Houston rapper Rocky Banks is a young buck but has seen his share of experiences so far in life. Born in Columbus, Texas, Rocky moved to Houston in 6th grade where he really got into music and shared his experience with us: “I got into music really kind of like random. I always wrote poetry, I always jot down things that came to my mind just at random times and when I did a project in English class people were asking me do I rap. People tell me I should rap and I would always freestyle.”
That’s exactly what he did. Realizing he wasn’t gonna make it big in the NBA at 5’6 he decided to give this music thing a real shot. He wrote and recorded his first song when he was 16 and from there he kept recording mixtapes, figuring out who he was as an artist. Still in school at Marshall High he found a collective called Icey Gang and started recording. After one of their songs gained some traction, Banks decided he really wanted to focus solely on music and his own career so he parted ways and started recording, growing his fanbase in Houston. We caught up with him to hear his story and asked him what the scene was like in Houston these days after the Paul Wall, Lil KeKe and Chamillionaire paved the way for new artists and what he’s been up to recently.
GP: Houston is known for birthing local superstars that are otherwise unknown on a national level. What is the music scene like in Houston these days?
The area has changed with music so much. Those guys they came up in an era where selling tapes and CDs out of your trunk was the thing to do. There was more hand to hand transactions with people so it’s a little more intimate so that’s how you really got your rank up in the streets and ciphers and freestyles stuff like that. Now the trend is pretty much the same but now it’s opening up because it’s like the younger artists have shifted the culture a little bit. Right now me coming up, I think I earned respect because of my roots and when I came up in. I got a salute from Bun B. Even though he’s from Port Arthur he’s a big influential artist in Houston. Propane recently reached out to me and Loki G he gave me a salute. Those guys just keep telling me to stay original and real. That’s what I feel like I bring to the table I think I bring a blend of every single region you could think of but I still stick to the roots in the culture of Houston, Texas and what we stand for. I keep it authentic all the way.
GP: It’s great to hear things are growing and changing a little bit out there.
It’s because the Internet is such a vital part of how people blow up now. It’s very few artists that get a record, give it to a DJ and they break the record anymore. It’s always some, “wow these guys just popped up here or I heard the song here on the Internet” so it’s a big tool for a lot of the younger artists to use. In Houston it’s still, you get on Twitter and instantly a rapper in the city could have a hot song that DJ gets a hold of, it starts getting requested in the club a couple of times, it’s been on the radio and you can really you know, be on in your city. I came up for my ranking in the streets and then use the Internet as a tool to spread spread internationally and get, you know some recognition from other places other than just Texas, or the U.S..
GP: So you had some international coverage play then? Any particular areas?
A lot of Belgium, France and the UK. Some of the radio stations are playing my songs and that’s pretty cool. I know that’s the market I really want to get into. I feel like international fans are the best of both worlds. They kind of appreciate it a little bit differently than the fans over here in the U.S.. Not to say thing bad or downgrade downplay how much that is appreciated here in the US but I just feel like it’s a different perspective in another country because they don’t see us everyday, they don’t live this lifestyle everyday.
GP: Yeah their version of hip hop over there is very different from what we’re used to over here, and they love our music. They hear more of what we make over there than what we hear from them. They definitely like that sound you make.
GP: So your album I.O.N.I.D.D.D.A. which stands for ‘In Other News I Don’t Do Drugs Anymore. Is that real?
That really real, that’s very real. When I was 17, one of my favorite things to get into was painkillers. I would take my moms painkillers like when she would go to the dentist, I would take her Vicodin. I take those all the time and then once I left home to go to college and stuff I kinda got into the heavier stuff like Xanax a lot. Cocaine and mushrooms, stuff like that. Never messed with acid or heroine. Those drugs in particular were the ones I was messing with—tabs of ecstasy and stuff like that.
One day I just woke up just started taking a lot of a mixture of those drugs and I ended up dabbing for the first time, which is like taking pure THC. I just had a bad reaction, I started losing my senses, my lung collapsed and I started thinking that was it.
I went to the hospital he told me on a scale of 1 to 10. One being dead and 10 being completely healthy I was at two. Once I remembered how I was feeling how my vision is blurring in and out and knowing that “man I almost died today,” I just said “fuck that I’m not about to do this anymore.”
I feel like I don’t need it. Being here is more important than trying to keep up with everybody else and allowing this to get me through whatever depression I’m going through. At the end of the day I realized that me being gone wouldn’t help anybody. Doing it to myself wasn’t helping my situation I really just kinda bossed up and matured as a person. I guess I became more of a man.
GP: Everything changed from there, yes?
Yes literally everything changed. My perspective on everything life really everything. How I approach music, how much energy I put into things. Really I knew I had more of a story to tell and I felt like I could use my talent and my skills to steer somebody away from doing that. I’ve gotten emails from people, DMs and comments on my pictures on Instagram of people tell me that I inspired them to stop doing drugs. From there, I was like “man this is what I’m supposed to be doing, this is what God has told me I’m supposed to do.” So I just had a real conversation with God that day and I made a conscious decision to be more positive with the music.
GP: Has your experience affected your team in a positive way? Has everyone just kept doing their own thing and given you space to do your own thing or did some follow your lead?
Yeah you know, I mean they respect what I do. I feel like a lot of them have slowed down on what they’ve been doing. Especially who I did the project with, Kwasei La’flare he’s like my little brother so we had a relationship where it’s like if I’m doing something, he’s gonna tell me I’m trippin’ and vice versa. He’s told me out of his mouth you know “I’m chilling on it. Ever since you dropped this project man, you got me thinking about doing things differently.” I feel like it’s a promise to us everybody can’t just switch it up. Everybody’s story little bit different and they don’t have the same experiences.
GP: I see you’ve done a lot of work with Daud Leon for your last project in for this project is he going to be your go to guy? Are you looking at working with other producers?
Daud Leon is the guy. He’s like my brother, he really shaped me as an artist but not knowing that he did because he such a talented musician. That’s also Mufasa Enzor, Daud Leon is his producer alias. I don’t think a lot of people know that but he’s featured on “Sunday” the last track of I.O.N.I.D.D.D.A.. He’s the guy that really just help me shape my sound. He told me: “you could do so much more than what you’re doing right now. You could really go.” He gave me the courage, I guess the mindset to look at music in a different light. So I would say yeah that is my guy to go to especially to consult with for a record, because knows me, we have amazing chemistry. All the music we make you never send me anything it’s all made organically right on the spot.
GP: He makes his beats on the spot?
Right on the spot. All of them. He samples, Cuts his samples and we come up with the patterns. I produce a little bit we come up with sounds we organize them and I come up with a hook and sometimes I take a record home and I go over the verses and I come back and record versus after i’m already late the hook.So it’s a real kind of like weird creative process but it always gets done very efficiently.
GP: Every artist has their process for sure. I say no matter how weird, whatever works for you, keep going. Any projects coming up that you want to talk about? Or anyone that you’re working with?
I am working on a couple of EPs. I have one ready to go already. I don’t know when I’m going to release it. It’s so much different music that was made at a different time so I”m trying to figure out how to piece it together. I would definitely say lookout for ‘Trust in Banko’ the EP that’s definitely going to come out pretty soon.
GP: Looking back to your younger self, if there was one thing you could say, what would it be?
Do you know what your name is? That’s what I would say.
GP: You know what your name is? Why? What is that?
Man, my family really you know… whenever I would do something crazy my grandma would be like “do you know what your last name is?” Your last name is Williams we don’t do things like that.” You know so you gotta look at yourself, respect yourself bro you know what I mean? Respect yourself. So that’s what I would say to myself: “Respect yourself. You really need to know yourself right now because you’re not being yourself you’re doing everybody else is doing honestly.”
GP: Sometimes you gotta walk that path to understand that things shift and change, we get messages along the way that tell whether or not we’re on the right path or going in the right direction and its listening to those messages and understand when they do come through what they are, what they mean. Trusting them and following them, so now you can look back on this experience and see it with perspective. Sounds like some positive things of come out of that and I’m sure more positive things will come out of that experience in the future.
GP: If you could change one thing about the way things are done in the industry currently, what would it be?
Stop the antics man. Stop the crazy antics. If you’re an artist your main priority is to create art for people to appreciate that’s it. If you want to be an actor you should’ve gotten into theater instead of music. I understand the entertainment business is to entertain on the stage. There’s too much other stuff that goes on too much personal stuff… You have to make it too personal for people to buy your record now. Shout out to the Kendrick Lamars, the Beyoncés, the Jay Zs.You don’t hear anything about these guys and they are selling platinum records. That’s the life that I want to be in. Just appreciate me for that, not what you know about my life unless I put it in my music. The other stuff, for the magazines, for the tabloids I’m trying to stay out of that.
GP: You’re not the only one that speaks on it like that. It seems to be a new way of thinking. Not everyone has the calling to use their celebrity to help shape others in a positive way and that’s all fine and good but if you do have a calling that’s a perfect way to do it. You’re an entertainer at the end of the day. That’s why you make the music that you make because there’s more realness to it than there is storytelling.
Thank you. I can totally agree with that. That’s a perfect response. It’s kind of mind-blowing to me but it’s not for me to understand.
GP: A lot of that goes back to how they feel about themselves. It’s trying to get acceptance, trying to be cool or wanting to be accepted. People that have already found that space, and love who they are, can focus on what they love and put out music that reflects that and those that are on the same level are inspired by that.
GP: Any shout outs?
Shoutout to the family. Everybody knows who’s in the family. If you’re in the family you know who you are. As far as artist that I want to show Chaz French, shout out to Dice Soho and Trill Sammy. Shoutout to all the artist that are really putting their heart and soul into this music. Jay Soul on the new signing. That’s another artist that I feel is great man, I think he’s going to do great things in the music industry. He’s from Toronto. He just signed to Cash Money and I’m just excited to see what he does in this industry.
GP: Anything you’d like to add or want your fans to know?
I’d like to close with this: just know, I still love you! That’s really all I’d like to say.
Follow him on Twitter. Check out his recent video “A Lot” and stream his I.O.N.I.D.D.D.A. project below.