South East London rapper Ms Banks' momentum is growing, and we all better sit back and allow her the space to thrive. Over the last few years, Banks (yes, her first name is really Tyra) has been attacking every remix she appears on, proving every single time that she can hold her own—especially on Big Tobz's remix for "Uno My Style". Ms Banks' smooth delivery and self-assured tone broke her through a barrier many artists seem to struggle with. Using the formula of remixes to prove a sharp point, especially with the glass ceiling for women rappers, she more than has what it takes to last the distance. After recently catching the attention of Young Money rapper Nicki Minaj, having laid a tight verse over Lisa Mercedez's "Yu Zimme" remix, both Banks and Mercedez are now set to open for Minaj's UK tour in 2018.
Aside from the remixes, Ms Banks' solo work is wavey, fun, and uplifting, yet sets the tone for her humble character. Recent tracks "Day Ones", "Get Loose" and even "OMG" show her ambition, but also that her musical experimentation won't allow her bar game to drop—which, as we've seen in the past, happens all too often. Music is embedded in her DNA, rapping from the age of 11, and we're excited to see Ms Banks blossom into the star she is already becoming. Complex caught up with the rising chanteuse for a light chat about the tracks that soundtrack her life.
Can you remember the very first track you ever purchased?
I can tell you the first one I made my mum buy for me? [Laughs] It was "I'm A Slave 4 U" by Britney Spears. My mum didn't understand what it was about and I didn't make it bait either. I told her the real song I liked was [sings] "I'm not a girl, not yet a women!" all this time. Sorry, mum—but when parents don't hear swearing in a song, they just think it's clean but there's so many subliminals. There's no subs in my music—I'm straight as it is. Actually, I'm lying... I think about that a lot, though. I don't want certain young kids to have to hide my music from their parents, but I still want to be myself. So if I can slip in subliminal messages, I will, but at the end of the day, as long as you don't do anything crazy—I'm happy.
What songs makes you think of London when you're missing home?
There's loads of songs, you know. I remember back in the day, Essentials' "State Your Name" used to make me think of London. That was proper like a rep your endz kinda thing. Now, I would say Ray BLK's "My Hood"—how she explains her area is how I look at my area. "FBG" by Suspect, too; he's shot a few bits around my area and he's from there as well, so shout out Suspect.
What was the first song you ever recorded?
It was actually a cover of Rick Ross' "Diced Pineapples". When I think about it, that song isn't even old but that's when I started my career, like 4, 5 years ago. It feels like forever, but when I'm saying it, it wasn't actually that long ago. Back then, my mindset was like I could take over the whole music scene. I thought I was the best! I was looking at everyone, like: "You don't even know the levels." [Laughs] When I came out, I wanted to do it big but it definitely took a bit more time than I thought it would. And then I started to see all these other new artists and was thinking: "Rah! You're all really sick." But I love it because I feel like when you see others doing great things, it makes you want to step your own game up.
Do you think, when you're coming up, artists don't see how much work really goes into building an audience?
Yeah! It can be a bit warped sometimes, until you begin that route yourself and realise it's not a joke. It can definitely be a bit blinding when you're coming up.
What track do you put on after a long, hard day of work?
I like SZA's "Broken Clocks". I feel like as much as she's got such a great voice, her music is easy to sing along to and also, in the song, she talks about grinding so much and not having much time—and I feel like that a lot. I mean, I can procrastinate at time [laughs], but I feel like I'm always really busy and tracks like "Broken Clocks" reminds me to make time for myself and chill. Also, make time to check for my loved ones. I love staying up late and creating—that's my thing, I can't lie, and my sleeping pattern is not normal. I get most of my good ideas between 2am and 4am. There are days when I get back from the studio, and I'll go out on my balcony, get some fresh air and see people going to work and I'm like, "Bruh! I just got home." But, at the same time, I do love it.
Which tracks remind you of your day-one friends?
I'd say Giggs' "Talking Da Hardest" or "Soldier Riddim". I remember being at the back of the bus going to school and listening to those with my people.
Giggs has had his fair share of criticism from the US for his lyrical stylings. Why do you think UK rappers find it hard to break through?
Words are a big part of perception and perspective, and our slang is nothing like theirs. Things that we're going to be referencing, probably doesn't interest them and our accents aren't the same. In London, we just go on a bit different and if you're not interested in his or our references—you're just not gonna get it. If you don't get it, you don't get it. There are dope artists here, and in the States, who are feeling Giggs so that's all that really matters to me. With everything he's been through, it's amazing that he's stayed himself and become internationally respected.
What verse made you want to rap?
For me, I loved Ms Dynamite's bridge on "It Takes More". I can't remember how it goes, word for word, but I love her and it made me want to rap. I was rapping from so early, I know who influenced me—but I don't remember the exact songs. I knew I loved Lauryn Hill, I loved Estelle, I knew I loved Lisa Mafia, I loved Lil Kim—but I don't remember at what age, specifically, or what songs. As I got older, I had to go back and listen to them to understand it on a deeper level as a grown girl.
Those rappers did what they wanted to do, and on their own terms.
I feel like Lil Kim is the definition of that.
Is there a specific time you remember hearing Lil Kim?
I really loved her verse on Christina Aguilera's "Can't Hold Us Down", and she's proper breaking it down [starts rapping]: "Here's something I just can't understand, if the guy have three girls then he's the man / He can even give her some head or sex her off, but if a girl do the same, then she's a whore." I felt like that was so true. She's so real! I was like 11 or 12—getting to know myself and growing into being a teenager, understanding life that goes on with the opposite sex—and that song really stood out to me.