Yung Bans was very intentional about the message he was sending when he chose the title of his debut album.
The Atlanta rapper is only 20 years old, but he already has a reputation on the internet as someone who is constantly getting in beefs with other rappers and media personalities. In some circles, he's become more well-known for his tweets than he is for his music, and he's starting to realize that. He just spent the past year creating the best work of his career, and when people don't take it seriously because of the noise that surrounds the music, he admits to feeling misunderstood.
Sitting in Complex's Manhattan office four days after the album's release, Bans remembers a recent conversation he had with someone on his team about the fact that certain fans might not be listening to his music because of the distractions that surround it. "She called me one day and she was just like, 'Yo, all the beefing and stuff, you're just so talented, and I don't want it to distract everybody from the music,'" Bans recalls. "So actually, now that I think about it, it does [distract] a little bit."
Bans says the album reflects his growth, and he got more personal than he ever has before. "I started this album when I was like 18, and now I'm 20," he explains. "I just moved out of my mama's crib. I just had my son. There's a whole lot of stuff. It's growth. Really just growing up. I was already grown, but now it's for real. I got responsibilities and all kind of shit."
Of course, growth and maturity doesn't come overnight. Bans has avoided beefs since the release of the album (his one tweet about another rapper was a happy birthday message to Lil Uzi Vert), but when asked if he has smoothed over recent disagreements with Lil Yachty and DJ Akademiks, he smiles, "They still bitches."
Bans is confident the quality of the music on Misunderstood will quiet lingering doubters, though. "They can't deny it," he says. "That's why I worked so hard on it, because you can't deny it and say this shit is not it. It is. I made sure."
Complex caught up with Yung Bans in New York during a leave from house arrest to discuss the public's perception of him, his thoughts on Tupac, why he has remained independent, and more. The interview, lightly edited and condensed for clarity, is below.
You titled your debut album Misunderstood. Do you think this music represents a chance for you to become more understood by fans?
Yeah, definitely. If people really listen, they'll understand the shit that I be thinking about and what I'm going through. I put it all out there into the world. I put it into the music. I really be going through a lot. It ain't a bad thing. Everybody go through shit, but I feel like the fans want to know. This is the way I update them on what I'm thinking about.
You get a little more personal on this than you have in the past. What gave you the confidence to do that?
I had to talk in songs. I'm not going to pick a topic and just rap on some cliché shit that everybody else rap about. I would rather just talk in the most creative way on a song. It's gotten to the point where I can't even make a song if I'm not thinking about something. So, maybe if I did just fuck a bitch and just bought a new chain, I'll get in the studio and rap about that shit. But if I'm going through some shit and I'm sad, I'ma get in the studio and rap about that shit. It's got to be real. That's the only way I'm going to be able to make music. I can't just rap about anything.
This project really is a piece of me. Yung Bans, currently, at 20 years old. I didn't just pick catchy songs that would be hits. I put the real sh*t out that I like.
What was going on in your life as you were making this?
A whole lot of stuff. Everything. Changes. Growing up. I started this album when I was like 18, and now I'm 20. I just moved out of my mama's crib. I just had my son. There's a whole lot of stuff. It's growth. Really just growing up. I was already grown, but now it's for real. I got responsibilities and all kind of shit. I'm becoming a bigger artist, getting more money, and all the problems that come with that.
This album sounds like a step up in quality from your past mixtapes. What do you think you got better at on this album? What did you improve on?
I get better every day. I'm in a new part of my brain when it comes to making music, because I always push myself to another limit. One thing is having more confidence. Confidence in singing. And engineering is crucial. From the beginning, I ain't have no engineer. I just recorded myself in my room, so I couldn't really get crazy. It was just literally like, hit the space bar, walk up to the mic, record, go back, click space bar. I ain't even know how to track shit. I just hit space bar, recorded, and then sent it off. So now, having an engineer, I can do whatever.
Were you recording in bigger studios for this album?
I recorded maybe a few songs in the real studio. But the majority was in my house. My engineer is just better and makes sure this shit sound as good as it can in the house.
I heard one of the biggest things you learned from XXXTentacion was paying attention to what energies you’re putting out in the world. What energy were you trying to create with this album?
Me. Me, that's it. Just me. I wanted to put a piece of me out into the world. This project really is a piece of me. Yung Bans, currently, at 20 years old. I didn't just pick catchy songs that would be hits. I put the real shit out that I like. I gave it to my fans. I just put out the best music to me.
Do you think you get the recognition you deserve?
I feel like it's good, because I see the numbers. The numbers are good and these are my fans that are listening to this shit. So right now I'm like, OK, I got so many fans. I got millions of fans who are streaming shit as soon as it drop. People aren't doing that, especially independent artists on house arrest. So yeah, I'm getting good recognition and stuff, but people are also hating. Some artists and certain circles don't want to fuck with this shit because it's too hard. This shit is too hard. But they will. They can't deny it. That's why I worked so hard on it, because you can't deny it and say this shit is not it. It is. I made sure.
You get lots of attention for everything that happens outside of music. Some people just see you on Twitter and don't actually listen to the music itself. Do you think all the other stuff distracts from the music at all?
It does a little bit. Ebony, she's part of my team, and we talk all the time. She called me one day and she was just like, "Yo, all the beefing and stuff, you're just so talented, I don't want it to distract everybody from the music." She kept saying she didn't want it to distract them from the music. Like, "This shit is fire, you got it. But all the other stuff can be distracting to the people, and I don't want them to overlook your talent." So actually, now that I think about it, it does a little bit. But the shit is so hard, it's just getting nothing but positive feedback. That's all I'm seeing. Its going to spread. It's just now settling in. More people are going to tell more people, and they'll be like, "This shit is fire, I'm waiting on the next project." I've got so much music. I could drop a project harder than that project today. Like, if I lock in the studio for a week, and literally just piece old songs together and re-work shit, I could drop a project harder than that.
Some artists and certain circles don't want to f*ck with this sh*t because it's too hard. This sh*t is too hard. But they will. They can't deny it. That's why I worked so hard on it.
Where do you think you fit in the landscape of rap right now? Do you see yourself as part of the generation that blew up on SoundCloud, or something else?
I was just thinking about this yesterday. You've got different eras of Yung Bans. You've got SoundCloud era Yung Bans, and we were pioneers in that shit. A lot of fans who know about that Yung Bans, they got way more respect, because they been fucking with me since then, and they know what this shit come from. Then you've got all the new fans and all the new people. They just don't know. It's just like, "OK, Yung Bans, I guess he got big," and they just don't know anything behind it. They might just know "Ridin." But I don't think that song does justice to everything it took to get to this point. So it's hard to say. I don't know. I just feel like I got my own lane. Straight up. I just got my own lane.
I remember one time you tweeted, "Don't call me Yung Bans no more, my name Tupac now."
I did that?
A couple years ago. Maybe you don't remember tweeting that, but were you influenced by him and other rappers of that generation? Or did you just mean you're on that level of greatness?
I definitely love Tupac. I'm really inspired by Tupac. I'm not saying I reached that level of greatness. I will be. If people listen to the music I wrote, I ain't gonna lie, I be speaking some real shit. Tupac speak real shit. Tupac inspired me a lot. Every day before I used to go to court when I was fighting a case, I would listen to straight Tupac. Just straight Tupac. A little bit of Young Scooter, but mainly Tupac.
You're not afraid of saying what you think. You'll call someone a bitch if you think they're a bitch. What gives you the confidence to do that?
I think I've always just been like that. It's not really something I think about. If somebody do some bitch shit towards me, and it's just overall hoe shit, I'm going to say it. I can't not say it. But I think I might just stop, because n****s don't even deserve my time.
You've gotten into disputes recently with guys like Lil Yachty and DJ Akademiks. Have you smoothed things over with either of them?
They still bitches.
It's cool, though.
You're really close with Future, and he's on this album. How did you guys meet?
It just happened through a lot of people. Basically, when I was coming up, Young Scooter brought me to Future, like, "You got to fuck with Bans. We're trying to bring him in." Then he started calling me, and we just started talking every couple days. One day, he called me, like "Bruh, I want you in gang. Whenever you want the drip, let me know. Whatever you need, bro. Whatever you want. Just let me know. We should be gang." Then we just made it work.
Future tweeted a message of congrats and pointed out that you did this without a major label. Are you independent, and you just have a distribution deal? Or how does that work?
Yeah, just distribution. Independent.
I'm sure there were lots of offers. Why choose the independent route instead of signing somewhere?
I always felt like it would be dumb before I really got leverage. I made it this far independent. I knew I could make it this far independent. I believe in myself. There ain't no label that could get me this far. Now, I feel like is the time, because I think we done went as big as we're going to go independently. I'm up there neck and neck with Ed Sheeran, Chris Brown, Taylor Swift, and J. Cole. I'm trying to pass them on the charts. Now, it's like, OK cool, I did that independently. I might go major.
I saw you shared a video of yourself with Lil Tecca. I've heard rumors that you guys have been making music. Is there a joint project coming?
No. We haven't made music yet. He just really kicked it with us a few times. When he in the same city, he come around and kick it. Like, little bro, you cool as hell. You know, just good energy. If I'm doing something, we turning up. We pull up.
What's the next big goal you have for yourself? What do you want to achieve next?
The next big goal is definitely plaques. I want plaques. You know your yearly Spotify shit? I want to hit a billion. I hit 100 million last year from Spotify alone, and I didn't even drop real projects. But now, I just dropped a crazy body of work. An amazing body of work. I want a billion from it. That's gonna make me feel good. And I want plaques from it. I feel like there's a lot of songs out here getting plaques, and things just be alright. You know what I'm saying? No shade, but the world got to wake up. Give me your plaque.
What's the most important thing you want people to know about this album before pressing play?
It's just me. I'm just being myself. I'm being genuine. I'm having fun. I'm just being myself, and I feel like everybody else should do the same, so that's what I promote. I'm one of one. There's only one me, and there's only one you. I'm just doing me. So all the hate and this other shit, it don't matter to me, because I'm still going to do me regardless.