EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Roddy Banks - AfroGbedu

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Monday, 29 July 2019


Marked by strong, bold rhymes, rapper Roddy Banks has been an artist from the start. Born Rolland Elendu, his unique background and combination of Nigerian and American cultures enables him the unique perspective of understanding what it means to be a young black man in America and West Africa. Through all life’s pleasure and anguish, artistic value has become the foundation of his expression, and he began writing lyrics at the age of 10.

Committed to this belief, he continued to surround himself with all forms of creativity, all the while honing his talent as a lyricist. When met with the opportunity to open for Waka Flocka Flame, he jumped at it. It led to tours with Kid Ink, Kirko Bangz, performances at the JCI Music Festival, and the unforgettable experience to perform with Ludacris and B.o.B. Inspired to produce his own studio sound, emerging artist Banks released M.O.A.Y.N. (Mind of a Young Ni**a) in 2017 and recently finished recording first project, an EP titled "X&O's".

In light of the release of his new debut single, "4 Racks 10 Racks", writer Toyo sat down with the American-Nigerian rapper to talk about his new project and to see generally wagwarn with the producer and rapper.
How did you come up with your artist name? Does it mean anything to you?
In high school people would call me Rod Banks because they thought I looked like Lloyd Banks. I switched it to Roddy because I liked it better. It just stuck.

What pushed you to do rap music and what does it mean to you?
When I was little I saw Lil Bow Wow and Lil Romeo on TV and thought “wow they’re little kids just like me. I can do that too”. Over time it became a means of expressing myself, inspiring and educating the world around me.
Rap Music means a lot to me because it shaped who I am today. It taught me to shoot for the stars even when it seems impossible. As a kid, watching rappers like Jay-Z who came from Marcy Projects, rapping in a Rolls Royce, made me feel like I can achieve that too.

Roddy, the rapper, the producer. Which would you say you do best?
Roddy the rapper for sure.

What advice do you have for those aspiring to get into producing or rapping? 
  1. Nothing great happens overnight. You’re not going to blow up overnight. I’m sorry but it’s just not going to happen.

  1. Be relentless & be persistent. You will get a lot of “no’s” but don’t stop. Keep going.

  1. Perfect your craft. Quality over quantity.

  1. The world can spot a fake when it comes to this music shit so be you. It’s so much easier to be you than to be someone else anyway.

  1. Your image is key. You can’t sell it if you don’t look the part so do your absolute best to look the part.

  1. Lastly you need a foundation to support your music. Unless you’re signed to a major label, you need money. Everything cost money. Studio time, music videos, all of that cost money. Get a job or start a business with which you can support your music independently.

What moment made music the way forward for you?
I climbed a stage during the setup process for a concert and it just felt so familiar and felt like I belonged on there and in that moment I decided that, that was what I wanted.

What do you wish someone had told you when you were starting out? 
Nothing really. I like learning from my own research and experiences. I did a lot of reading and researching when I was starting out. I would watch interviews on interviews by successful music moguls like Jay-Z, Diddy, Master P, Birdman, Rick Ross, 50 Cent, etc.. So I wasn’t one of those that
 started out just putting out music without thinking of how it would get to the masses. That’s the reason I don’t have 50 or 60 songs out right now. I was adamant when it came to dropping music because my policy was “if no one’s going to hear it why drop it?”. We write and create music for people, not for ourselves. I spent more time in the beginning just learning the technical aspect of the industry and the business side of it as well and I’m still learning till this day. 

How has being from a Nigerian home shaped your style?
Other than having an accent being from a Nigerian home shaped my perspective on what my music should be. Coming from a Nigerian home it was not “prestigious” to say you wanted to be a rapper because everything you choose to do must have meaning and purpose and must be valued highly in the society. That’s just the reasoning of the average Nigerian parent. So that mentality put me in a place where I had to use my creativity to prove rap music has meaning and purpose. Every child wants their parents to be proud of them so now I can’t just rap about money and sex alone, else they would think I’m flat out crazy and ignorant and they’ll be disappointed. I need to say something. Not just talk. I need to have a message and it has to have purpose.

What interests you about the American music industry?
It’s the birthplace of hip-hop.

In your opinion who is the most influential and successful artist in your genre today and why?
I’ll go with Jay-Z. I don’t know anyone more influential both within the industry and outside of the industry. There is no music industry executive who wouldn’t pick up a Jay-Z phone call. Over 2 decades in the game and he is still selling out arenas and stadiums. The proof is in the pudding.

Let’s talk about your new single "4 Racks 10 Racks"
4 Racks 10 Racks was one of the quickest for me to make. I literally went into the studio with my then producer named Cody and he was playing a bunch of different beats he had. The second he played the 4 Racks 10 Racks beat I immediately started hearing the hook in my head and just started rapping it out loud and looked over to him and my Tour DJ (DJ Rash) and they were both smiling and head bobbing like I already recorded the song and so I knew right away it had to be on the album. I didn’t have all the wordings at the time and so I’d just hum the parts that didn’t have any words and recorded the melody on my phone. A couple days later I went back to the studio and recorded the entire hook and half of the first verse and then later finished the song with a different engineer named Casey, who ended up recording the entire album. Long story short there was no extraordinary inspiration behind it. I wanted to create something fun, light, and not so serious that everyone could listen and jam to on the weekends, in their cars or in the clubs and what not. That’s why I made 4 Racks 10 Racks.
Do you have a set process when you’re writing?
Yes I do. I hear the beat, I like it and catch an instant vibe, freestyle a hook on the spot in the form of humming mixed with mumbling, make a voice note of it and then later play it back and put real words in it. Once I have the hook, I know what the song is about now so the verses come pretty easy. But I have to hear the beat first before I write. Not the other way around.

Do you think your music is mostly enjoyed more for the beats or the lyrical flow and content?
I think it’s a mix of all 3. The beat, the delivery and the lyrical content. I’m very stern on delivery though because someone who doesn’t speak or understand English at all will like a rap song just because it’s sonically pleasing to him or her. I always say good delivery knows no boundaries.

Your favorite 'behind the camera' people, directors/ producers? 
Directors. They have the vision.      

Apart from your own music, which artists are you feeling at the moment?
Man a lot of them. Drake, Meek Mill, Big Sean, Young Thug, Kendrick, J Cole, Chance, Migos, Cardi B, Tierra Whack, the list goes on seriously.

Imagine you could collaborate with absolutely anyone, who’s it gonna be?
I would love to collaborate with someone outside of the rap genre like Lady Gaga. I’m a huge fan of her work and it’ll be really cool to create something iconic with such a gifted individual.

Lastly, what can we expect from you next? Singles, an EP or an album?
I will be dropping my second project towards the end of the year and I’m looking forward to sharing that with the fans.
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