companies like Disney. Is your approach any different when you’re making music for a commercial verus a song on an album?
David Banner: Not really as much as people would like to think, because I always making my music as if it’s a soundtrack. Whether it’s the soundtrack to someone’s life who lives in New Orleans or the soundtrack to someone’s life who lives in Mississippi.
I’ve always tried to make the soundtrack to people’s lives. That’s always been my motivation.
HipHopCanada: You took acting classes and I was wondering if you’d learned anything about the art of acting that you use in music?
David Banner: My acting classes changed my life. It helped change the way I was thinking. My acting coach taught me I have to build a character from the time they were four years old to the time of the story. What that does is give that character depth so if they have a scar on the arm or something you have to come up with a explanation for that. And that made me realize everybody has a back story. Everybody has a reason for everything they say and do. And that gave me patience for men. It made me realize men and women, they all have a story. Maybe they are doing something because they were abused as a child or bullied. So it gave me a lot more patience with people in different situations.
Written by Jonathon “Bizz” Brown for HipHopCanada