NEW YORK — David Banner wasn't the first artist to visit Occupy Wall Street, and he certainly won't be the last. But Banner questioned the true intentions of many of the artists taking part in the demonstrations. When MTV News followed Banner down to Manhattan's Zuccotti Park last Thursday, he said others probably questioned their intentions as well.
"One of my only criticisms of hip-hop right now is that we all — like everybody — we can't separate ourselves. All of us have become so corporate that people don't even feel like we're a part of the people, especially rappers and punk rockers," Banner said. "People always felt like we were them. We were their voice.
"You look at what happened with Troy [Davis]. We're still at war, we're in a recession, where's that in the music? I don't hear that in the music," he continued. "This is the general feeling that people won't really say, but I hear it."
Banner said that in the aftermath of 2005's Hurricane Katrina, many rappers ran to the Gulf Coast to help, but only when cameras were there. Banner, who won a Visionary Award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators for his efforts during the hurricane, said that many of those rappers disappeared once the cameras did.
"That's why I applaud somebody like Big Boi, like he still holding Troy [Davis] down. The thing is, we have to understand that it's not about what you do when the cameras are on, it's what you do when the cameras are off."
Banner also addressed the merits of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators. People have questioned whether or not the demonstration is representative of everyone it claims it is, because the demonstrators are predominantly white. But Banner said that if upper-middle-class white kids weren't there, the police wouldn't be as patient with the demonstration.
"They'd just send the police out there, throw some tear gas, plant somebody in there. Call it gang violence, whatever, ya'll know what they do in the 'hood," Banner said. "When their children are out there is when it becomes a movement. And I used to fight that and be mad at that, but what we got to understand is, in every movement, even in the '60s, young, white, middle-class people were a major part of the movement. We have to stop separating ourselves."