Along with Banner’s established career, the rapper also has a history of being socially and politically active in our community. He received a Visionary Award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators for his help during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. While many other rappers such as Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, Diddy and other artists supported/threw money at the rebuilding of New Orleans, Banner believes a lot of them disappeared after the cameras were gone.
“One of my only criticisms of hip-hop right now is that we all— like everybody— we can’t separate ourselves,” Banner tells MTV News during Occupy Wall Street.
“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. People always felt like we were them. We were their voice.”
He says he admires the efforts of Outkast’s Big Boi for stepping up during the execution of Troy Davis on Sept. 21.
“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 says.
He questions why the same rappers that are “down for the cause” don’t reflect that in their music. And while Banner never specifically calls anyone out, industry heavyweights like Russell Simmons and Kayne West have been seen at Occupy Wall Street but it begs the question, is it enough? Amidst Troy Davis and the present recession, the common themes in hip-hop are still money, loose women, violence and excess.
As for the current demonstrations of Occupy Wall Street, Banner addresses if the movement is representative of the people it claims (the 99% of people that make less than $500,000 a year), as most of the demonstrators are white.
“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,” he 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.”