In this interview Lloyd Banks talks about a bit of everything. From his new album, to working with legends Dr. Dre and Eminem in the studio, his influences as an emcee, and he even breaks down his writing process. Llyod Banks also gives a hint of what we can expect from the next 50 Cent album.
|By William Hernandez
Who?Mag: Talk about your new album
Lloyd Banks: First off, the new album is in stores November 23rd. It’s called The Hunger for More part 2. I’m basically picking up from my debut album The Hunger for More which dropped I believe June 29th 2004. Part of the reason of going into the sequel when I dropped my first single Beamers, Benz, or Bentleys was that I had a connection with the people. I can’t remember having a record that felt this way since the first time I dropped. I started recording on the road, moving around and writing the music while I was out of the country. It took me right back to the recording process of the first album. After all those similarities I thought of just making it a sequel.
Who?Mag: Who is on the album as far as cameo appearances and producers?
Lloyd Banks: Production-wise I got a lot of new producers on there. We always try to keep that sound. I think that comes from just searching and never going based off names. I got a kid name Cardiac who actually just started up with myself, Kanye West, Ryan Leslie, and Fabolous. It just dropped a couple of days ago and it’s getting heavy rotation in New York City and other markets as well. He also did a record for myself and Styles P called Unexplainable. Actually he did a couple of more that are going to be on the bonus CD. Eminem did a song. With the production, there’s a lot of different sounds on there. As far as features I got Raekwon, Styles P, Eminem, Akon, Ryan Leslie, and 50 [Cent] of course is on the album, Tony Yayo, etc. We’re kind of stacked up feature wise. Everything is a little different, I didn’t want to be exactly the same as the first album.
Who?Mag: How did you hook up with the new producer Cardiac?
Lloyd Banks: That was just me surfing through beats. We got A&Rs at G Unit, but I’ve been my own A&R in the same sense. I listen to every CD now because I’ve been through situations where not doing it backfired. For example 21 Questions was on a CD I didn’t listen to. From that I learned a lesson and now I listen to every track. I go through a binder maybe of 100 CDs. You might find like four or five beats out of all the CDs but it’s worth it. That’s how I found the beat from Cardiac. I didn’t even holla at my people to holla at him for some more. Because you never know with producers, I just waited. The music just kept coming, three or four tracks. I thought now it’s just time to sit down and take it to the next level. That’s the new thing now, getting in there with the producers and being able to build the beat up from a skeleton. Opposed to recording off the 2 track the way we got it off the CD.
Who?Mag: How did you hook up with producer K1, the one who did On Fire?
Lloyd Banks: Ah man! That was the same way. We were in the Landmark hotel as a matter of fact. I was writing a few records out there. I also wrote Warrior out there and I Believe I’m so Fly. 50 brought me the record, he brought me the beat. I wrote my verse and it took me like half an hour. Came back in and rapped it to him. Next thing I know we booked the studio right there on the spot. We went to the studio and laid it out there. I had no idea that K1 was actually Kwame. Not until the mixing time, and then Eminem had told me that. At the time I recorded the album on a tour bus. The only producer I sat down with was with Eminem, for the first G Unit album.
Who?Mag: Have you ever worked with Dr. Dre in the studio?
Lloyd Banks: I worked with Dre on a few records. That was around the Beg for Mercy era, 03-04. Dre in the studio is a wizard. He has to have everything the way he wants it to sound, period! He’ll bring things to the studio that I wasn’t used to. Like he’ll tell you to say something over like five to ten times. Then you’ll listen to it back and you’ll be like “damn it makes sense!.” He hears things that an artist, especially a brand new artist coming into the game is not going to pick up. He’ll have you doing different melodies and bridges; he builds records completely from top to the bottom. Just being in with someone like him and seeing the work ethic of 50 and Eminem makes you want to get into that route. The records come out sounding a little different man. It’s something only Dre knows that nobody knows. You can tell the difference when his albums are mixed cuz the quality of it is crazy.
Who?Mag: How is it working with Eminem in the studio?
Lloyd Banks: It is exactly what it is. It’s work! Ain’t really nothing else going around: no drinking, no smoking, straight down to business. Eminem is a workaholic perfectionist. He comes from working with [Dr.] Dre. You know the difference. He doesn’t have to be working with anybody at this point. You get in there and learn. Every time I go in with him I learn something. He has different elements in the studio. He’ll have someone playing the guitar. Little things man as far as building the record goes. He actually co produced On Fire. He got the record from K1 and added the magic to it and it is what it is today. It’s cool to work with that guy. He’s a guy at this point in his career who has left a mark that nobody is going to leave. At this point he’s doing it because he loves music. To see that it keeps me pushing.
Who?Mag: How about with the Alchemist?
Lloyd Banks: That’s my dude. I don’t think I’ve been in the studio and recorded with him. I’ve rapped over his beats a lot. I just bumped into him not too long ago at the shows in Detroit and Yankee Stadium with [Young] Jeezy and Eminem. I was telling him that we got to get into the studio and build something up from the skeleton. I’ve watched him make beats and everything. Hopefully we’ll get to work together. Because I’m going to start working on my fourth album immediately.
Who?Mag: How did I Smell Pussy come about?
Lloyd Banks: That’s crazy how music marks time. Because I can remember where I was at. We were in Barcelona as a matter of fact, and we flew to Detroit. That was around the time that at some award show Ja Rule had said something about 50. We flew straight to Detroit and went into the studio with Eminem for probably about two days. We made the CD calledAutomatic Gun Fire. I had the bulk of the beats, maybe like six or seven on hand. I Smell Pussy was one of them. It started as a freestyle and it felt good. We mixed it down and it went on the G Unit album.
Who?Mag: Can you break down your writing process?
Lloyd Banks: It changes depending on what I’m actually doing. Mixtape wise I write a little different. It’s always the bridge first. I start to get my thoughts together because you don’t have to have a particular direction. It’s whatever comes to mind first comes out. As far as subject matter and the execution of the punch lines and everything, it’s easier on the mixtapes because the material is more relevant at that time. Because when you record for an album the process might take seven months to a year before the album comes out. Something that you put in your rap that happened current event wise six months ago is not going to be as effective now. I always write for the moment as far as the mixtapes go. The album I usually start with the chorus and then the verses. I write verses very easy. Sometimes while playing 2k or some basketball game I can write a verse at the same time, or while I’m riding back and forth through the city, because I live in Long Island it’s around 35 to 40 minutes. In that time I usually write a verse a day. It’s so many different moods that I get in. I get to a point that I can’t remember shit. Then there’s a point where I can remember ten or twelve verses off the top. So when I go to Funkmaster Flex or Cosmic Kev or one of those big radio shows, where they require you to freestyle I’m usually prepared.
Who?Mag: Do you feel the leak of the Big Withdraw affected the eventual performance of the Rotten Apple?
Lloyd Banks: I think that if I dropped the Big Withdraw and the Rotten Apple as a double CD, it would still have had the same effect. Because I think the system is designed to make it look like a failure. It’s based off your prior success and support you didn’t get at that time. I think I was already being counted out before I even rolled the dice. I don’t think that would’ve made a big difference. On all levels just from being on promo tours, I’m supposed to be on promo tour now, the energy and reception had been so well. At that time there was a lot going on beyond me. It was a foul taste and I felt it. I think I was counted out before the project came out. I think if some of the material from Rotten Apple came out now it would be appreciated. There were records on there that were good records to me.
Who?Mag: Who are some of your influences as an emcee?
Lloyd Banks: There’s differences in who my influences are. Really just era wise. As far as artists before me I think that [Big Daddy] Kane, Rakim, Slick Rick, EPMD…of course the LL Cool Js…So many of them: Ice T, Ice Cube. There’s a lot of artist before me that when I first got turned on to hip hop it was still influential to me. I think that’s key for me being able to adapt. I paid attention to what came before me. I think a lot of the artist now that they’re writing and rolling to the studio. Whatever they’re doing they’re just writing the big story about themselves. They don’t really know the history. You’re just comparing yourself to you. Because you don’t listen to anybody else’s music. I think that’s the difference. I had the chance to be fan and a fan as an artist. It went from those early influences to of course Biggie Smalls, Rest in Peace. Rest in Peace 2pac, Big L Rest in Peace, Big Pun Rest in Peace. There’s a lot of artists in the late 90s that got busy in a different way. By the time I was going to concerts and things like that, I was rapping hard. I started rapping at 11 years old. So between 14, 15, and 16 when these albums were coming out like Ready to Die and all that I was completely sold. Then I came up with another era like the Stack Bundles, Rest in Peace, Fabolous’, and Joe Buddens. There’s a lot of different artists that was coming up around that time. I think with all that experience and also seeing a new artist coming out, it just made me want to adapt even more. I change with the times and keep grinding. I want to be like the chameleon just blending everywhere.
Who?Mag: Do you feel that one of the reasons the quality of music is suffering now is because a lot of artist don’t know the history of hip hop or care to know?
Lloyd Banks: Yeah! I think that is the reason for not moving forward. Because just to have the know- how, you can learn a lot. If you go back to Life after Death, I was about in 7th or 8th grade when it came out. I appreciated it for what I understood at that time. Now I’m 28 years old. If I go get that now, I’m listening to things that I understand a little differently now. Little concepts, story lines, they just make more sense to me now. I think that’s just part of the reason of just knowing. That’s a good example I should say. It’s a good reference to go over. How would you know what a good show is if you’ve never seen a bad one? I just go off of that. I’m a student of music and Hip Hop. If I’m looking at a show and I’m seeing Busta Rhymes on stage, I’m paying attention to what he do, because that’s one of his strong points. I think that’s what stopped. So many egos and everybody’s stuck on themselves. They don’t realize we’re all going to determine what even goes on for the next 10 years.
Who?Mag: One the same note, what advice do you give to up and coming artists?
Lloyd Banks: The best advice I can give is keep your circle small. I think exclusivity counts. You should always give people something to look forward to. 50 always told me that the first ten seconds of your record are the most important. I think a lot of artist don’t realize that. If I get a CD and they’re like “Yo, Yo, Yo”, on a long introduction, usually those I just skip. Time is everything and music marks time. You’re only as good as the last thing you did. If you’re rushing to get into the industry where it’s 95% business, you’re going to fall hard. Because you’re only as good as the last time they saw you. I would keep that in mind. To be the complete artist you need everything down pat: song structure, performance, appearance. All these things count in being a complete artist. Sometimes the early references can come back to haunt you.
Who?Mag: You’ve seen both sides of the game: Independent and being on a major label. Which is better?
Lloyd Banks: I think when I came into the industry I was about 19 or 20. At that point we were all…I don’t want to say blind….we had good intentions, you just never feel you’re going the be the one in that situation that changes to everything going as well as it was going. I think that when you have a support system, I think that’s good. We always had an inner circle. It was always G Unit records. The label was going off of the energy that was generated at that time, early on, when you win and you just think that’s hot. When my first album came out I thought that was hot: “Thank You, Thank You.” Like whatever! Everything is happening because of this. Not just because I’m a kid from Southside Jamaica Queens that can rap. I always thought there was a bigger reason why things happen. From the heads with the suits on. Early on being blind to everything, you know shit happens. When everything goes sour. The funny thing is when you lose, you don’t blame anybody, everybody blames you. That was the funny shit that I was a little confused by. Being independent that’s a whole different angle because the profit is a lot different. Now the deals are structured as 360 deals where they control your touring and they’re getting percentages of everything. The deals they are cutting now a days are different. Some things I just wasn’t ready to adapt to. I just preferred to stick to the situation that EMI presented. A lot of labels were interested in the project at the time. I wasn’t interested in getting into another stretch of a situation with a major label. Sometimes it’s a good thing to be on a label with a lot of artists. It’s a good thing to be on a label when you’re the priority most of, if not all the time. But you can go quickly from being a priority to a minority. Those are the good and bad points of being on a major label.
Who?Mag: How was it working with Daddy Yankee?
Lloyd Banks: Daddy Yankee is cool man. We did a record together and shot the video also. I worked with Wilsin and Yandel also. There’s a couple of artists I’d like to work with in the future. It’s cool man. I got to see another side. Going out to Yankee stadium and venues like that. They have a huge following. They sell out Madison Square Garden two or three days straight, sixty or seventy thousand a show in Puerto Rico or Dominican Republic. At the same time they’re knowing you too, because there’s a lot of Spanish people in New York City that listen to Spanish stations in particular and then they’ll listen to Hot 97 back and forth. It’s a beautiful thing to see it when it’s merged. You might come up on MTV Latin and see that video. It’s cool to be able to touch both audiences.
Who?Mag: Being that you’re half Puerto Rican have you ever thought about rhyming in Spanish?
Lloyd Banks: I actually did. I think we were on a plane ride back from Switzerland. I was trying to write it out. I think that’s what I’m going to try to do. First off I have to learn how to speak Spanish then speak it to the point where I could put it in a rap and sound good. I don’t want to do it in and out. I want to be able to do it slang wise. Because Hip Hop is based off a lot of slang. Sometimes it’s not what you say but how you say it. I think that would be dope to get slang and add that to the actual language. Not just in and out, then add a couple of bars.
Who?Mag: I know 50 Cent is working on a new album. Can you talk about it?
Lloyd Banks: It’s hard to talk about 50’s album. Because he works in batches; you never know what goes into what. When you really think about the history, he’s been working on solo albums, group material, movie soundtrack material, features. You never know. Sometimes I be like damn! You see a batch and he’ll tell you that’s not for the album. That’s for this. It’s hard to really know what the album is until he tells me this is the album. Until that point who knows? I might be able get to that shit. I know he’s played a bunch of music for me. It’s scattered out. It just takes one record to start the album with 50. I watched him do it. He just shows you one record that has the energy behind it and that’s enough to throw the other thirteen records around. One record creates the madness.