He isn't content with viral fame, though. Since making his name crafting stripped down covers of rap hits (follow his adventures on Instagram), the Bay Area native has begun to focus on original music and production. And he just received his biggest look to date, contributing to “out for the night,” a woozy standout from 21 Savage’s i am > i was, which received a major boost when a second part featuring Travis Scott dropped on Christmas Eve.
Bankz first met 21 Savage backstage at a show, and it was too noisy for the two of them to record one of his signature Instagram videos. Instead, he laid the groundwork to collaborate and play strings on i am > i was. The beat for “out for the night” is produced by Kid Hazel and was brought to life by Bankz’s emotive string work, which sees him interpolating a Santana riff into something both alluring and menacing; contrasting perfectly with Savage’s steely delivery and the pumping 808 bass.
While out in London, Bankz took some time to speak with Complex about how he turned his viral success into a spot on 21 Savage's album.
How did you wind up collaborating with 21 Savage on “out for the night?”
We had kicked it at shows and I sent over a couple beats. He actually fucked with one of them that I had sent, but there was something going on with being able to clear it. I was replaying a sample of something. It was actually going to be the “letter 2 my momma” song, and he got in it, but they couldn't get it cleared because it was one of his favorite songs that he wanted me to replay. So, that didn't end up going through. Then I got a call from my buddy, who's a super legendary, up-and-coming producer under 21, Kid Hazel.
He's like, "Yo, we gotta get you involved with the album. Let's put it together." Then we put that beat together [for “out for the night”], and 21 got on it, and then Hazel hit me, and he's like, "Yo, Travis Scott's getting on it." I'm like, "No way. Let's go."
What was so crazy about it is he had said that previously, and I checked in, and I'm like, "Yo, did the Travis vocals come in yet?" And he was like, "Nah bro, I don't know. He was over here last night, and they were just kind of kickin' back." Up until like two days before [the release], I'm like, "So bro, what's the status?" He's like, "I don't know. It'd be crazy if Travis could get on this, but it's still a good song." And I'm like, "Yeah. No, regardless it's a good song. I'm glad I could be a part of the album."
Is this Hazel saying this or 21?
This is all communication through Hazel. And then, I get a call two hours before the album dropped from Hazel absolutely juiced, like, "Bruh the Travis vocals just came in. Let's get it.” And then it drops, and Travis isn't on it. I'm like, "What the fuck happened? Oh, it was too late.”
There was this period of time where we're just like, “Is it going to happen? Is it not?” And then, somebody sent me a tweet. Savage said the Travis verse came in, and will be blowing up your ears shortly. And I was like, "Oh shit, it's lit." And then I'm going, "Wait, it could be a different song. It might not be that one, who knows?" But I knew that it was “out for the night.” So, I'm like, “But, there's always changing the beat. There's always a bunch of different things can happen, so it's up in the air.”
“Pt. 2” has a pretty distinct beat switch around when Travis comes in. Were you involved in the making of the production on that section of the song?
Anything that's on the strings, the transition part, that was something I threw in. Hazel was just like, "Yeah, let's make an intro and an outro to it, and that'll just be you playing strings and no beat behind it." So yeah, the transition, in between the two, yeah. But then Travis came with his whole team and slid on that second part. It's funny, because it's a unique Travis placement, but that's how he's doing it nowadays. Everyone's like, "Wait, why didn't he just make it another song?" And I'm like, "Well shit, have you heard, “Sicko Mode?”
The liner notes say that there’s a sample of Santana’s “Samba Pa Ti.” How is that song incorporated in “out for the night?”
So, basically the whole idea of that song was based off Santana, but 21 wanted me to play the strings, and play a remake of my own version of it. On a lot of my production, I'm sending out string samples already set, based off of nothing, it's just me. And, that was what he had initially wanted to get on: something that had nothing to do with anything. But it just didn't make the album. Just like anyone else making 500 songs, [stuff] doesn't make the album. I knew I at least had something with him, but I didn't know if it was going to make the album or not. We had tried it once before, and couldn't pass the sample, but this one I knew was easy money.
Do you know if a Santana sample is particularly difficult to clear?
I don't know. I've never tried to clear any Santana stuff. You know the whole Juice WRLD story [with the Sting sample on “Lucid Dreams”]. It's called an interpolation, and it's basically your interpretation of what the original is. So, it's not exactly it, but it's based off of it. If you listen to the Juice WRLD song, and then you listen to [“Shape of My Heart”], it is a slightly different thing. So I guess Santana had cleared that it was okay to make do an interpolation, but none of that was through me. No chit-chats with Santana yet.
How did you and Kid Hazel first connect? He’s had a massive year and is all over i am > i was.
Hazel, he's just a hustler. He was somebody who had hit me up, and knew that I was in the production world. And he was like, "Yo, you gotta send me some stuff." At the time, I was just doing videos like crazy, and he hit me up while I was in the studio recording. He's like, "Oh, you gotta send me some stuff." I'm like, "I love your persistency, let's get it."
He slid out to L.A., he didn't have a car, so I took him around, we pulled up on some artists. Pulled up on IDK, he dropped off some beats that he had going. We dropped off some collab beats. And, he's like, "Yo, come to the Savage show tonight." I had already kicked it with Savage once, but I went to the show, kicked it with all them. It was way too noisy to do the video with Savage, but I was more stoked on getting a song. I mean, we’re definitely looking forward to doing a video of course, but I'm looking at this year as more of: “Let's make hits.”
As a producer do you think you have a specific sound or are you trying to be more versatile?
Yeah, I've been making a lot of different beats. I just worked with Hoodrich Pablo Juan and 21 Savage. Honestly, if you would have asked me three months ago, would I have a record with them? I'd be like, "Nah, that's not really who I look at being on the kind of music I make." But, what it comes down to is there people are constantly looking for different things to get on and different vibes. So, I don't know, I can't really categorize my sound into a set of artists or a style. It's something that's still developing and coming up.
I think what happens is people hear what you've done, and they want that, and then you have something that you like to make. And, sometimes it's over-written, but I don't know. My album Uke Nukem is probably the best idea of what my normal, natural sound is. Everything that I made on there was literally just sitting in the studio, not even listening to any other music—just what comes out of me, naturally, free flowing.
And I’m sure you want to show that you can both make string-centric beats and experiment with other instruments and sounds.
I love having a heavy string side of it, because I feel like that is my sound, and that's what people know me for. I think the best way to mesh it to the production world is to constantly have those coming out. And I feel like in these past couple years, the string sound has come up heavy. A lot of people hit me up and they're like, "Bro, look at the wave you started." I'm like, "I might give that to Gunna's producers, but appreciate it." I'll take it. [Laughs].