Lloyd Banks
The Quiet One
Interview by Miranda Johnson

He might be the quiet one but there’s a lot going on in Lloyd Banks’ head. That’s usually the case with the lyrically dexterous MC who stood out in G-Unit partly because of his aloofness. Soon after Buck and 50 stopped communicating, Banks and 50 followed suit. They made up for a while before falling out again around 2012. Most recently, about two years had gone by since the two Queens artists had last talked to each other. In that time, Banks continued to tour and release new music, while becoming more jaded by the changes in the industry. When Yayo made his comments on Instagram in February, Banks reached out to 50 to explain that he had nothing to do with what Yayo had said. It was that call that got Fif and Banks talking again. While hanging in the strip club in 50’s mansion, Lloyd Banks looks back at the drama.

XXL: So what was it that made you part ways with 50 Cent and G-Unit?
Lloyd Banks: I can’t say that any issue I had caused the group to split up because there were four people in the group. I think that all of us had our spots. It’s not coincidental that most of them were with 50; he’s the boss, the person that put everything together. Everything from confusion to compromising—all those things ended up being based around the artists and the boss at the end of the day. Everybody had their own reason as to why it didn’t work out. From moments with me and 50, to Buck and 50, and Yayo and 50. It was a point where me and 50 weren’t talking. It got exhausting, then it got frustrating to the fans. People would have been more mad if we didn’t get back together, as opposed to just doing our own thing.

So you were in contact with Buck and Yayo during the rift?
Me and Yayo always remained in contact. That kind of kept things balanced for me. You got that friend, a friend who understands the street shit and the industry. So we’ve been there, done that. So that was cool. Me and Buck didn’t keep in contact, we didn’t speak. We were never in the position to. I never bumped into him along the way or anything like that. I’ve done promo and stuff like that in Nashville but I never saw him. But it would always be that question like, “Why you don’t call Buck?” Even at that time, I didn’t understand. Buck was going through what he was going through with 50, but we were kind of like incorporated into that. You just assume at the time that it’s us against [him].

Me, personally, I’ve never been like a social network type of guy so I don’t put that business out for nobody, and not just music business, my personal business. People say things they don’t mean sometimes. My family members, my parents, sometimes they say shit and [I’m] like, “Damn why you say that?" I think that the stronger the relationship is, the more you’ll see the dysfunctional parts because if you don’t give a fuck about somebody, it’s gonna show. But if you really do and it’s irking you that it’s not right then, it’s never really going to go somewhere.

You’ve been out of the picture for a minute. What motivated you to want to fully get back in the game?
Being around [G-Unit] to be honest. I wouldn’t participate in a lot of the things I do, as fast as I do, without them. At the end of the day, I enjoy being around the members and putting music together. I’m able to be ignorant when I’m with G-Unit. And I got older; I’m 32-years-old. The things that I said earlier, the shock value type of lines, now it’s moreso like I’m saying shit that you can hold onto. [Things] that you can tattoo on your skin.

I’m seeing that the response is crazy. There’s people everyday that listen to music to get through something and then you got that music that you just enjoy. I want to do both. I want to do that shit that you’ll go back because it had subject matter opposed to just hot line after hot line. When I’m with the group, there’s eight bar cadences, it’s not too much time, so it keeps me writing more. Just on my toes and it helps me be able to go out there and get the visuals that people want to see. There’s a method to my madness. I would rather drop my video without you seeing behind the scenes.

While you were away from the group you put out some mixtapes. What was going through your head? Were you thinking about leaving the Unit for good?
Nah, my mind wasn’t on the music [business] for a point. I always make music, so I can’t be like I was zoned out because I never got out the zone. It was more about the game. When you think about the issues people have with me, they’re like, "He doesn’t shoot music videos enough," or do this and that, but there’s been periods that I put out five mixtapes in one year. I didn’t get praised five times. It was just like, that was a productive year for him and it’s whatever.

"There’s a lot more political relationships, as opposed to just saying, 'I like this person, he’s dope.' That shit frustrated me. It frustrated me that if I don’t do step-by-step what [they] want me to do, then I don’t get the praise."

So I just realized after a while, and then watching the comments, that music is changing. This is not what made me fall in love with music. So if I’m watching all the pieces that made me fall in love with it not be relevant anymore... Like it don’t matter what’s being said but [it matters] who did the beat. Status, or anything like that. I didn’t fall in love with that. I’ve been watching hip-hop since graffiti and breakdancing.  Even the artists that influenced me are lyrical and I always watched them. Snoop made me know that I didn’t have to be no jump off the table-type of nigga. That’s not my character. Artists like Nas, he’s cool as a fan. He let me know that I can be who I am as opposed to being animated if I’m not.

With that being said, they don’t even do the interviews that everybody do. If I want to talk, it’s to the point where I want to talk about what I enjoy about the craft, how much I put into it, or how this felt when you made this record with this person. [As] opposed to just shit that doesn’t have to do with anything. So I became just frustrated with the business.

There’s a lot more political relationships, as opposed to just saying, "I like this person, he’s dope." That shit frustrated me. It frustrated me that if I don’t do step-by-step what [they] want me to do, then I don’t get the praise. Does that also mean that the people that get the praise don’t actually deserve it? How do you gauge that? If you’re an artist that’s successful—like look at Kendrick Lamar. He dropped a body of work and it was so good that people live with that until the next one. They don’t need a bunch of in-between shit. He don’t got to go and do 10 remixes. He can literally just say, I’m going to go off into the cut and make this classic. And I didn’t work my whole career or go through a bunch of different record deals to be rushing.

I don’t want to be lucky. When “Beamer, Benz, Or Bentley” came out, I was lucky. Not lucky that I made the record; I made the record in 30 minutes. But I released the record and it immediately made a demand for my album to be made. So then I had to go back in and make the album. I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to have an album already made so I have my first, second, third and fourth single. That’s why most of the time they have the sophomore jinx; it’s not a jinx. Most of the time the artists just aren’t ready yet. They might need a year and a half in between until the next album.

Speaking of albums, is the solo thought in your head? Are you working on your own material?
I never stopped working on my own material. Like I said, 50 was the one that told me to be a solo artist. First. So from that point on I understood that ain’t nobody going to go out and give you anything. You have to take it. I’m definitely working on my own stuff. I write every day, whether it’s mixtape stuff or whatever. That’s probably why they get a lot more audio than video, 'cause that’s the part that I’m in love with. I’m in love with you creating the music and me hearing it. That’s where it’s at for me. You can go on WorldStar or something and your video that you spent hours at, the whole day shooting, and it's next to two monkeys fucking. It’s like, where do I go to find the straight hip-hop? If that’s the platform then I don’t know if I’m into that.

I couldn’t tweet 'Pac, I couldn’t hit Biggie like, "Yo, why didn’t follow me back?" That shit is not the era I grew up in. I grew up in the era where it was rap for real. With all that to the side, I’m just not that guy. I watch certain NFL players that don’t want to do interviews. They just want to show up and play. That’s kinda how I am.

How is it with Kidd Kidd in the group? And now that you guys don’t have Sha Money XL managing anymore?
Well, Sha Money hasn’t been around for a while now. I’ve dealt with that since my second album. That was kind of like the break [where] me and 50 first started having our outs and things like that. As far as Kidd Kidd, it’s crazy because he’s from New Orleans but he doesn’t sound like it to me. The way he raps—I mean, he uses a lot of their slang, but he’s got a lot of flows. It’s dope because when we used to do our mixtapes, it was only three of us.

Now it’s different because it’s four or five of us. Now it’s like, you’ve got to find a way [to fit in]. Like, my verse could end and Kidd Kidd could pick up from my verse. He could pick up right behind it and it add shit that, like, Wu-Tang and Boot Camp Clik, they used to do that 'cause they had nine members.

Who initially sparked y’all getting back together? Who reached out?
It kind of happened collectively. Like me and Yayo were talking, then I eventually ended up reaching out to 50. Went to go see him and just get things out the way. I spoke to Buck before I spoke to 50 but Buck gave me [50’s] number. It was kind of like everybody felt it was time. So we all ended up talking to each other, we crossed pathways. Before you know it, we were all in one room. But it wasn’t like it took one person to get everybody together. We all felt we had something that we needed to make right with each other.

"I can’t be no bum, I can’t stop. There’s some artists that can go off and live a regular life; I can’t do that. I’m like, let’s make this shit right for us. We owe it to each other."

Me and Buck were tight. So when the shit happened, he was like, "Fuck Banks and fuck Yayo." I’m like, "Ahh, man." I realized after that, he was just frustrated and going through something and that’s the way that he handled it. I realized after that if he could have handled it differently, he would have. It was a long time that we weren’t talking and that bothered me. I’ve got pictures of all them in my house—not plaques, but real pictures. And they got pictures of me in their houses. It was a void that needed to be filled for hip-hop, too, but we needed that shit.

Ain’t nobody going to be able to do what we did just because of the time. When I go overseas, certain places don’t accept rappers after a certain era. They took the Snoop, the [Dr.] Dre, the Em, the 50 era and we kind of came up in that. It could be a blessing, but it could feel like a curse sometimes because you’re a part of one of the biggest rap groups ever and people know us individually. I can’t be no bum, I can’t stop. There’s some artists that can go off and live a regular life; I can’t do that. I’m like, let’s make this shit right for us. We owe it to each other. Nobody stole from each other, it wasn’t nothing crazy, nothing that can’t be fixed.

When did you guys get back together?
It didn’t take long. I would say months in the making. It was a weird point for us, 'cause at one point Yayo wasn’t talking to 50, so it was just us. I’m pretty sure 50 was bugging out. 'Cause now [he] didn’t know exactly where it was coming from. It caused more confusion, 'cause at one point none of us was talking. It took us all to get back together, it took us all to make it right. 'Cause we all have to be comfortable and understand what the bigger picture is. Like, even stubborn as you want to be, it’s about the music. You’ve got to buckle down, 'cause who wants to leave that on the table like that? Especially if it’s not career breaking. That shit wasn’t about nothing. It’s just growing up and seeing things from different angles. Everybody doesn’t move at the same pace. That’s all that was.

Do you think things are right for good?
I think it was always right. There wasn’t something that happened to make us like, "Oh, shit." It was just tit for tat through lack of communication. In my case it was about the lack of communication, just not talking enough. 'Cause we went from being around each other every damn day to saying, "Yo, it’s going to be like this." People move off and have their own managers and entourages. Before you know it, the distance makes things a little funny. I think as long as the communication is there, it will leave less room to insinuate or feel like there’s a problem, 'cause there’s no problem.

I feel like with G-Unit, there’s a real brotherhood.
Exactly; we grew up together. That shit is weird 'cause my family knows Yayo’s family. They sense it when they see less visits and shit like that. It gets a little weird. The last thing I want to do is give the credit to the industry for fucking some shit up that’s like this. They’re not supposed to have a say so or any kind of influence. That’s another reason why I don’t really fuck with the media. I’m just smart enough to know when people have me or the group in their best interests. If you don’t care about [us] or it didn’t touch you the way it touched other people, do you really want to see us get back together? Or is it fun for you to see drama, period? That’s why I kind of shied away from it, 'cause I see what it’s about. They build you up to break you down. I’m not gonna participate in that. I’m waiting until you want to say, "Good shit," and ask real questions.

I had to deal with all of this shit in the media. I lost my grandmother, I lost my father, I lost my best friend. I grew up in the shit. My whole 20s was sacrificed to my friend’s family and hip-hop. I don’t have no girlfriend, I don’t have no kids. I was completely locked in on it so much that it made me mad at the music. It made me mad that I put so much into this shit, that I missed so much. I wasn’t there when my best friend got killed, I wasn’t there when my father was found. It makes you kind of resent the same shit that you love. So my fans are going, "Where you at?" [But] I hated it. I love to make music but I hate what it did to me and what it did to my friends. So I fell back from it.

How did that not cause a bitterness to take over?
The littlest thing [can change that]. Like when Kendrick Lamar called everybody out on the “Control" verse. It took everybody from gimmicks [back] to rapping. Little shit like that, just step-by-step, is changing. And the producers, too; if you’re a producer and you’re trying to get a beat off, then you’re going to make what’s out there. But if you’re a producer that’s already out there you’re going to make what you want to make. You control the wave. Like how Swizz can go away for a year and come back. But when you’re a new producer, you’re sending me beats that all sound like 808s. Then that puts me in a position as an artist. It’s like, do I compromise and blend in?

It gets confusing after a while because people get tired of looking at the same thing. They want to see you do different shit. I’d rather stay in my lane all the way and count my losses. I’d rather be comfortable than be like, "I shouldn’t have tried that." Little things like that are letting me know that I can stick to [my way]. Action Bronson and Joey Bada$$ are getting a chance to do it minus the bullshit. I don’t think they care about the people that don’t know them. They got they core base and they figured out who they are early in their careers. That’s where I’m going with it now.

Is G-Unit putting out an album?
We got an EP [Ed note: This interview took place before G-Unit released The Beauty Of Independence] and then right after that you can expect another EP. Instead of giving them one mixtape, we’re breaking it into several parts. It reminds me of when we first started dropping material because there was no time to fall in love with the records. You’ll do the shit and you’ll hear it on the radio. That little surprise factor there keeps you excited. You can’t hold that shit. I think we’re able to capitalize doing records that are in now and speak on issues like Mike Brown and stuff like that. That’s what the freestyles gave us, the opportunity to speak on now.

How does it feel now that the Unit is independent?
My last album was independent, so I kind of know how things change. My last album was like a sleeper and I feel it was underrated. People get so used to seeing you on one level that they don’t see the separation. A lot of people didn’t know my last album was independent. I had four records added to radio. So it’s like, how do you really judge? Fans get it more than they got it five years ago though. Being on a major, you’re on a time clock. When you’re on your own, you decide when you’re ready. It’s a lot of little shit. It has its ups and down. But I think that’s what we work our whole career for, to be independent and to own our own music.

Were you ever trying to get on another label?
Nope, to be honest. I wasn’t thinking that far into it. I wanted to gear up and be ready. I didn’t want to put myself back into the position that I was in. I wanted to have a whole body of work done. I’m still touring off of my first album, so I know how important it is to get it right. I feel like my first album is a classic and this time I want to do better all around. I’m going to show people. When you’re dealing with somebody like Jimmy Iovine, [who] has high expectations for you, it make not be exactly what you’re thinking. If it doesn’t work, it was a reach. At this point in my career, I’m already a household name. Being independent lets me weed out the shit that I didn’t want to do.