Friday, November 12, 2010

An EXCLUSIVE interview with LLOYD BANKS!

By Stephen SPAZ Schnee

Nearly a decade ago, a Hip Hop trio named G-Unit emerged from the New York mixtape underground. Consisting of 50 Cent, Tony Yayo and Lloyd Banks, G-Unit became game changers in the world of mixtapes. They turned a then-stagnant ‘rap-a-thon’ mix format into a proper collection of songs with features galore. Practically every street release that has followed in their wake owes a lot to the Hip Hop soldiers in G-Unit.
When 50 Cent was groomed for solo success, he took his G-Unit mates with him and, for years, they have remained mixtape legends and Hip Hop superstars. While 50’s solo career blossomed, it allowed Lloyd Banks to step out on his own for his first solo album, Hunger For More (2004). The success of that album allowed Banks to concentrate on his solo career in earnest. Two years later, he followed up with his equally hard-hitting sophomore album Rotten Apple. All the while, G-Unit and Banks continued to bless the underground market with some of the finest mixtapes on the market.
Four years later, and only months after the huge success of his “Beamers, Benz Or Bentley” single, Banks is ready to drop his third solo album, Hunger For More 2. While it’s not necessarily a sequel to his debut album, Hunger For More 2 takes Lloyd Banks back to his roots while also creating a whole new formula in the process.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to sit down and talk with Lloyd and get the lowdown on his new album, G-Unit, mixtapes and some of his more recent collaborators…

SPAZ: Hunger For More 2 is just about ready to drop. How are you feeling about the album and your career at this point?
LLOYD BANKS: Well, first off, I’m excited. This is my first album in four years. Six years since my first album, so I think that all the experience gathered up, I feel not like the ultimate artist but I definitely feel a few notches higher than I did as a debut artist, you know. I’ve been doing this for years… more than a decade of being in the industry professionally. I think the growth between albums will stand out the most, more than anything. As far as my career goes, I feel like I’m catching my second wind now, to be honest. Its one thing to win when everyone wants you to win and expects you to win and it’s another thing when you’ve got doubters. No more than 10 months ago, I had doubters. With the success of “Beamer, Benz Or Bentley”, it actually made my third studio album a reality because immediately following the success of that, the bidding war started. I had Def jam hollering at me, Interscope trying to get the record back… I feel like it’s my second wind. I feel like a new artist with veteran experience.

SPAZ: This new album is called Hunger For More 2. Is this a continuation of the subjects you explored on Hunger For More or do you look at this as something entirely different?
LB: Some points of it are totally different but it does have its similarities. The album starts off with a record called “Take ‘Em To War”, which was produced by Cardiak. It’s similar to the first album’s introduction, “Ain’t No Click” cuz it’s starts off with two verses from me, me on the chorus and Tony Yayo on the third verse, so I repeated the same formula with this album. The main difference will probably be the features. On the first album, I had Nate Dogg, Game, Buck… This album, I’ve got a few new features. Styles P is on the record. Raekwon, Pusha T, Akon… The record I did with Raekwon is called “Sooner Or Later’, which is actually a continuation of the record “Die One Day”, which is on the first album. So, some of the album has similar direction but there’s some new records on there. “Start it Up”, with Kanye West, Fabolus, Ryan Leslie and Swizz Beats, that’s a completely new feel, a whole new vibe.

SPAZ: Do you prefer to lay down individual tracks that will eventually come together as an album or do you head into the studio with an album project in mind?
LB: Going into the album, I had a few records done. I had material recorded before I released “Beamer, Benz or Bentley”. When I dropped “Beamer, Benz…” is when I realistically started working on the bulk of the album. I wasn’t content with “Beamer, Benz…”. I didn’t know for sure that that was going to be enough to bring me back to the forefront. I was prepared to do two or three “Beamer Benz…” type songs. So, when that record happened for me, it was time to realistically start working on the album. At the time I wrote ‘Beamer, Benz…”, I wrote “On The Double”, “Any Girl” as well as the bonus cut called “Stuntin’”. They were all in the club vein. I broke the records down in my moods. I wrote four records for the clubs at one time. Cardiak, the same producer who did the opening track, he did “Start it Up”, he also co-produced “This Is The Life”, which is another bonus track. I knocked out about four tracks with Cardiak all at the same time because they were all for the same CD. I had a record called “Playback (P’s and Q’s)”, which was one of the first harder records that I recorded and I built the bulk of the record around that. Songs like “Home Sweet Home”, “Father Time”, these records were all recorded in the same vein. So, there are the conceptual records. There are the feel-good records The club records. Then I wrote a bulk of the more aggressive records. And I have about two or three records catered to the females. I wrote “I Don’t Deserve You” with Jeremih. I wrote “So Forgetful” with Ryan Leslie. I wrote these records in the same batch. But honestly, I didn’t start the album until “Beamer, Benz…” came. Up until that point, I was just ready to keep on putting out record after record.

SPAZ: When a track like “Beamer, Benz…” comes out, does it frustrate you when people just want more of the same. As an artist, I’m sure that you prefer to record what comes naturally to you.
LB: You know what? I think that with that in mind, that’s why I recorded about four different records all in the same club vein. Like I said, I was prepared to have to drop two or three “Beamer, Benz or Bentleys” but fortunately enough for me, we batted 100 and we picked the right one the first time. That was part of the reason why the record “Start it Up”, which is the most recent single, was a blessing because, ultimately, it lets me do whatever I want to do from this point on. From this point, I’ve got three records that can be played in the car, in the club… Now, I think fans can appreciate a record that is has more of a concept behind it now…or a record catered to the females because I’ve been in the clubs for the last six months.

SPAZ: Beamer, Benz or Bentley…. which one is it for Lloyd Banks?
LB: At the moment, it’s the Benz! I have two Bentleys but they have a lot of mechanical problems, shutting off on me and I couldn’t really handle that.

SPAZ: The album’s third single “Start It Up” features Swizz Beatz, Kanye West, Ryan Leslie and Fabolous….how did this collaboration happen?
LB: Actually, I was in the studio with Fabolus recording our verses for the record and it just so happens that Kanye records in Manhattan also. So, after I was done, I went over to his studio and he was in there with Ryan Leslie, Kid Cudi, John Legend…. Once I got over there, I heard the part that Kanye did, which was a 32-bar verse and then basically, we did the record that night. I mean, it just all came together. Swizz Beats had stopped by before I got there…

SPAZ: Who are the other collaborators on the album?
LB: I got a record with Styles P, which is the second track on the CD and it’s called “Unexplainable”. I’ve been in the game going on a decade, but the way I feel about my career now, I can’t put into words and I felt I had to get somebody to capture that hardcore street edge and who better than Styles P? I also have a record with Eminem entitled “Where I’m At” and it’s amazing. I think that lyrically, people are going to be looking at me in a different light. The way he sent it to me, it was 32 bars and I was able to do a little bit more than I can do in 16. I spoke with Em on the phone for maybe a half-hour prior to going in to record the record. He played me the verse over the phone so I could get the direction of the song. The record has a big sound. It could easily be a crossover record.

SPAZ: Is it difficult to finally come to the point when you realize that the album is done and it’s time got get it out there?
LB: Artists are like barbers: they’re never done. If you let them cut your hair for three hours, they will. I think that’s the good part about having a deadline: you have to keep it. But at the same time, I record up until the deadline. I don’t care if I had 14 records done six months ago… I’m not going to short myself because I make music at least two or three days out of the week. Naturally, you become more fond of the most recent material. It’s kind of a gift and a curse because the more music you create, the more you want to add on. If you don’t want to end up with a 20 song track list, you gotta nip it in the bud at some point.

SPAZ: It’s been said you’re a mix-tape champion…what’s your strategy? Are you just overflowing with tracks, is it all marketing or just the art?
LB: To be honest with you, the underground market was the market that introduced me. When you’re recording a studio album, the recording process may take 6 months to a year. But when I’m doing a mixtape, I can record a whole mixtape within a week’s time. So, I can approach current events as they happen. So, if the Giants win the World Series, I’m able to rap about it the day after it happens. Or like when Kanye went on stage with Taylor Swift, if I had a punchline or metaphor to put to use, it would be more effective the day after the MTV Awards, not a year and a half later. The mixtape is basically giving me a chance to tackle current events. There’s really no direction unless you choose one.

SPAZ: Are you currently working on a G-Unit project or just focused on your solo work right now?
LB: At the moment, I’ve been focused on my solo career. We have, at the moment, maybe 13 or 14 G-Unit songs stored away. We record very fast. We might do between four or five records in one day. Literally, in a week, we can create a mixtape.

SPAZ: What’s next for Lloyd Banks?
LB: Immediately following the release of the album, I’ve got a few shows and then, in December, I’ll be going over for a European tour for a month and a half and then I’ll come back home and in the new year, probably do a full 50 city tour. There’s so many different ways to judge an artist now. You just can’t judge an artist on record sales. I believe you have to use performance, internet presence… you know, all of these things. My last couple of videos that I’m shooting are going to be mini-films. Just to prep me for hopefully getting into the film business next year. My ultimate goal would be for my next album to be released with a film attached.

SPAZ: What do you currently have spinning in your CD and DVD players?
LB: In my CD player, I’ve been listening to a lot of beats because I commute back and forth into the city a lot and I’m constantly working on new material. Actually, when your deadline hits, you have what I call a spill-over of material you can’t use for the album, but you’re dying to get it out and be heard. By the time you turn your album in, it’s a month or month and a half before your album is released. So you go for like 45 days worth of time to make new material. So, as soon as that goes out, I’ll be listening to my album, I’ll be listening to Kanye’s album and Nicky Minaj.

Thanks to Lloyd Banks
Special thanks to Jocelynn Pryor and Jacki Feldstein

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