David Banner wears many hats these days. Though he’s best known for hits like “Play” and “Like A Pimp,” what many may not know is that the college-educated rapper is also an accomplished actor and entrepreneur. More recently, Banner starred alongside Mariah Carey in Lee Daniels’ The Butler (which has grossed over $100 million), in which he plays the enslaved father of Forest Whitaker’s younger character. With Hollywood paying closer attention to the Mississippi native, it’s safe to say that he’s come a long way since his rapping days in the early and mid-2000s.
Though music isn’t completely ruled out, Banner is now an acute businessman, having started the 2M1 Movement, which is a company geared toward owning and controlling the rights to his own music, film and content. Proceeds the rapper made from his 2012 project, Drugs, Sex And Video Games—which features Chris Brown, Lil’ Wayne, 2 Chainz and more—were used to fund his project Walking With Gods, a short, superhero action flick that can be seen online. With the help of fans, Banner hopes to spread his movement.
XXL caught up with David Banner to discuss his role in The Butler and his ambitious plans in film. Check it out.
XXL: The Butler became a box office monster. How does it feel to be a part of it?
David Banner: It’s been one of the greatest experiences of my life. We shot my part of the film 15-20 minutes away from my college, Southern University Of Baton Rouge. To be able to connect and establish a relationship with Lee Daniels was amazing. We were literally shooting in the cotton field. To tap into that feeling and the emotions of some of the atrocities my ancestors went through was amazing. That’s my 14th film and my second time working with Forest Whitaker. People have been calling all over the world asking about me as an actor.
Back in your glory days of “Like A Pimp,” etc., did you always have plans on taking a stab at acting?
I never would have thought that, even though I had the vision. When “Like A Pimp” went mainstream and I got my first deal, I thought now that I see that my dreams can come true, why limit myself? People don’t know I had been going to acting school since “Like A Pimp” was out. I would literally fly to L.A. every week and go to acting school. I turned down a lot of things in the beginning until I felt like I was prepared. When people look at me and brag on my acting, or Tupac’s acting, or Mos Def’s acting, all of these people are trained and worked on their craft.
What inspired you to create the 2M1 Movement, and what does it stand for?
2M1 stands for “2 million people with one purpose” and that one purpose is for us to control our images. For so long I wanted to be an action hero. That’s the genre of movies I always wanted to be in. There are even some experimental albums that I wanted to do that I think would have propelled me to another level, but I wasn’t allowed to do those things through other people’s system. In order for us to truly be respected, we have to do our own and stop begging people to see our vision. We have to stop hoping that we’ll be the stars of their movies. Wouldn’t they put their children in their movies first? So with 2M1 I decided to start shooting my own movies and going directly to my fans—whether it’s two people or two million people—and slowly grow.
Where did the idea for Walking With Gods come from, and what motivated you to take the grassroots approach to raising capital for your company by selling Sex, Drugs And Video Games?
It was always meant to be a television series, short movie, comic book and graphic novel. The visage of this generation is that stuff is free. The reason why I put the credits after every episode is so that people could see how much it cost, how many people are a part of this. If I go get investors then you have to abide by them. I don’t want anyone to take the vision of my projects. Even with 2M1, we call them donations but truly it’s not because people are getting full albums with songs featuring Chris Brown, A$AP Rocky and 2 Chainz. People contributed to 2M1, and I choose to take the proceeds and shoot a movie with it.
My vision isn’t just based off what the people do. As soon as I put out those four episodes, people were like, “Where episode 5?” I looked at the 2M1 account, and I didn’t see episode 5 money in there. Even though I’m going to do it regardless. Instead of buying the houses, cars and shoes, I decided to continue to be a producer of content that’s excellent.
Why do you think there are so few Black filmmakers and producers delving into science fiction and superhero flicks?
I don’t know about them. I never worried about them as it pertains to anything that I do. I can only do me, because you don’t know what people go through or what are their constraints. What I do know is that if everyone else did it, I wouldn’t be special. Walking With Gods wouldn’t be special. In one aspect, I wish people would, and from another perspective, if they did I wouldn’t be pushed to do it. Regardless of what people say, I’ve always been attracted to what’s different. I always tried to push everything that I do in another direction, even when it may not look like it on the outside. I’ve been innovator. This is only another side of it. Now I’m in a position mentally where I honestly don’t care what people think. I’m confident in myself enough to know what needs to be done. People can look at my track record and historically I’ve done what I said I was going to do.
When can we expect more Walking With Gods or any other projects you may be working on?
I’m going to continue shooting Walking With Gods very soon. I have some very big surprises. One thing my lawyer told me is that rappers talk too much about stuff they haven’t done yet. It’s better to shut up and not lie to somebody than hype them up. Most times when entertainers say something people don’t pay attention because they never do what they say. I have some amazing plans, and I’m excited about it. I’m just proud of myself. I watch Walking With Gods like I’m a fan. I’ve had a network ask me if they can view it. It’s been amazing.
Will we hear any more mixtapes from you in the near future?
I’m working on an album. The thing is I’ve never been a proponent of mixtapes. That’s the reason I put Sex, Drugs And Video Games out the way that I did. It wasn’t necessarily a mixtape. People call it a mixtape, but sometimes I call it that just because that’s what people are familiar with. But we have to call it what it is; we’re giving away free albums. A mixtape was designed to be snippets of songs that were intertwined together. That’s not what’s going on right now.
Any parting words for the fans and supporters?
I’m very thankful to the fans that supported “Like A Pimp” and “Play.” Even though I’ve evolved as a person, I’ll never forget those who put me in the position I am right now to make a choice. America has been built off the backs of poor people, and I’ve stood on the backs of a lot of people to be able to reach and touch my dreams. I’m very thankful. I want the people to know that as an artist, in order for me to tell honest stories I have to take time. If they want to see more from me and give me the ability to make better decisions, contribute to DavidBanner.com.—Gerren Keith Gaynor (@MRGERRENALIST)