Interviews 13 May 2021

GRM Exclusive: Ms Banks discusses her journey thus far, being on the Forbes list & New Music

13 May 2021
Ms Banks Interview

Ms Banks is the fierce rapper who has been making bank doing what she loves. While working hard to get to where she is now, the hustler has gifted us with popular hits like “Snack” and”Bop Daddy”, as well as being named on the Forbes ’30 Under 30′ list in 2021, and winning awards for her music. It’s clear why Ms Banks, has become one of the top rappers in the UK.

New music has been dropping left, right, and centre now that we’re four months into the year, but Ms Banks has remained under the radar, so GRM has caught up with the star to find out what’s next for the 27-year-old.

The pandemic has been a tragedy for musicians, and the arts and cultural industry’s infrastructure has left working artists and performers helpless. Amid the circumstances, Ms Banks has been doing her best to stay positive.

“It’s been alright, I feel like things have been moving a little bit slower than usual, much slower really for some, including myself! I’ve been trying to keep positive, but it’s been a little slow while trying to produce stuff and get it out, but other than that I’ve still been creating which is amazing.“

Unfortunately, some musicians grow up with families who aren’t supportive of their ambitions, thinking that any profession involving music isn’t a ‘real job,’ but Ms Banks grew up in a musical family that influenced who she is today, and she’s not embarrassed that her family hears her more raunchy side within her music.

“My family have always been supportive, my dad was little hesitant on the other hand. When I first started, my dad said I needed to get a real job, because I was always just hustling and then I was working, and there was a point making that transition where I started taking music really seriously. I was broke, I didn’t have much, I was borrowing money from my parents, and my dad wasn’t really impressed because obviously I was already quite grown, I was probably about twenty one so he wasn’t really digging it.

“Other than that he’s been really supportive, like now he’s my number one fan! When it comes to my raunchy stuff, he doesn’t care like he will play “NOVIKOV” in front of all my family and friends and I’m like ‘DAD! Calm down, turn the music off’ and he’s like ‘I don’t care’. My mum is supportive of me but she can’t take it like that, she wouldn’t listen to “NOVIKOV”.

“I guess thinking of my family and my friends in a sense, I don’t always want to make my music too raunchy, but it’s that balance of expressing myself and not caring what people think, and also how I can make more family friendly music. My family is supportive of me though.”

Ms Banks released her first mixtape, Once Upon A Grind, over seven years ago, where she introduced herself to the world. You can hear how she has the ability to freestyle over any instrumental thrown her way, demonstrating her versatility, and the star has reflected on her journey into music.

“I mean, I’ve definitely developed. I feel like I’ve had more time to practice, my voice has matured, I’ve become more honest in my journey, I feel like I’m very much reflective where I’m at in my life. When you listen to Once Upon a Grind I was still quite young, still kind of finding my feet, now I’ve established myself more and really grown.”

With some iconic singles under her belt that make you want to get up and move, it’s difficult not to think how much fun Ms Banks would be in the studio.

“When I’m in the studio, I’m hearing the beats, catching a vibe, doing voice notes and melodies and gibberish and a lot of ‘skippity bap bap’ and no words. Then I probably do that on the mic for a while, finding something to say that’s my kind of normal process, lay down melodies, a lot of flows, and kind of getting the concept.

“I like to freestyle because sometimes I feel like you need to say what’s really in your heart. If you think ‘Oh I’m gonna write this today’ it might come across as disingenuous because it’s just like me trying to pinpoint something, whereas if I start talking in the mic and I say something, I could build a whole song from that. So it’s a lot of freestyles, melodies, and voice notes!”

“Snack” is a bubbly anthem about understanding your own worth, something Ms Banks excels at, and the fun single, which features Kida Kudz, has racked up millions of views and streams. Ms Banks wants to empower women and encourage them to love themselves and to keep at their crafts, and she has some tips for any aspiring female rappers out there.

“I would say, be confident and be true to you. You may see everyone doing this and that but really try to find your style, and don’t be afraid to take notes from the people that you look up to, and the people you listened to growing up and see how you can take from them and incorporate it into your own style. I think that’s important, to study the people that you like and to see what they have done to really elevate themselves as artists.”

Ms Banks has been inspired by many female rappers throughout her life, including one that she has a secret song with that’s still to be released.

“Female rap wise, I obviously love Nicki Minaj, love Lil Kim, love Foxy Brown, and from the UK I would say I love Ms. Dynamite, Lady Leshurr, Lioness, Lisa Maffia, those were women I really looked up to. I love Lauryn Hill, they really inspired me. Nicki and I have had a song done for ages but god knows when she’s going to get back! I’ve always wanted to work with Nicki, I’ve always wanted to work with Ms. Dynamite and we have done that now as we linked up for “Clipz” and I would love to work with Estelle, I think we could make something dope!”

While there are many female rapper collaborations, we must not overlook the rivalries. After catching the attention of Nicki Minaj, who tweeted the lyrics to Banks’ “Yu Zimmes”, Banks went on to support Nicki at her Manchester show, and on the other side, Banks has also toured with Cardi B. People always compare Nicki Minaj and Cardi B, but Ms Banks believes there is no competition between UK female rappers at the moment.

“I don’t think there’s a big rivalry but not everyone gets along, but I feel like it’s like that in every workplace. On my side, I’ve got a lot of friends in the industry, a lot of women that I’ve helped, women who have also helped me and I feel like there’s definitely competition, but there’s definitely a lot of support too.”

This year’s Forbes Magazine’s European entertainment ’30 Under 30′ list featured a variety of young talents, and Ms Banks did her bit for the UK by making the list, and she is here to give us some advice on how to be successful.

“I was really happy and I definitely manifested that! I really wanted to make the Forbes list, and I just feel like it just represents a generation that is really doing their things and pushing and really making their mark, I am glad to have been a part of that. I even said it in my new single that’s coming out that I’m going to be on the Forbes list and now I’m actually on it, I should’ve said that in my single! It was great for me and I’m so happy that I made the list as I really wanted to make it.

“Some tips on being successful are staying humble, believing in yourself, and just learning how to manage everything going on. Obviously I have managers and people on board that are helping me and making sure things are running smoothly but be yourself! I try to always make sure that, even though I’ve made a certain amount of money I still drive to make more money, so it may seem like I’ve got a lot but it’s about prioritising within my means.

“Being a rapper, it can get one- sided, and people start doing what all the other rappers are doing, you want to be flash, it’s just part of the culture. It’s normal to like good, flash stuff but it’s about balance and really just investing in you, your craft, and making sure that you are good for the long run. I think those things will help you become successful!”

Ms. Banks has had a tough time breaking into the music industry, but she has never felt like giving up.

“I didn’t graduate from University, so I don’t have any university degrees. The job I was in was a basic job, I was working in retail, it’s not like I had a graduate job. There’s nothing else that I loved, I liked customer service because I was really good at that as I like to think I’m polite! I like interacting with people and meeting people’s needs but there’s nothing I love more than music, there’s nothing I love more than performing, so I was ready to take all the hurdles that came with the music industry. I feel like even if I didn’t make loads of money making music, I would still love it and be happy because music is something I love. I’ve never thought of giving up, no way.”

So far in 2021, the only single we have heard Ms Banks on is “INTEREST” with OXLADE and Dolapo, but fans are itching to hear new music.

“I’m really close with some people Dolapo has been working with, so they were really trying to make something happen between us. They sent over a few things but I really wasn’t sure if it was the right vibe for us. We got into the studio and then yeah, what we did was fire. She already had a hook, AJ produced the beat, it’s cold, you know he’s produced a lot of stuff like “Gangsta” and obviously “Interest”! We just vibes from there and I did my verses, I ended up doing two verses and that’s how we got “INTEREST.”

“I’ve got a new single dropping at the end of May, finally! The first single of the year I’m super excited! I’ve got a feature but I’m going to keep that a surprise, and I can say that now the next vibe is definitely me still in my rap bag, I feel like I’ve been giving you guys that vibe with lock-off so I want to give you one more treat before I go and do what I do best basically! I hope that gives you some clues!”

Joining forces with Havana Club, following in the footsteps of collaborator Skepta, Ms Banks has become a partner and ambassador for Havana Club’s first 1st spiced rum, Cuban Spiced, which is launching now!

“I love it working with Havana Club. It’s been great to represent women in my field working with them. I’m just really, really grateful for the opportunity to work with Havana. I think the product is amazing, I really, really like it. Cuban Spiced goes so well with ginger beer, that’s probably my favourite combination.”

“I like how in the Raise One series with Havana Club, they were shining a light on cultural businesses, black businesses, I found that really dope as that’s something that I’ve not got to do before. I’m usually meeting a lot of people within music, but this was different, these people were from different fields whether it was food, dance, radio.

It was cool meeting different people and seeing how passionate they are about their jobs, I really enjoyed Bartending with Prince and Emeka at Trap Kitchen, Nife with dance, she’s just taking it to another level like I haven’t seen a UK dancer do that to be honest since Sherry Silver or something! The No Signal team have been amazing, with the pandemic and everything going on. I’ve just enjoyed meeting everyone and seeing a light shine on them, it was really fun!”

Despite not hearing much of Ms Banks in 2021 so far, the rapper is letting us know that she’s about to return to the scene.

“I’m going to be making moves babe! Big moves, I’m levelling up! I got a lot of singles coming out, a lot of features, I’m just going to feed the streets man, it’s time! I’m coming, period.”

Havana Club Cuban Spiced is available in stores now, buy it here.