Editor's Note: It's May 22, and David Banner’s new album, "Sex, Drugs, and Video Games", drops today. The album is available nearly for free on www.DavidBanner.com with a donation of at least $1, and features Chris Brown, Nipsey Hussle, The Game, Snoop Dogg, Tank, Bun B, A$AP Rocky, Big KRIT, and more.
In this two-part interview, AllHipHop.com was happy to talk to David Banner about his new album, the 2M1 Movement, and why he’s excited to be launching a whole new model for the music industry.
Banner also did AllHipHop.com a colossal favor by making a surprise visit to a group of Atlanta's most determined young people to share his special brand of street wisdom. Read the interview and watch the video below:
One of rap music’s most noted rapper/actor/producers, David Banner is quickly become well-known as the culture’s most influential public speaker. Fresh off his appearance as a special guest lecturer at The L.A. Riots: Twenty Years Later, a symposium at Harvard University, Banner continues to tour the country doing press and public speaking in support of his 2M1 Movement.
Banner stopped by the Atlanta site of Year Up, a youth workforce development program that helps 18-to-24 year-olds learn the technical and professional skills that will prepare them for entry-level jobs in corporate America. The 10-year-old program, founded in Boston, boasts an 85 percent success rate in getting its graduates employed in jobs that pay a livable wage. The Atlanta students were surprised by the celebrity appearance and quickly learned that there is more to a rap star than just their music. Banner spoke bluntly on the trials that the urban young adults will face when entering the corporate landscape. Banner, a graduate of Southern University, also spoke about the importance of reading and self-education. The emerging activist also talked about the death of Trayvon Martin, a subject that he has been far from silent on.
AllHipHop.com: Recently, you were at Harvard University lecturing on the 20th Anniversary of the L.A. riots. So having come from Mississippi, did it occur to you while you were up there, “I’m at Harvard University?”
David Banner: Well, it really did, but what I will say is what God revealed to me afterwards is that if we prepare, there is no reason for you to fear anything. So I prepared myself. It’s crazy because that’s one thing they try to do to our people in general. When I say our people I mean people from urban situations. They try to keep us encased in fear. Honestly, if you truly have your spirit together and you truly have prepared and taking those man hours to do whatever it is in life, it don’t matter what question they ask you. It don’t matter what they do, what they say. Whether it’s Harvard or a street corner, if you are truly prepared it doesn’t matter.
AllHipHop.com: So Year Up, the organization that is hosting us here is about “Closing the Opportunity Divide,” a term coined to really represent the systematic things that keep urban young adults from being successful, with jobs and further college education. So what advice would you give our students in the hip-hop generation about systems change? What is Hip-Hop’s responsibility when it comes to systems change?
David Banner: Ok. When you say systems change tell me exactly what you mean.
AllHipHop.com: Changing the institutions like the educational systems and the prison industrial system.
David Banner: I got it. Alright, first of all, (faces students) I wanna tell y’all something, I’m proud of y'all. I’m proud of everybody that’s sitting in these chairs right now. ‘Cause each and every one of you guys could’ve been somewhere else. One of the problems with our people is that we don’t congratulate each other enough.
But about systems change. I created a movement called 2M1. What 2M1 is…I started looking at not just urban music but movies, television, all of that. We have been degraded to nothing. No movies that depict us, you know, all of our music is so negative. The name of my album is called Sex, Drugs & Videogames. And everybody was like “Sex, Drugs, Videogames? What does he mean by that?” What I meant is if all you ever give our children is sex, drugs and videogames what do you think they’re gonna regurgitate? And that’s all we ever see on television.
System changes also come in the way that we think about ourselves. The American system only teaches us in most cases, they don’t teach us before slavery. They never tell us that we kings and queens. They never tell us that the Pythagorean Theorem comes off the walls of Egypt. And imagine me figuring out all this n the middle of “ay yo, see the Chevy with the butterfly doors,” and I was like wow. That’s why I took off, if y'all were wondering why I disappeared for a while.
I disappeared for a while because I got an opportunity to go overseas. And I got an opportunity to see how they looked at our people, and I was embarrassed. I was really, really, really embarrassed and it messed with me mentally because not only am I a rapper, I’m a producer too. I’m an actor, too. So I was like, man, I had a lot to do with that, but then God revealed to me that it’s nothing wrong with what I do. I just have to bring some balance. We can do what we do in the club. That’s all a part of us, but we need some balance. So to answer your question about the systems changes, the only way the systems are gonna change is when you guys get into power and we start opening up our own situations.
AllHipHop.com: So what are some of the ways that we start changing our situations?
David Banner: That is what 2M1 is for me. I wanna get two million people to donate at least one dollar, and everybody thinks it’s about the dollar. It’s not about the dollar. That’s why I did 2M1. I’mma implement this system, and I’mma teach people how to make money. Instead of begging record companies to come and help us we start our own situations and provide and feed our own people.
AllHipHop.com: In a room full of young people who in about two/three months will earn the opportunity to go on internship in Corporate America. Now being that they come from Atlanta urban environments and are going into corporate America, and we know some of the challenges that they will experience, it’s somewhere that they need to go. They need that opportunity to be able to get into entry level jobs, to be able to work their way up through corporate America. How do we prepare them knowing some of the systems that they’re going into?
David Banner: There’s this double consciousness theory that says that Black people to be three or four people. Like you are one person in the 'hood, you’re one person when you come to school, another person at the job. What I’ll tell you guys going into the corporate system, just be prepared to have to adjust for a little while. Because again I truly believe that you guys are the future and I feel like I’m not just saying this. That you have the power to create.
So, you go into these corporate structures to learn. To be a sponge. Not to be an employee all your life. But what I will ask you guys is that in whatever you do be the best. Literally be the best. You’re gonna have to be the best anyway. But be the best. Articulate yourself as well as you possibly can and as much as you can and I know it’s hard. Keep as much of you as you can in the inside and talk to somebody, but be the best.
Check out Part 2 of our exclusive interview with David Banner tomorrow, where he talks about Trayvon Martin, the biggest risk he ever took, and how he has diversified his music industry career and set himself up for longevity.
Follow David Banner on Twitter (@THEREALBANNER).