Lloyd Banks – Interview

Lloyd Banks

Rotten Apple is a 2006 album by G-Unit rapper Lloyd Banks. It will be Banks’ sophomore album, which is scheduled to be released September 19. The title of the album is a play on the New York City nickname “The Big Apple.”

The album is scheduled guest appearances from 50 Cent, Tony Yayo, Young Buck, Alicia Keys, Rakim, Scarface, Mobb Deep, and 8 Ball of 8 Ball & MJG. Tentative track production will come from Sha Money XL, Timbaland, Eminem, Havoc, and Chad Beats.

We did the interview back in early June with Lloyd Banks and this is how it went.

Is the album done?

It’s completed—but I never stop recording until the deadline. You never know what record could come up in the last couple days you record. That is how “On Fire” came up—the last week before the deadline.

How long do they give you on a deadline?

The second week of June. [Which ended up being about two months before the album’s first release date]

If something comes up is that just the topping on the cake?

You never want to close out the opportunity. That is why they give you a deadline. I’ve been recording for a long time now and I have a lot of records recorded and I don’t want to lose one. I never close the doors until I have to.

With all the tracks how do you bump one? Because at one time you thought it was hot but now you think what you have now is hotter.

That happens too. If I felt that the record is hotter I’ll substitute. That is exactly what happens. Sometimes you’ve been listening to a record so long that you start to feel a new record more than an old one.

Do you listen to it a lot to get a feel for it or lay the tracks—

–I’m a perfectionist. I listen to them over and over again to make sure they sound the same way after the twentieth time. I’ve developed an ear of what a good record is. I don’t dwell on a hit. When you have one your blood rushes and when you bump one of those you know it.

Talk about being a perfectionist, I don’t think a lot of people who aren’t fans of hip-hop think of a hip-hop artists as hard workers.

Everyone thinks it’s not hard. It’s a grind. I stay in the studio. I don’t just sit back. I don’t want a good project. I want a great project. I miss a lot of special events but if you do great work and put time into it it’ll show. The aftermath is your success.

Does it ever happen that you record something after the deadline and drive yourself crazy because it’s really hot?

Yeah, that happens sometimes. Not only that—that is why I keep every recording because you never know what might happen. You might not be able to clear a sample, or the date changes and it can go on. Situations can happen. With “I’m So Fly”, that was my second single and I couldn’t clear the sample and I sent it to Timbaland and he worked magic and came up with the way the beat sounds today.

Do you feel like you are getting better?

I absolutely do. I feel like I’m getting better as far as my lyrical capabilities. It takes a while before you know who you are. The comfort zone that Jay-Z is at to know what he can do creatively—that brings character. The longer you are in the studio the more comfortable you become. At one point I wasn’t comfortable doing all the choruses. It wasn’t because I didn’t know how to—I was stuck to a formula. We didn’t have to because 50 was such a hook monster that he would come up with a hook before you finished your verse. Now days my passion is going to different levels in hip-hop and the next place for me is producing and doing beats. That is the ultimate way to conquer who you are. I feel like artists like Eminem and Dr. Dre have an advantage being able to create their own sound. I have to wait for the sound to come to me.

Does it make you hungrier seeing 50 Cent’s success and the fact that when someone says your name or G-Unit’s that 50’s name comes first?

I think at first the initial hunger was to be respected as a solo artist but that was something that 50 told me to gun for. In the beginning I was comfortable being a part of the crew. We were all individuals but together. 50 told us that there was too much talent not to have solo careers. I felt like my first album was a success, it sold two million records, but 50 sold eleven million. I want to bigger numbers and bigger albums.

With N.W.A. it was Ice Cube who had the most success in the beginning when he left the group but at the end of the game it was Dr. Dre who had the most success.

Exactly. Music is like a tornado—it can go somewhere and then somewhere else. Everybody’s legacy is different. Some of the legends started with a gold record. That just keeps your hunger alive when there are more steps to take.

I read that Big Daddy Kane and Slick Rick were your idols.

You know what was great? Back in the day hip-hop was unified because everyone was in the come-up. That is why the down south movement is coming up so big because they are doing it collectively. When something new starts everyone is together but when things start happening individually people don’t need anyone anymore. That was how it was early in the day in New York City. Now it isn’t like that anymore.

I think fans would love hip-hop to be like it was back then when people would just show up at shows.

I would too, but now days everybody is a star. Even back then people knew how to play their part. You had Biz Markie. He didn’t claim to be the best rapper—he was the best at his thing.

Who out there has something you wish you had—skill-wise?

Certain people. When I said I looked up to Slick Rick and Big Daddy Kane it’s because I’m not an animated artist. I’m not the type to jump on a table or have a midget on a chain in my video. I see that and see they have character. When I see Busta he has on a big muscle suit—those are the things I acknowledge and think it’s cool. But I wouldn’t do that as an artist. I recognize their talent. I’m sure they look at things I do and respect or anyone else in G-Unit. I look for personality.

I bet there a lot of artists who wish they were in G-Unit.

(Laughs) No doubt about that. But even with Boyz II Men. There was the one dude who had the deep voice. He didn’t really know how to sing and did that “I just wanna take you…” It was his part.

Especially in that group. The one singer was the great singer and the rest were serviceable. (We both laugh) Like in Bell Biv Devoe—Ricky Bell could sing.

And everybody else just talks. (We both laugh)

Is it more comfortable having the rest of the crew in G-Unit rather than coming out just as a solo act with no crew?

Yeah. It has an advantage. I can only speak for my situation. It helped me. When I came out and Young Buck came out a few months later—my strongest market is the northeast so when I was going south or Midwest I had Buck. We were able to do shows together. If he was able to come to Philly he would piggy back off me. That is the comfort zone with us. We did over a hundred shows together. When you do your own show without him you realize how much you miss it.

And you can ask for their advice. It has to be great to have a bunch of guys you can talk to about everything.

Yeah, somebody that will catch your word. There are times when you might forget your verse and without them or someone on the side to catch you it’s a mess up. There are times when I save them or they save me. It’s comforting to look left or right and see a friendly face.

+ Charlie Craine

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