How was hip-hop star David Banner able to achieve such a high degree of success in the recording industry and beyond? Some may suggest the Mississippi-born artist dressed for it. Granted, a button-up shirt, tie and matching vest are not typical rapper attire. Banner, however, has made a career of being neatly outfitted while tackling social wrinkles and blemishes. The platinum-selling Southern University graduate adheres to a strict code of matching danceable, pattern-heavy beats with tight subject matter, which can be found on his newest release sex, drugs & video games. What’s found in his heart and on his mind without music is just as moving.
David Banner loosened his tie for this exclusive interview with SoulTrain.com
Soul Train: David, to me, you’re one of the most well-groomed artists in hip-hop.
David Banner: Thank you! Thank you, thank you.
Soul Train: You often dress up, wearing suits and ties. How much do you enjoy looking nice?
David Banner: Umm…I enjoy it. I’m humbled by the ability to afford to dress well. I say that because I think sometimes I forget how blessed I am and how far I’ve come, just to be able to have clothes on my back, to have a roof to stay under. Sometimes in entertainment we think that’s something we’re supposed to have. Well, that’s afforded to us! The other aspect of it is I love to be able to show people – not just in hip-hop, but where I’m from – I’m in touch about fashion, too. Whether I like it or want it or not, I represent more than me.
Soul Train: How quickly does your demeanor change when you dress up?
David Banner: [Laughs] That’s a good question, man. When you get your hair cut, and you’re smelling good and looking good, it definitely permeates through the rest of your body and your attitude. I would like to say it doesn’t change much, but that’s just not true. As soon as you look in the mirror and everything is to your liking, it’s an instant change. And when I step up out that barber chair I feel like ain’t nobody fresher in the world.
Soul Train: Do you feel more confident when you’re dressed nicely or when you’re holding the microphone?
David Banner: Probably…equally as confident. I know how I feel about my people, I know how I feel about my talent. The clothes are really secondary. I know I answered the question, and it was more about me, but for the most part I try to put my faith in other places besides myself. Something I’m working on right now is trying to get away from myself. Stop allowing it to be about me. The reason I have a microphone in my hand, the reason why I have those clothes on is because it’s from God – a higher blessing. A lot of times we try to make it be about us, that’s the day when the downfall begins. As much as I can I’m trying to get away from it being about me.
Soul Train: You get pretty raw when you’re on that microphone. So have you ever had to get raw and dirty with someone while you were all dressed up, nice and clean?
David Banner: [Laughs] I think I’ve been close to it before, but I don’t think I’ve ever been in an altercation with my threads on. You don’t want to mess up that ensemble. [Laughs]
Soul Train: How many black tie affairs would you say you’ve been to since your career took off?
David Banner: Oh, man… If I gave you a number it wouldn’t be the truth. I have no idea. I don’t have a problem with them though; that’s usually where you meet some good connects, at those types of events. But I’ve been to a lot of them.
Soul Train: David, there was a time when a gathering of well-dressed men, especially wearing the traditional black suit and tie, represented only class, sophistication and leadership. But because of the corruption on Wall Street and in politics, I feel now that look has been somewhat tarnished. What do you think?
David Banner: It goes back to me saying it’s about the person. For so long hoodies and white t-shirts have been connected with negativity, but the true downfall of America were people behind suits and ties. Now we can start focusing on the person; not the way they wear their hair or the clothes they have on, it’s about the individual. Just because you get in a suit that doesn’t make you a positive person, and it doesn’t take away from you being a good person. It’s all just clothes; it’s about what’s in the heart and soul of a person.
Soul Train: What does President Barack Obama bring to the suit and what it represents?
David Banner: I think President Obama brings a new image to the suit as far as who is in it and the things we can be exposed to while upholding some of the old values of what the suit means. In other words, Barack is about his business, but yet and still he understands young culture. He embraces young culture, but still does it with the style and grace of a person who is our president! He upholds the business the suit and tie represents but at the same token supports what it means to not have that suit on – at the same time. You’re still human.
Soul Train: We’re hearing a lot about Mitt Romney. What does he bring to the suit?
David Banner: I just think he represents, to a certain degree, some of the old aspects of how the suit and tie are looked upon. As far as the everyday ordinary American, some of the things he supports and some of the things he stands for… I don’t know him as a person, and we only get what’s on TV. So it’s hard to make a judgment on a man you don’t truly know. But from the outside looking in, some of the things we were talking about earlier about what the suit and tie represents, that’s not as healthy for the everyday working class citizen.
Soul Train: The image of America has gotten dirty. Can the American people, or by them electing the right leader, clean up our country’s image?
David Banner: The image of America can be changed by the individual. I think we all have to take minute and stop and clean ourselves up. Because having a representative to change the view is just like putting on a suit, and it’s no different than putting on that suit. You can have a great representative, but if that representative is not backed up by the actions of the people what does it mean? It’s similar to having a great group of people and a terrible representative. It’s funny that all fits in together because it’s no different; it’s like having a nice suite and tie and bad body. Or having a great body in a terrible suit! It works hand in hand, but it starts with the body first. You can have a great suit on in a casket. In means nothing.
Soul Train: You made a career of dressing up your rhymes with poignant and gripping subject matter. But at this stage in your life David, how do you continue to get people to put on your music?
David Banner: Umm…for me it’s just keeping it jamming. I can have as many messages as I want to, but if the music doesn’t sound good and if it’s not jamming they won’t bother. Dope concepts, dope beats, dope rhymes: I’ll stick to that until I die. As long as my spirit is right we’ll be looking good.
–Mr. Joe Walker
Mr. Joe Walker, a senior contributor for SoulTrain.com, is an acclaimed entertainment and news journalist published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online. He loves to create, loves that you read. Follow him on Twitter @mrjoewalker. Also visit ByMrJoeWalker.blogspot.com.