"What has four eyes, but can't see?" Gene
Hackman queries his co-star Willem Defoe in the landmark 1988 film, "Mississippi
Burning." Defoe replies, "I don't know. What has four eyes, but can't
see?" Hackman answers, "Mississippi." Playing two FBI agents who've
been sent to Mississippi in 1964 to investigate the disappearance and eventual
murder of three civil-rights workers (two white, and one black), Hackman and Defoe
jokingly surmise the view most people, both inside and outside the 'Sipp, have
about the slow to progress state. Even with now boasting the most black elected
representatives of any state in the country, Mississippi still seems stuck in
a time warp. The rampant poverty, poor education, and racism that plagued civil-rights
era Mississippi still exist today.
So when David Banner (and no he's not the same
dude who turns big and green when you piss him off) becomes the most prominent
hip-hop representative for a state that time seemingly forgot, a lot of responsibility
falls on the shoulders of the mild mannered Banner to morph into a stronger
than human figure, and not only improve his own circumstances, but also help
to improve those of his entire home state. Unfortunately, creating opportunities
for Mississippi artists on the national hip-hop scene has been a daunting task
for the Jacktown native. Beginning his career as a member of the politically
charged group, Crooked Lettaz, David Banner and his crew made little headway
with their '99 debut, Grey Skies, on the now hip-hop deficient Tommy Boy Records.
Shaken, but not deterred after his first major-label outing, Banner decided
to go solo from his group, and independent from the major labels, and in 2000
released David Banner Presents: Them Firewater Boyz Vol. 1, which actually outsold
his major-label backed project. And in addition to his work as an artist, David
Banner rapidly became the most in-demand producer in the South, producing for
almost every notable artist below the Mason-Dixon, including Trick Daddy, Lil'
Flip, Fiend, Devin the Dude, and Pastor Troy, just to name a few.
Banner's diligence and hard work has finally
paid off, because as the acronym that is the name of his record label b.i.G.
f.a.c.e. Entertainment asserts: believe in God for all comes eventually. David
Banner is finally reaping what he sowed. And now after inking a historic $10
million deal with SRC/Universal Records, Banner is ready to make history with
his debut solo offering, titled what else, Mississippi.
Allhiphop.com: So David Banner, how good does
it feel to finally see people up on it?
David Banner: I look at it like this, God works
on his own time, and now that I'm a lot older and a grown man, I realize that
I wasn't ready before. So I don't look at it as people finally up on me now,
I just feel like it's time now.
Allhiphop: The way I understand the deal, it's
for five albums at $2 million a pop, but can you tell us any other details about
the deal; do you own your own publishing, are you gonna be bringing out other
artists through this deal?
C'mon man give me the scoop.
David Banner: Well the gravy thing about my deal
is I retain the opportunity to work with other artists. I'm still able to do
independent projects, and that to me is the most important part of it. The thing
I like about it is me and Steve (Rifkind) are partners. It's not like an artist
and CEO type of thing. It's more like on a one on one basis. The thing he asked
me was, 'just give me the opportunity if you bringin' a group out to look at
'em first.' And then the thing that I told him was, 'yo, if you treat me good,
why would I not want my artists to come to you, if you treat me good, I know
you gonna treat them good.' So it's more of a situation like that.
Allhiphop: Wendy Day brokered the deal, but I've
always heard conflicting things about her business acumen. Baby and Twista have
both voiced their disdain for her, but yet she keeps orchestrating these historic
David Banner: I can't speak for any of them,
but all I know is that when I was homeless she let me stay in her house. I can't
expect anymore than that, when I had nothing she helped me. And in actuality,
when nobody wanted to deal with me, she used her own money to help me.
Allhiphop: You're now in business with someone
else who has a lot of haters out there. Steve Rifkind had some problems with
Loud, and a lot of his former artists aren't exactly in his fan club. Dead Prez
have openly referred to him as "Massa Steve." Do you feel confident
with calling SRC home?
David Banner: I'm confident. I honestly don't
get down with what other people say. I really don't give a f*ck. Because you
really don't know what their situation was, and you don't know the full story.
I believe in his ability to do what he gotta do, and apparently he believes
in me because I'm his first act out.
Allhiphop: There were rumors you were gonna sign
with 'Face to Def Jam South. Were they true, was this gonna happen?
David Banner: Oh yeah. The thing about it was
'Face had been trying to sign me for the longest, 'cause I had gotten over 500
spins myself from radio, without an independent promoter and that's like unheard
of. 'Face had been telling (Def Jam), 'sign this boy, you need to sign this
boy, you need to sign this boy, you need to sign this boy!' And their interest
really didn't heighten until after everybody else had come to the table. But
the positive thing about is that me and Kevin Liles have formed a relationship
now that transcends music. And I have a personal friendship with 'Face now,
so there's no music that can stop us from being friends, can stop us from being
Allhiphop: So what can the people out there expect
from your new album, Mississippi?
David Banner: The most phenomenal record of our
time. And I say this with all of my heart. I feel like album for album, like
whole album, some people may have one or two songs that may be better than mine,
but as far as a full album, I don't think nobody's f*ckin' with me.
Allhiphop: Who do you have featured on the album?
David Banner: Lil' Jon, Pastor Troy, Fiend, just
all my friends really. My first artist, Marcus., I also got one of the most
phenomenal singers of all time, Sky. He was gonna come out on Left Eye's label
before she died, bless her soul. There's a lot of people on it man, but just
the thing that people can expect from my album is Mississippi. That soul, that
pain, somebody who takes their music serious, somebody who loves their fans,
loves the people that love him, so I'm gonna give them the best I can possibly
give. What a person can expect on my record is basically my life on a CD. Like,
the good and the bad, the positive and the negative.
Allhiphop: Mississippi is still fairly unchartered
territory in hip-hop. Do you feel that not only you're on, but also now your
whole state is gonna shine?
David Banner: Hell yeah! That's why I'm doin'
what I'm doin. Because honestly, if it's God's will, I'm gonna be alright one
way or another. I don't care what it takes, whether I'm gonna be the best producer,
the best rapper, the best movie director, the best teacher, whatever it may
be I'ma be alright. The thing is the sacrifice is made for my people.
Allhiphop: You just mentioned striving to possibly
be the best producer, so what other artist' projects are you working on right
David Banner: Nappy Roots, I just did four (tracks)
for Nappy Roots. I'm about to start doin' somethin' for Trick Daddy's next record,
Snoop Dogg, T.I., Bone Crusher, Pastor Troy, Devin, Jermaine Dupri, a whole
Allhiphop: Do you plan to branch out as a producer,
maybe lace Jay-Z's next joint or somethin' like that?
David Banner: Whoever wants me. Come get you
some blues. I wanna put myself in a position that one way or another everybody
wants to deal with me.
Allhiphop: Let's travel back in the days for
a minute, what's up wit Crooked Lettaz? Will there ever be a follow-up album
to Grey Skies?
David Banner: Crooked Lettaz, I created Crooked
Lettaz, I formulated Crooked Lettaz, so Crooked Lettaz is me. I brung that together,
that was a plan that I formulated, so Crooked Lettaz will always be here.
Allhiphop: So your boys Kamikaze and them, are
they still down?
David Banner: We friends, but you know we all
grown men now. The time that Crooked Lettaz formulated we was more or less children.
So men have to take responsibility for the decisions that we make. We just made
the decision to formulate our own record companies and go about the vision that
we saw fit for ourselves and for our families.
Allhiphop: So there's no love loss or nothin'
David Banner: Oh, no, no, no, no, no. We're cool.
Allhiphop: I was just askin' because I was one
of the 18,000 people who bought Grey Skies. That album is a southern classic.
"A Girl Named Cim" was my joint.
David Banner: That's one of my favorite songs
ever, ever, ever, ever, ever! And you know what's crazy, I got a burnt copy,
I don't even have an original copy.
Allhiphop: You know it's ironic that the label
y'all were signed to at the time, Tommy Boy, is now essentially no more, and
you on the other hand just signed a $10 million deal. My, my, my how the tables
David Banner: You know that's like sayin' you
didn't get the money in college that you got in the NBA. College is what prepped
you for that. The things that I went through at Penalty and Tommy Boy are what
made me learn how to read my contracts, what made me learn about publishing,
making sure you don't sell your publishing off, trademarks, little small stuff
Allhiphop: So basically you had to take that
lick to be where you're at now.
David Banner: Right.