Wanna be a baller? Your favorite rappers do. Whether it's their slick lyrical references to NBA All-Stars, or coaching summer league teams at the Rucker, MCs are never too far away from the hardwood. With NBA 2K11 dropping yesterday, rappers can live out those hoop dreams without fear of tearing an ACL (we see you, Drizzy) on the court. We caught up with G-Unit lyricist and avid gamer Lloyd Banks at the 2K11 launch party to talk about his love for the game, the upcoming The Hunger For More 2 release (due out November 23), and why he's the best gamer in his crew and the industry...
Interview by Ralph Warner
Complex: How long have you been a fan of NBA 2K?
Lloyd Banks: Since the very first one. I've always been a sports head, so I've always liked games that had anything that had to do sports but especially basketball. I've played ball since I was 10 years old, so it has an extra significance to me.
Complex: What separates the NBA 2K series from all the other basketball videos games?
Banks: I feel like last year, NBA 2K10 was the best basketball video game ever. I'm hoping that this one is also; I can't wait to play it. My friends and I, we literally play this for 10 hours straight. I've been late to a couple studio sessions because of that game. [Laughs.] I won a lot of money off of it, too. But I wouldn't encourage any of the kids to bet, or anyone to bet, period—unless you bet on me.
Complex: Who's your go-to team in NBA 2K?
Banks: I actually don't have one, we play by random selection because if I get to choose my team there's no way I'm not going to win.
Complex: So, out of you, 50 Cent, and Tony Yayo you're the best?
Banks: Hands down. I'm probably the best in the industry. If I had to rank us, Yayo would come second—but a far second. And 50...he has no talent when it comes to that kind of game; he's still playing Pac-Man. [Laughs.]
Complex: 2K Sports added Snoop Dogg to the game this year, any chances you'll join the roster in the future?
Banks: Yeah, actually, we just talked about it. So you can expect to see me in NBA 2K12. I would've been on this one, but I was busy touring around the world when they did the production this year.
Complex: If they were going to draft you to a team, what team would you go to?
Banks: New York Knicks, baby. I've been a big New York fan, dating back to before the Patrick Ewing days. Ever since I could remember, I've been a Knicks fan. I'm also a big fan of NYC-based basketball players in general, so I got love for Ron [Artest]. I'm mad that the Knicks passed him up draft year, that was a big disappointment for me. But he brought a 'chip back to Queens, so big ups to him.
Complex: So The Hunger For More 2 is slated for a November 23 release. We heard about you having a collaboration with Kanye West, are there any other features we should know about?
Banks: Yeah, Kanye and I have been going back and forth with that. The track with Kanye and a collaboration with Eminem are the last pieces we're working on. When those get finished up, we'll be good to go.
Complex: It's been four years since your last studio album release, but you've been grinding on the mixtape scene with the Top 5 and Better series. How has that helped you during the time between your major releases?
Banks: I think that with the Internet and mixtapes you're able to speak on current events. It's like if I play NBA 2K11 tonight, I can make a reference to it in a freestyle that can be up on the Internet tomorrow. When you're making an album it might take anywhere from six months to a year, so something that you might say six months ago may not be as relevant six months later when the album drops. It's like practice—mixtapes are equivalent to a free throws for a basketball player.
Complex: With that said, are you planning on continuing with the mixtape grind after The Hunger For More 2 comes out?
Banks: Yeah, I was joking about it earlier today, maybe a Hunger For More 3 mixtape. Who knows.
Complex: Fif has said he's been in the studio a lot working on his next album. Have you been in the studio with him?
Banks: Yeah, actually I have. We have a studio bus, too. So wherever we go, we stop and record. 50's in a zone right now, I'd like to take a little bit of credit for it. My zone has been crazy and what a way that would be to follow up with another classic album from 50 Cent.
Complex: Did the immediate success of "Beamer, Benz, or Bentley" take you by surprise?
Banks: A lot of people don't know, but at that time I was an independent artist. I recorded the track, mixed and mastered it out of my pocket, then released it to radio in NYC and it was on the air in three days. It had never happened like that for me before. I went overseas and when I came home it was No. 1 in New York, and throughout the Northeast. The success of "Beamer, Benz, or Bentley" was a blessing, it opened up discussions with EMI [Records] for my new deal to happen. As well as future deals, and opportunities to venture out into different things.
Complex: So, "Beamer, Benz, or Bentley" taking off like it did forced labels to pay attention when Interscope wasn't.
Banks: Yeah, for those that don't know I've been off of Interscope records for a couple of years now. On my down time, one thing I did with my first lump of money was I purchased a studio for my house. That was before I bought a car or anything. I did that for cases when the label wasn't putting me up in the studio, I could always go downstairs in my house and record, so the recording process never stopped. The proof is in the pudding, and that record turned everything around. Interscope reached out with a deal but they couldn't match the deal EMI came with. Even though I'm on a big label, I still have a pretty good split as far as the proceeds go.
Complex: 50's been in the news a lot lately for going off on celebs via Twitter. Do you tweet often?
Banks: Yeah, my handle is @LloydBanks. They can find me on there, I think that it's definitely needed because it's a direct way to connect with your fans. You can hear their comments and what they think about the music you're putting out. That's what I use it for. I don't use it so much as a social network, I use it to actually get feedback and to know what direction to go with my music.