Lloyd Banks got a little riled up. Up to this point, I’d been having a great, stream-line, mild-mannered interview on lyricism with a lyricist who feels stuck in the wrong time. Up to that point, he was cool, to say the least. At G-Unit Records, Banks was changing in and out of outfits for each outlet. He came to me, the Parlé rep, dressed in a black jacket and gray shirt, wearing a diamond cross, a slightly encrusted watch and Louis Vuitton sunglasses which he’d take off once the interview began. We sat in large black leather cushioned chairs directly below his framed platinum-selling debut Hunger For More; featuring the “Southside” logo he’d drawn himself, along with his other chain pendants and tattoos. I planned to keep up with the fast-talking Queens, NY native, and I was quite successful—until he stepped out of his cool when asked if he was the best rapper in the game.
“Um, yeah man, I heard Derrick Rose say ‘Why can’t I be the MVP?’ and he’s the MVP. I heard Wayne say that he was the greatest rapper in the world, and they said that shit a year later. And as humble as I am, I feel like nobody can touch me, that’s just the bottom line,” said Banks with adamant confidence. “I’ve been told this from other artists. I’ve been told how dope I was, and that’s all I needed man, and at the end of the day, some people won’t get it. The reason why I feel like I’m one of the best if not the best, is, when you pull me up, just Google, “Banks” I’ll bet you ‘underrated’ come up next to it. What does “underrated” mean? What’s your definition of underrated?”
I was stuck with this question, initially, because it was totally unexpected. Many things ran through my head; the youth of today’s fans, how the respect for lyricism has fallen to the wayside. Through this, I felt he was directly affected by that idea. By my even asking him “was he the best?” was enough to let him know my personal opinion of him off top. So I told him: “I know what’s up.” Since I’d been listening to the man since he was a “Boy Wonder,” dropping heavy punchlines on the radio.
What was the issue? Was Rick Ross, T.I. underrated? Ludacris? Fabolous?? Jadakiss?? These are plain-as-day lyricists, but I don’t think they would be labeled as underrated. “But I don’t understand it,” said Banks, “If you knock somebody out right now right, I don’t think the mothafucka who watched you knock him out is gonna underestimate you. I don’t think they’re gonna do what he did, to get knocked out right?”
Exactly my point. Prepping for the release of his Cold Corner 2, Banks sat in his chair dumfounded, explaining his grind over the last two years and how each of his recent mixtapes met excellent reviews. The icing on the cake is his freestyles on Funkmaster Flex’s radio show, those of which I must give him credit for never stuttering. Maybe it’s the competition. Maybe it’s hate.
“How the fuck do I do this, consistently, like this for a year, two years, and all you can say is I’m underrated? Duh!! So that was what kept me going, the public is saying this is what it is. But you know what it was, it was the artists’, who were in cahoots. So they’re out there saying, “We here, you never there.” We was…I’m in Kazakhstan, I’m in fucking, Russia, I’m everywhere! Iraq, Dubai. All around the world doing shows. And that’s just how it goes. When you’re not able to be available, people say things about you they wouldn’t normally say. Not because they mean it, but because its rebellion, they don’t see you; they can’t touch you. Like it’s a nigga right now, in Brooklyn that’ll say “Fuck Mike Tyson. Fuck that nigga man! I came up with that nigga man!” It’s because he knows he probably aint never gonna see Mike Tyson. So he’s more comfortable talking about him. So if you’re all around the world doing shows and you’re not able to be in the nightclub that the local rapper goes to, yeah you’re seen more than me ‘cause you’re here! You aint got shit else going. Half the rappers that was talking shit at the time could make a sandwich, like they could go in the supermarket, make their own sandwich and don’t cause no type of disturbance. But that’s not the same thing. At the end of the day, the energy of G-Unit created an aura of hate, around us, just based off of the success.”
At some point, Banks had to branch off of 50 Cent and really do his own thing. His mixtapes have proven his successful in branching off. As a “lyric-driven” artist, he has maintained respect for himself and from other rappers, most notably Kanye West, who gave respect to Banks via Twitter last September. Before “Christian Dior Denim Flow,” and “Start It Up,” came to fruition, West tweeted:
“Yo man Loyd Banks prolly the most underrated MC in the game… Man he deserve to be top 5 at least!” –Kanye West.
Banks gave his thanks through the same pipeline, as well as in our conversation. “When Kanye said that it was like…damn. It was dope. It was dope for me just because, he didn’t have to say it, and he didn’t say it when he was done competing. Not to say I’m his competition, but he’s still competing.” Nevertheless, it’s a double-edged sword…to West even, he’s one of the Top Five—at least, yet he’s still underrated.
Does this show that lyricism definitely does not dominate the game anymore? Opinions are opinions but respect is also respect, and Banks just wants his. Period. “I don’t want to be the best. Just not to be fucked with,” said Banks. “But I don’t care about being the best. I respect my peers because I’m smart enough to know that the game was here before me, and it’s gonna be here after me. I just want to be on the wall with everybody else that you thought was nice.”
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