Hip-Hop: Evolve Or Die

David Banner has been to the left of the spotlight for a few years, but quietly the rapper/producer has been mastering his craft in other ways. First, is Death of a Pop Star, his upcoming collaboration with producer 9th Wonder. Another is his self-produced song “Evolve,” which was included in a recent campaign for Gatorade sports drink. The song is politically charged, but it took an ad agency to get it the exposure it rightly deserved. A critical thinker, Banner tells AllHipHop the frustrations he’s had with being an artist with a message and why he may be gone for good.

The point is this…. I realized, talking about the record labels, if you don’t have the right support mechanism behind you, then it tough. The reason Outkast was able to do what they did what because they had LA Reid behind them. Lets be honest about what’s going on. If you don’t have the person that keeps the lights on in the building behind you, then you aren’t able to be creative, because labels are too afraid of anything that’s not proven or anything that not going to take off as soon as you put it on the radio. If it needs a push then it’s not going to be successful. Lets just be honest about that part. You can be creative at home, on the block, or on that little milk crate talking s**t, or with your little homie on the internet. But if you don’t have something that doesn’t make people jump in the club or move in the crowd, then you are going to be broke. Especially with the implementation of the Internet you are going to be broke!

But I realized through this Gatorade opportunity. If gave me the opportunity to show people that we have soul, it showed me our generation has soul, but will you buy it? We can be creative but all those n***as that talk all this Hip-Hop s**t. They don’t buy any records. All these n***as that talk about, “We want better music.” Aight, when I put this 9th Wonder record out, if n***as don’t buy it, I don’t want to hear that s**t. Me and 9th Wonder got one of the best Hip-Hop records out in the past 5 years, and if a bitch don’t buy it then don’t come to me talking about that positive rap s**t. If you don’t buy it and you don’t support it, then don’t say anything to me about that s**t. So Gatorade gave me the opportunity to show people that we can do this kind of music.

Its simple but that song is revolutionary.

Well first of all let me say, white, black, old young, 15 or 80 years old. This is one of the first songs that’s not a rap song that people gave me 100% freedom to write what I felt. And it doesn’t matter to me the medium. That’s what God has blessed me with. That’s what I tell the young rappers. It doesn’t matter if it’s rapping, if it’s a book, if it’s a movie, a book, by any means necessary. If you really want to do for your people, then it doesn’t matter the medium. That’s how the devil fools us. Lets you want to feel that if you can’t start a revolution. The Devil will do anything he can to make you do something evil. He will marry you, he will go to church with you, he will start a business with you, rap on a song with you. it doesn’t whether I have a deal or not with a record label. I shoot my own videos. I just purchased a whole production company. I own cameras, my own studio. I have enough money now to purchase my own s**t.

I am trying to move so far past Hip-Hop, so that I can have the freedom to do any kind of music that I want to do. I can do what’s on my spirit and on how God touches me. If we don’t find a way to show that we are marketable and that people from urban situations can earn money, then this dream will be over. It will be over and it will be nobody’s fault but our own. If we don’t start making better music.

I think the music today is great. I just think its just like everyone thinks that they can do it. There is not complexity in the music. Back in the day in order for you to get in the rap cipher you had to know you were good. Cats think that anyone can rap. Cats come up to me now and be like, “I done paid my dues, I been rapping for two years.” For real?

Now that I am getting older I now feel the responsibility and it don’t have nothing to do with me been a rapper, it’s just me as a man. We don’t want to admit it but Hip-Hop is grown and we are going to have to f**king grow up, bro.

Look at me when I started. Look how broke I was. I wasn’t selling no dope. At the time. We just need to stop blaming ourselves. It’s our fault. Part of the reason Hip-Hop is in the position that it is now, is partially my fault. Hip-hop is partially in the position that it is for a reason and it’s partially my fault and I admitted my fault, I am doing something about it. I’m a grown man, I’m not pointing the finger, but grown men put the fire out, they don’t point at the fire. I am standing up because Hip-Hop is in the situation it is partially because of me. Death of a Pop Star n***a now what? 

-as told to Grouchy Greg Watkins