NEW YORK — The black Bono? Well, not exactly. But like the U2 frontman, Mississippi-bred rapper and producer David Banner has some lofty goals in mind in the coming months with both his music and his politics.
And when he stopped by the MTV News offices recently to chat it up, let's just say he had plenty to discuss: about ballin', the IRS, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Oh, yeah, and there's his forthcoming album, The Greatest Story Ever Told, due October 9 (see "David Banner Nabs Snoop, Lil Wayne For New LP; Learns From Chris Brown"). He kind of talked about that too.
"I'm not in a position of power yet," Banner explained of his status in regards to rap-lyrics controversy. "I can't stop nothing. I can't go up in Universal [Records] and stop records from coming out. I can't make records happen. How many people are in a position of power to really change? Who can come up to MTV without having a reserved [time] and just jump on 'TRL' and stop it?"
Oprah can, he noted, giving the talk-show host her props. But he stopped there when it came time to talk about the Reverend Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, who have been as critical of hip-hop as Miss Winfrey lately.
"I can't stand Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton at all," he said. "Al Sharpton talked about pimps, and you look more like a pimp than my uncle — and my uncle was a pimp. Take your perm out. And I say that because all of these people, all of these so-called positive [people], I didn't see them in the 'hood."
"I walked that water [in New Orleans]," he continued (see "David Banner Says He Has No Choice But To Heal The Hood"). "I had dead bodies by my foot, you know? And it's so crazy to me, I watch us crucify our own people, but we don't put that pressure on [President] Bush. We don't put that pressure on our kids' teacher. We don't put that pressure on our politicians. We turn around and put it on our children, because young black men don't have anybody to protect us."
Banner talked about having his own father in his life to protect him and steer him along the right path. His father died two weeks ago, he said, and now Banner wants to give even more than he already has, offering any advice to children he can.
Starting with financial advice. Banner revealed he just recently got out of a major tax debt.
"One thing that I want to tell these kids — and I want to look in these people's eyes," Banner said, taking his sunglasses off. "They talk about ballin' and this, that and the other, but don't nobody ever tell you about the IRS. You think you gangster, you think you 'hood, you think you Mafioso, [but] there is nothing more gangster than the IRS. My mama always told me, 'The bigger the blessing, the bigger the stressing.' Like, yeah, I had a lot of money, but then I also had a lot of debt. I have people that I take care of, I have staff who whether I sell a record or a beat got to get paid. And I'm gonna take my glasses off so you can see it, and I don't do this much. I'm doing it for Sway. I just got out of tax debt."
Banner said he knew he had government obligations to take care of like taxes, but he said he was caught off guard by the amount and when the money was due. In some instances, he said, he had already spent the money from checks he received before he even realized more tax was due because of the substantial amounts of money.
His debt, coupled with a heavy workload, among other things, led Banner into a depression last year, he said.
It wasn't until he started working on a new album that he realized he needed to keep pushing and continue to make music — even tracks like his "Like a Pimp." He said despite the negative imagery that songs like "Pimp" bring him popularity that he can use to shed light on issues he's personally involved in.
And with that in mind, he's upped the ante for his next project. Akon, Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, Chris Brown, Jim Jones and Yung Joc are among the folks slated to appear on Greatest Story Ever Told.
"A dude came up to me and said, 'Everyone is waiting on [Dr. Dre's] Detox album,' " Banner said. "But [he told me], 'You got the talent to make it before Dre does.' So I was like, 'Dude, I'mma try to do that.' And I'mma tell y'all this: I'mma put this out to the magazines. I will give 40 stacks to any writer that can prove this is not a five-mic album [Source magazine rates albums with one to five mics] or an XXL album or whatever they say it is for the top. I looked at every album that has ever gotten the highest rating [in those magazines], and I know there are some of them on each of that list that my album is better than. And if I can show you that my album is better than that album, I deserve [classic status].
"From the top to the bottom, homeboy, even the interludes," he said.