David Banner: Sounds Off On Music, Politics and Race
By Mary L. Datcher
Arts & Entertainment Editor
The music of the South is wrapped in a long history of our country’s roots and has transcended into other forms of American music.
Gradually, the influence of rap music has transformed throughout the Southern region, taking on a different style of its own from Dirty South, Crunk to Trap music, laced with different accents and different faces — apart from their East Coast and West Coast counterparts.
David Banner joined the elite group of artists when he cracked the Billboard charts in 2003 with his first major label album release, “Mississippi: The Album. The album re-launched his indie hit, “Like A Pimp,” featuring Lil Flip to a wider audience. Followed up by his third album, MTA2: Baptized in Dirty Water and in 2005, Certified was dropped featuring hit singles “Play” and “Touching.”
Although he is not the first rap artist to represent his hometown of Jackson, Mississippi, he is the first one to reach international fame. To his family and friends, Lavell William Crump had a fascination with the power of the written word. Both parents believed in the importance of education and after high school, he went on to attend and graduate from his mother’s alma mater, Southern University A&M. He continued to pursue his master’s degree at the University of Maryland.
Crump dropped out of the program when he realized he wanted to put his full-time dedication into his rap career. He adopted the name ‘David Banner’ from the comic book hero and television series The Incredible Hulk. As a member of the group Crooked Lettaz, he and group member Kamikaze released their first project Grey Skies in 1999. He went on to a solo career and raised eyebrows when he penned T.I.’s hit song Rubberband Man.
Confronting Black Male Images
After traveling overseas for the first time on a promo tour, he received a reality check.
“I got an opportunity to see how Black men were being portrayed globally by America. For the most part, it was just rap videos. At that time, that’s when reality television shows first started and saw how Black men were viewed and we looked really bad,” he said.
The images sent him through a depression. “I was embarrassed,” Banner said. “There’s nothing you can pay me to send those Black images to hell. I was done.”
That’s when he started to take on acting full-time and took a break from rapping, but the stereotypes still followed him. “Ninety percent of the scripts I would get, my name was Uzi,” he laughs.
His film credits have included his debut in Black Snake Moan starring Samuel L. Jackson and continued with This Christmas, Days of Wrath, Stomp the Yard, The Butler, and Ride Along, among some of his roles. He is currently on the Bounce TV series “Saints and Sinners.”
His latest project, which has Banner traveling around the country, is the God Box — a motivational speaker series where he discusses his viewpoints on social injustice, race and music to college students.
“Globally, the biggest threat to humans are old white males. If you really think about it, Black men don’t do anything to no one but themselves. So when you get on the elevator, you have no reason to clench your purse. What we should do is clinch our culture,” he said.
“The only reason that we hate ourselves is because Black people see through the eyes of white people and they don’t notice it. That’s why it’s so easy to call each other niggas,” Banner explains. “We’re a nigga because we want to act like white men and have white masters. Why would you want to call yourself the most ratchet word that pertains to Black people? Why would you want to call yourself nigga? We don’t even know why we hate ourselves the way that we do?”
Separating Church and God
Even throughout his career, he admits he partied hard, living the life of a rock star — his conscience kept him focused on being accountable for the image that he portrayed to the masses.
On politics, he claims to be neither a Democrat nor a Republican and will not publicly endorse a candidate.
Banner said, “We give our allegiance away blindly because we give our constituency away for free. So the truth is we’re already f—– up. How much worse can it get for Black people in America?”
With The God Box album scheduled for release August 16, it will mirror the impact and teachings of his speaking series as fans got a sample from the popular mixtape Before The Box, which dropped Spring 2015.
He said, “It’s like The Secret — something that you have to learn on your own. I think once Black people realize who or what The God Box is — it’ll change for all of us. That’s what I like the most. What people don’t under- stand: God is not in the church; God is in you.”
Follow Mary L. Datcher on Twitter