EXCLUSIVE Part 2: David Banner Makes a Surprise Visit to ATL Youth; Talks Risk-Taking and Trayvon’s Legacy


David Banner, speaking at Year Up Atlanta, a non-profit workforce development agency, talked to the students about issues important to them. Prior to the event, where he was interviewed by AllHipHop.com staffer, Biba Adams, Banner was insistent that the students be able to ask their own questions.

In this part 2 of our coverage of Banner’s 2M1 Movement and release of Sex, Drugs, and Video Games, the young adults of Year Up Atlanta asked interesting questions of the rap star activist:

Terry Harris, student: My teacher taught us about that certain people or entrepreneurs have had certain habits that have helped them be successful. The one that most appealed to me is taking a risk. What was one of the biggest risks that you have taken, how did you feel when you took it, and what was the outcome of taking that risk?

David Banner: Honestly, to be real with you, just about everything I’ve done in my life has been a risk. I had a 3.9987 in an accelerated Master’s program, and I actually worked in my department. But something in my spirit told me that it wasn’t for me. That that wasn’t my path. That wasn’t my goal. So, I packed my clothes and I left. First, I went to New York, and I lived in New York homeless. I was homeless in New York for a spell. And then I met Wendy Day. She let me sleep on the couch. Well, let me sleep on the floor. I took all of that knowledge that I learned street tips and everything from New York, and I moved back to Mississippi and opened up an independent record label.

I mean I would go to Kinko’s, and I would print “David Banner” 10 times on a sheet of paper, and I would cut ‘em out. I would put ‘em on all the cars every night by myself. Finally, some dope boys came up to me and say, “Dude I will buy yo CD if you don’t put no more paper on my car.” And that’s why I was saying knowing your vision, knowing your place, being open enough to hear the spirit whenever it calls you. Whatever you believe in, I’m not judging whatever you believe in but hearing that spirit inside of you and being able to listen. So, that was one of the biggest risks that I took. It’s funny now because I make more than the president of the college. [laughter]

Sabrina Prioleau, student: I’m developing this nonprofit program called “Campaign to Love a Black Man,” and you were talking about reinstating families and getting us to be a cohesive unit. It’s so hard with Hip-hop dictating to this generation of women that we are all bit*hes and hoes. As women, we want to give love effortlessly. How can we do that to you and not feel like you’re rejecting us?

David Banner: Wow! That’s a age old question. One thing that I do want you to know, and I want you to take into consideration as we move forward, I had the opportunity to speak to Congress on behalf of Hip-Hop, and one of the things that I told people is that what you have to understand is that systematically this has been going on for 500 years. Not to take responsibility away from us, but it goes back also into the visions and other things that we see outside of Hip-Hop. It’s easy for us to blame Hip-Hop because nobody’s gon’ protect Hip-Hop.

It’s like the problems in America are so much deeper than just rap,but since you asked the question about rap, I’ll address that. If we really want better, we have to support better. We have to start acting better. One of the problems in Hip-Hop is there are a lot of rappers that I know – and I’m not gon’ call they name, ’cause it’s not for me to put ‘em on front street – that really wanna do better. Me and 9th Wonder put out an album called Death of A Pop Star. And the whole album was positive. It had all these positive messages and guess what it did. Right, nothing.

The thing is that I have had to try to find a way to work in the constraints of the system to make sure that we make some money, so I’m actually able to be able to get in the front of you. It’s sad, but if it wasn’t for “Play” or “Like A Pimp”, I wouldn’t be sitting in front of you talking. Do you know how it feels as a man to understand what I understand now about our culture and the things that we do, but my tool is just the thing that I fight against? Do you know how that feels? As much as I try to do for our community, at the end of the day, I’m looked at as the problem.

That’s why I said it’s gon’ have to get to the point when we break the system. If I got two million people who down with David Banner regardless, I can put out whatever music I want to. Because my two million people will realize it’s not about record sales. If I tell my two million people, “Ok we gon start making better music,” and then I’ll have two million numbers behind it, then I can go to the labels, and whoever, and say this kinda music does sell, ‘cause we got two million people behind it. But what has to happen is the people have to get behind it. Because what’ll end up happening is just like what happens to the rest of our leaders. They end up broke, lonely, and dead. So I need help. I’m one of the ones that’s willing to do it. But I need help.

Kenya Manchester, student: Besides making music and putting out positive music, what would you do with the $2 million that you gain from 2M1?

David Banner: 2M1. First of all, I’m gon answer your question like this – we giving 16 songs with some of the top artists in the whole wide world. We are giving 16 videos. I like to tell people, whatever I do with the money shouldn’t matter, because you get the service. But, because I’m the type of man that I am, I’m gonna tell you. But the same thing that you ask me we should ask all of these products. We should ask Doritos. We should ask Jordan. We should ask Nike, but we only ask ourselves that. “I wanna know what you gon do with the money. What you gon do with $2 million, David Banner? ‘Cause I don’t want you to make nothing.” Not saying that you was doing that. But what I am gonna do with it is that we’re gonna give part of the proceeds to charity. We gon’ pay my staff. We gon’ pay me back cause I spent a lot of my money on this project. And then the other $1 million, we gon’ shoot a movie with. Remember when I told you the 2M1 was about changing our images?

AllHipHop.com: Let’s talk about Trayvon. You’ve been very outspoken about Trayvon Martin. What should the situation, and the case…..what should he mean to this generation?

David Banner: The Trayvon Martin case means even more to me now because the day before I spoke at Harvard, I spoke in front of Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant’s family. What Trayvon Martin should mean to you is that, it goes back to the movement. What it should mean to you guys is it should show you how America values our life. At the end of the day I want y’all to remember this was a child. When they speak about him regardless, we forget that this was a Black child. If Trayvon Martin was White and Zimmerman was Black, would this case be different? If Trayvon Martin was White, he probably wouldn’t be dead right now. The implications of this trial should show us where we are in America, and what we need to work towards. There’s something that I want to say that I’m working on personally ,‘cause I honestly think that if we start treating ourselves better, and we start respecting ourselves a lot better, it’ll leave less space for other people to treat us the way that they do.

David Banner: Can I tell them one more thing?

AllHipHop.com: Of course.

David Banner: Y’all find out what your goals are now, what your goals are. A lot of times in our community, we follow what our parents or what somebody else had. Their vision. Get somewhere and get quiet and find in your spirit what your purpose is and what your goals are. Research. Find out what your goals are and don’t go into anything but that. Stay directly on your path.

Sometimes distractions come in your life that look like they’re good. Like different jobs and different situations that come your way. Stay on your path. If you stay on your path, as I look you in your eye, I promise something will come out of it. I thought I was supposed to be a rapper all my life. God revealed to me that rap was just like an apple in front of the donkey’s face, something to tempt me and keep me focused. Now I do Gatorade commercials, I score movies. Y’all heard that Gatorade commercial, [sings] “If you want a revolution…?” That’s me! I wrote and produced that. More money than I ever got on tour. [laughter] But that’s because I stayed on my path.

Check out Part 1 of David Banner’s Year Up visit, and learn more about Year Up here. Follow them on Twitter (@YearUp).

Download David Banner’s Sex, Drugs and Video Games. Follow him on Twitter (@THEREALBANNER).