Exclusive: Lloyd Banks UB Interview

Lloyd Banks was raised in Jamaica, Queens, by his Puerto Rican mother; his father spent much of his son’s childhood behind bars. Like many young men amid the poverty and ruin of his community, he found solace through ghetto poetry and the work of rappers like Big Daddy Kane and Slick Rick. He dropped out of high school at the age of 16, finding the structured environment a hindrance to his developing talent for rhyming.

After appearing on numerous local mixtapes, Banks, along with childhood friends Tony Yayo and 50 Cent, formed a crew called G-Unit, a group that proceeded to redefine the term “street marketing” with a series of self-released albums that included original numbers and quality artwork. Banks stayed on with 50 Cent, appearing on the artist’s now classic 2003 debut, Get Rich or Die Tryin‘. November of that same year saw the release of G-Unit’s Beg for Mercy. Banks’ long-awaited solo debut for G Unit/Interscope Records, Hunger for More, was released in June 2004. He followed it two years later with Rotten Apple. In 2010, G-Unit left Interscope and partnered with EMI for Banks’ third album, H.F.M. 2 (The Hunger for More 2) in Stores Now!

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(Lloyd Banks Shouts out UrbanBridgez.com)

Recently Lloyd Banks spoke with J Dot. from UrbanBridgez.com about his new album H.F.M.2, recording classic Hip-Hop, his creative process, growing up in Jamaica Queens, 50 & G-Unit, Twitter, the state of Hip-Hop & much more!


UrbanBridgez.com: The theme to the cover-art booklet of H.F.M.2. is real creative and different (images of getting ready to rob a bank & the last image standing in the vault with all the money), who came up with that concept and why did you choose it?
Lloyd Banks: Well I did, I’m gonna take credit credit for it even if I didn’t come up with it. But basically the first album I was on the outside looking in. It shows the transition from then to now. So now it’s just showing we’re going for the big thing now! And as far as the album goes, I think when people saw the album cover because it has similarities to the first. But once you start flipping the pages, it tells a story! It’s a visual and metaphor for what I’m doing to the game now. Sometimes you just gotta take it back.
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UrbanBridgez.com: ‘Home Sweet Home’ has such a grimey beat, sounds like classic Hip-Hop. How was it getting together with Pusha-T creating that one?
Lloyd Banks: I had the beat for a minute, Nick Speed out of Detroit did it. It was one of them beats where I played with about 4 or 5 different verses. Because the beat gave me alot of different concepts, most of them were dark though. And with the sample it was saying in the streets of Detroit. It was basically a way for me to bring people to the south side of Jamaica (NY) where I grew up, because I felt like that was what the beat was going for. The record is basically speaking on the fact that I’ve been all around the world, but what people see on the internet and see on TV and things like that become the norm for alot of us who come up in those types of neighborhoods. What seems so disturbing to others can be the regular for us, that’s really what the record is speaking on. As for me reaching out to Pusha, I mean I’ve been a fan of The Clipse since the first album. So that was just like really the first time we collaborated. ‘Home Sweet Home’ is actually one of my favorite records on the whole album.

UrbanBridgez.com: The ‘I Don’t Deserve You’ video just dropped, what made you go with that for the new single?
Lloyd Banks: My first solo single off of the G-Unit album was ‘Smile.’ Which was the only song I had on the album and led into my first solo project. Then ‘On Fire’ was my first single from that and it was geared for the masses so it worked all over the place. But ‘Smile’ stretched everywhere like overseas, so I guess the overall message is just connecting with my female audience. That really opened up the door for that crowd, I watched my audience change. The first five, six rows (at shows) was full of females just based off of that record. Which led to records like ‘Karma’ & ‘Help.’ So yeah I just felt like it was a need for that with this album. I mean I have ‘Any Girl’ but I couldn’t say it was geared towards the ladies because I say to the fellas I can have any girl I want, you know. So I think it helped for both as well as ‘Beamer, Benz or Bentley.’ But ‘I Don’t Deserve You’ speaks directly to women. I think the video is dope! I think they want to know alot about your life, I always found a way to give them those type of records but not dumb down, you know. Not all lovey dovey, but real life situations that go down. I like to give a variety and it’s kinda funny it came right after ‘Any Girl.’ Like I can have any girl, then again I knew enough not to mislead someone. Basically in short the message was, I ain’t shit! Now how many people admit that?

UrbanBridgez.com: Exactly! And speaking of the ladies and your female fanbase, I’m sure there are some out there if they could ask you a question would be are you seeing a special girl and what would be their chances when it comes to that?
Lloyd Banks: Man I’m the same since the minute I came in the industry to be honest with you. I’ve been single all the way through. I think that’s why records like that connect for me. Because people start to know your story, records like ‘Karma’ where I’m the venerable person for about 3 minutes. So I think that was what excited people about the whole idea of me making those types of records. I don’t think I’m gonna go the lovey dovey route though, I mean unless something changes, you know. As my life changes, I mean the music will also but for the time being records like ‘So Forgetful’ come more to mind. Because that’s what’s really going on, still single man.

UrbanBridgez.com: For this album alone you’ve worked with R&B cats like Young Lloyd and Jeremih, who are some other R&B artists you would like to work with if given the opportunity?
Aww man, there’s alot of talented people out there. I would like to work with Mary J. Blige! I’ve always wanted to work with Mary J. Blige, who is dope. Trey Songz is dope, Chrisette Michele is dope! It’s so many people man, I worked with Music Soulchild on my second album, I’ve always did records outside of the box. I just think the bigger you become as far as success, more people open their eyes to it, you know. So there are things I pulled off in my mixtape days as far as story telling and things like that I kinda slowed down. But once you come into the industry you’re expected to do so much more. And I think once you get the hit records out of the way it opens up the doors for more records like ‘Celebrity’ (Eminem) that don’t have to be geared towards the radio, but work for the radio and the clubs and things like that. I think fans will see that on my next couple of albums, being that more people are checking for what I’m doing. Like I had Keri Hilson on my second album also.
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UrbanBridgez.com: ‘Beamer, Benz or Bentley’ is classic, far as I’m concerned & a dope video. Where did the idea and flows come from with that one?
Lloyd Banks: Same thing like with ‘Home’ I had the beat for like a couple of months. So I would play it at times when I was in my car, mainly writing the verses first. Knowing what the whole concept is, I feel like I’m wrapped up pretty good as an artist on different levels but I always write the verses first. That’s how I’ve always started. So once I got them down, the chorus just came, it wasn’t something I payed too much attention to that’s how I knew it would be special. Certain records happen like that like ‘Fire’ and ‘Warrior,’ these are records I wrote in like a half hour. So after I had my portion done, I sat on the record for awhile. I would let Juelz listen to it and ‘Any Girl’ which I recorded both of them around the same time actually the same night, along with ‘Stuntin’ which is a bonus on the album. So I played it for some DJ’s as well and after awhile it just got a buzz on it’s own and people started to look for it on the mixshows. And the title was so catchy it was easy to spread around.

UrbanBridgez.com: Did you instantly think of Juelz to get on it?
Lloyd Banks: Nah not really to be honest. Like I said I kinda sat on it for a minute and after awhile I was thinking who could pull it off? Sometimes it’s not about who has the best rap, sometimes it about flow. Like if you got a grimey type of beat it might be one for you to put together some tight punch lines and things like that. I know what type of artist Juelz is and he’s the type that can rap over any beat! So I knew he would have more flow and add the flow to the record and that’s what was needed. You know also what it is, from making so many videos, you start writing your records in video form already. So even when I wrote ‘Start It Up’ and I’m saying ‘big blue, cotton city shoe cotton candy coupe hard knock, orphan Annie loop off the stoop,’ I’m already putting me in all the nice sh*t they’re talking about. But at the same time, I’m putting me back to my stoop, you understand what I’m saying? So I’m picturing the video like what I got on, what type of car I’m driving, you know. That’s why I was goin in on ‘Beamer, Benz’ because I was picturing the movie. I think that’s why it elevated.
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UrbanBridgez.com: That’s a very interesting way to come up with it and the creative process of it.
Lloyd Banks: Right exactly, because like now you can shoot a viral video to a mixtape song and everything. Just turn the camera on and you get money. So with that said and me coming from my independent days, it’s easier for me to tackle things. Like if I feel like passion about a record I can just master, shoot the video for it and everything I want to do with it. Like there are songs in the past that I wish I would of shot a video for like ‘Til The End,’ I think if people would of seen the visual, people would see how good of a story teller I am. But that’s the way things work, you get two maybe three videos if you have a good album. Four singles if you had a great one!

UrbanBridgez.com: How do you think growing up in Jamaica Queens, prepared you for a career in entertainment?
Lloyd Banks: At the end of the day I could say this, I used my neighborhood just as much as it used me. To this day and everybody that grew up in the area with me is steady growing to my music. Whether it’s blatant or indirect. And it’s always going to be like that, you have to know where you’re from to know where you’re going! Recently I did a few documentaries so I’ve been able to go back there and certain places where I wrote certain verses. As far as coming up in the studio and remembering my first tape. Just in a little room in a little square box writing everything. I think that has alot to do with where I’m at now. Because coming up you work so much man and you strive to do so good. Then when you do, you go right back there because that’s all you know. When you read the news and internet and hear about rappers getting locked up and this and that. When you come up like middle school and high school and ain’t never had sh*t and you’re considered a fu*k up your whole life, you just wanna show people this is you and that’s all you knew! I’m gonna always want to go back to where I grew up, I think the challenge comes when you just gotta space that out from where you are now. So it’s a big part of my career, I say south-side in almost every record I do, specially free style because I’m speaking directly to the street. It’s not just my hood, every hood is the same man.

UrbanBridgez.com: For high-school you went to August Martin in Queens right?
Lloyd Banks: Yeah, I actually just stopped through August Martin. You’ll see the footage soon on MTV. I’ve been doing a few things for the school like the library and things. Had a chance to talk to the kids, they got a recording booth, bigger than mine. Monitors, they can shoot videos and the whole nine. We didn’t have none of that when I was in school. I probably would of been only in the studio class if we did. My music class wasn’t my kind of music, it was like violins and stuff I wasn’t with that. They didn’t even have a set of drums in there. So to go from that to now, I’m telling you they can actually record their demos in school! So it’s just cool and to help be apart of it.

UrbanBridgez.com: That’s great to hear that! What’s the best advice 50 has given you that sticks with you always?
Lloyd Banks: Hmm, my advice I would say is probably a little different. Because sometimes you gotta hit right on the nose to really appreciate it. He told me, you know when you win, we all win together! When you loose, you loose by yourself! So yeah you gotta go through it to really understand. Like every artist has to go through something in order to make it, that’s what makes it a success story. Sometimes it feels better when people count you out to fight diversity and things like that. So that was something that always stuck in my mind, because every artist has the point in their career where it’s like I don’t care what radio station you listen to you wanna hear your song. I came into the industry as a teenager, so you have a certain arrogance about you. You think it’s going to be that way forever, but it was different for me because I was apart of a situation that was big enough to generate heat! Alot of artists come in the game..you got two sides to that. You could come in with someone like a 50 Cent or like Snoop has Dre, but you have to keep up with the company around you. It’s alot of artist out there now that are doing the same thing. Like I came up from the mixtape market & like Nicki Minaj, she just went platinum! When you’re not apart of a entity like that you don’t really get to that heat meter, you know what I’m saying. To the point where people won’t like you for no reason, you’ll have more a stable career like you might not never get down, but it won’t ever shoot up! So that can be your story too and your career, mine was just a little different. We all came in together, road together from the same neighborhood and out the gate millions of records sold that’s a different kind of energy. I can’t really put my finger on it to say it, but I’ll tell you one thing. I ain’t gonna stop working!
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UrbanBridgez.com: Exactly! I think alot of people think because of 50.
Lloyd Banks: Yeah and see that’s the thing, you gotta be as good as the company you’re around! Like people say aww because of 50 this and that and if anything it’s harder. Ask the other 5 or 6 artists on the label who don’t have an album out. So that’s why I tip my hat to everybody who’s out there and staying relevant, it’s not easy. It’s a hard business.

UrbanBridgez.com: Speaking of Nicki, what do you think and would you work with her?
Lloyd Banks: Yeah of course I would. She’s a dope artist and for two she’s from Queens! Alot of new artist I wouldn’t mind working with.

UrbanBridgez.com: ‘Black Magic’ is coming! From what you know of the music and of 50, what do you think from what you’ve heard?
Lloyd Banks: Well I’m not sure exactly what records will be on the album. Because he records at a very fast pace. So from the 14 to 15 songs I’ve heard it might be a few that make it to all or none. I don’t know. But what I’ve heard is dope! I’ve been a fan of his since we we’re coming up I was there when he was writing songs like ‘Many Men’ and ’21 Questions’ from ‘Get Rich or Die Trying.’ So for me and what he’s doing now, it’s gonna be dope!

UrbanBridgez.com: What’s next on the horizon for Lloyd Banks and G-Unit as a whole?
Lloyd Banks: With G-Unit we’re gonna keep pushin and doing what we’re doing. People always ask me about another G-Unit album. We record so many songs, like Yayo might recite a song or something and I’ll be like dang I forgot we had did that. So as far as us, we’re gonna keep creating and getting bigger as a brand and with the record label. As far as Lloyd Banks, I’m just gonna keep doing me. I’m gonna stay consistent, stay on the mixtape market and doing what I’ve been doing. Trying to put out more albums man, I really feel like I can get an album out a year. Just stay relevant and keep moving man.
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UrbanBridgez.com: What do you feel about the state of Hip-Hop and people still throwing out they think it’s dead?
Lloyd Banks: I mean everybody is going to have an argument about it, depending on what area you come out of. Some people are still spoiled with the music from the 90’s and the impact it had. It’s just hard, hard to make something feel like it first did when it hit the street & that could be an argument. It’s like sports, you gotta really know the music to argue with me. Anybody can just say Hip-Hop is dead, you gotta actually pay attention and see what’s going on. I get into it with people on my Twitter all the time, like there are people who don’t even watch the Knicks but say fu*k the Knicks. They don’t even watch or know what’s going on and that’s how it is with music. Everybody deserves to have an opinion, and that leads to arguments. So for me personally speaking for Loyd Banks, I feel like I’m more happy now, with the music I’m making now and it’s where it should be at. I feel like I’ve grown as an artist. I’ve gotten through as an artist so for me it’s fun and alot of love.
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UrbanBridgez.com: What would you say to aspiring rappers who want to get in the industry who might be discouraged by albums not selling as much as they use to, people downloading, labels, etc. What would you say to them?
Lloyd Banks: I would say two things, for one if you’re going to do it, do it because you love to do it! That’s the only thing at the end of the day that’s going to keep you wanting to go to work. That’s what this is, this is a hobby I’ve been doing since I was 10 or 11 years old. This is something I would do like even on my day off, I would go in the studio. I love what I do. I mean Lebron James played football too, but he’s better at basketball. As far as the business side goes, I feel like you only get once chance to leave a first impression! I would keep that in mind as an up-coming artist. You don’t wanna have anything when people go back and you be embarrassed about. So get everything cleaned up and be all the way ready so when you do get to that platform! And you get out, what you put in to it.

UrbanBridgez.com: How would you say Twitter and social media has effected you and ways to promote and interact with your fans?
Lloyd Banks: Twitter is the new thing, I mean we’ve had MySpace, Facebook and all these different social media things. Twitter just keeps you connected to your fans man. Like if I post a record I can see the response and how they feel about it immediately. And I depend on that, there was a point where I wasn’t releasing records to the radio like that, I really just focused on my core-base and trying to build on my brand on the internet. And on every blog and site they have comments where you can see what people feel about it so that’s what I used because it was just me in the studio and I didn’t have anybody around I wanted to be alone at one point. Just go off creatively and that was the feedback I used. So that’s what I use Twitter for, at the end of the day to keep the people who are following updated on what I got going on up to speed.

UrbanBridgez.com: Any last words you wanna leave with your fans?
Lloyd Banks: For one I appreciate all the love and support that I’ve been getting from day one! And everybody who is just catching on to what Lloyd Banks is doing, the album is in stores now H.F.M.2. and available on iTunes so check it out. One of the dopest albums of the year, going into this new year! Check my new video out ‘I Don’t Deserve You’ featuring Jeremih. We heavy out there man, so big ups and I appreciate the love!
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