In the past year, this desire to progress has rewarded Banner with incredible success both within and outside of the music industry. A high-profile commercial campaign for Gatorade, in 2010, opened the doors for Banner and landed additional contracts with popular brands such as Marvel vs. Capcom, Gillette, Motorola, ConAgra Foods and even Mercedes-Benz.
Fresh off a recent trip to Shanghai, China, where he promoted the self-produced, Estelle-featured single 'Benz' and helped to unveil Mercedes' new A-Class series (in celebration of the company's 125th anniversary), Banner admits that his career has hit an all-time high. This year, the 37-year-old entertainer has found time to compose commercials and produce tracks for other artists -- including a song on Lil Wayne's highly anticipated 'Tha Carter IV' album -- while securing a chance to score the remake of 'Footloose,' a gig he describes as one of the best opportunities in his career, so far.
As he relays the opportunities he's been given in the past year, the ever-humble rapper-producer-composer continues to emphasize the "outside of the box" possibilities available for artists. "I pray and hope to show people that there are bigger things you can do, outside of what people think we should do as artists," says Banner, who will also focus on launching his ABV advertising company, this year. Read on as he discusses Lil Wayne's new album, the rap stars he's called on to appear on his next LP and the contracts he has rolling in.
Your portfolio now includes work for Gatorade, Mercedes-Benz and Marvel vs. Capcom. Are you reaching an audience that you couldn't tap into with your rap career?
The truth is that some people might not like David Banner as a rapper, but people may love David Banner as an actor, or David Banner as a producer. If you can find a way to attract people, maybe you can hold their attention long enough until they like other aspects of your career. I'm very honest with myself, as a composer I was able to shock people -- that Gatorade commercial shocked a lot of people, I'm getting opportunities now that I have never gotten as a rapper -- but being David Banner, the rapper, opened that door for me. I really hope to show artists that just because music isn't selling like it was before, that doesn't mean they need to give up their dream. There's so many different aspects of the business, and again, I'm doing better than I've ever done in my whole entire life, quietly. Without the stress, without being on the road for three or four years, without being unhealthy, I'm happier. I'm able to see my nieces and nephews while making more money than I ever have.
Have you inked any new commercial contracts for the upcoming year?
I've got campaigns coming up with Gillette, Motorola and a big commercial for ConAgra Food Group. Mercedes is eventually going to do something bigger with the 'Benz' song, so that's going to move to another level. And this year we're going to launch an advertising company, called ABV. I've got all of these opportunities from people just finding me and calling, so we're actually going to push the company out there and make it public this year.
'Benz' is a remake of the 1971 protest song by Janis Joplin. Were you concerned about staying true to that topic when you remade the song for Mercedes?
I don't consider it a remake because we used the line "Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes-Benz?" but didn't take chords or anything else. There was so much of a new and young twist on it that essentially it was a new composition. It was a play on the record and for financial reasons they called it a remake, but I think the song is about being able to make it to another level in life and for a lot of people, Mercedes-Benz is that sign. It isn't about a car as much as it is a social statement. No matter what you do -- because we're all from different backgrounds and different situations -- we're all trying to make it on different levels and Mercedes-Benz is that sign or brand that a lot of people feel associate with making it to another level.
You're scoring the upcoming remake of 'Footloose.' Is that a career milestone?
It's one of the biggest opportunities I've had in my life, especially since a lot of artists and rappers don't have the opportunity to do anything past what they originally began doing. There's no union for rappers, there's nothing set up for artists once they move past whatever the world already knows them for. You have a few exceptions like Will Smith, Queen Latifah, Ice Cube, etc., but for the most part, during this stage of music, it's just hard for artists, period. So for me to find that next level of life and work with brands like Mercedes-Benz and Gatorade, it's a blessing. I'm honored. Being able to score the remake of such a classic movie, what else could you ask? I'm doing better this year than I've ever done in my whole entire career, quietly.
With 'Death of a Pop Star,' you left production to 9th Wonder. Are you doing the same on the upcoming album 'MTA3: The Trinity Movement?'
I'll be producing and rapping on the album. Working on 'Death of a Popstar' really helped me to fragment the way I do things, so I can concentrate on being the best at what I'm doing at each point. I've learned to focus on production and once I have enough beats, then I'll focus on rapping [and] writing. This time, I decided to work on a whole lot of beats and then work on the lyrical side of it.
What features or producers do you have lined up for the album?
Just look at my discography and that'll probably cover most of the people that's on the new album. I've been working with artists like Mary J. Blige, Busta Rhymes, Lil Wayne, Ne-Yo, etc., different artists from different backgrounds and it's been wonderful. I may work with a few producers like 9th Wonder and DJ Khalil, but past that, it's time for me to move my foot up to that A-list producer status. In order for you to do that, you've got to start doing your own projects, and that's what I'm working on now.
You've been very active in politics in the past. Do you get political on the new album?
All of my music is political or spiritual to a certain degree. I don't specifically try to focus on political situations, but politics is something that's very important to me. It's something that's missing in music right now. When America was fighting in Vietnam, for example, artists were making songs like 'What's Going On?' There was a direct correlation between what was going on in the environment and in music and I think that has been lost because music was taken over by a corporate structure. A lot of people are scared to tackle social issues because now the commercial success of music is so important and that's caused it to lose a human quality. If you really think about it, music used to be the only true form of news and communication between people all over the world, and it's not like that anymore.
You did some work on Lil Wayne's 'Tha Carter IV' album. What was that experience like?
Wayne has given me an opportunity to work on every Young Money release besides Drake and Nicki Minaj -- because, of course, that's their decision -- but we worked together on 'Tha Carter III' and I've always been a part of what Young Money is doing. To be a part of that movement is almost like dipping into a fountain of youth, or starting over again. To see their success, to be a part of it, for Wayne to want me to be a part of it, and to watch him come from his situation and turn it into something new, is amazing. He's hungry and that puts a battery in my back as far as being a lyricist. I think people are really going to be satisfied with what he's doing this time around.
While your career has continued to skyrocket, your hometown has taken notice. How did it feel to be inducted into the Mississippi Hall of Fame?
That was one of the biggest honors in my entire career. I've gotten accolades all over the world, but never really so much in my home state. And at the end of the day, after God and your family, you really try to do it for your people. The thing is, everything could be taken away from us. One day we'll pass away from this earth, but I'll be in the Mississippi Hall of Fame as long as Mississippi exists. At the end of the day, the money is cool and the other stuff is fine, but nobody can ever take that away from me. How many rappers can say that they're sitting along with B.B. King and Elvis Presley in the Hall of Fame? Who can say that out of my generation? Not many people.