Less than a month into the new year, Erica Banks found herself at the center of a viral challenge.
The Buss It Challenge calls for participants to show off their makeup and outfit transformations while twerking to Banks’ single “Buss It.” Since the challenge began on TikTok, there have been over 5 million videos shared on the platform, including clips from Gabrielle Union, Chloe Bailey, Jordyn Woods, and more.
Banks tells Complex that she wasn’t prepared for the response to her single, and didn’t even factor TikTok into her marketing strategy when she first recorded the song in 2019. She isn’t shying away from her newfound popularity, though. Now, Banks is doubling down on the hype around her breakout single with a major remix featuring fellow Texas artist Travis Scott.
In conversation with Complex, Banks reveals that she was just as surprised by the feature as others may be. As she tells it, she found out about the collaboration via a phone call with a team member. “It’s so crazy,” she recalls. “I got a phone call, and it was like, ‘Yo, I’m about to send you this song. I’m about to play this song for you. Tell me what you think.’ I’m not knowing what I’m about to listen to. Then I hear ‘Buss It,’ but I hear [Travis Scott] on it.”
Banks was stunned by the turn of events, and she had a list of questions. “What the hell is going on? How did he even get this song?” It wasn’t until later that she found out Travis Scott has been closely following her career and admired her work ethic.
Travis Scott isn’t the only one who’s watching Banks’ come-up right now. She recently inked a deal with Warner Records in partnership with Texas-based label 1501 Certified Entertainment. And she says this is just the beginning.
On the phone with Complex, Erica Banks talks about her viral moment, working with Travis Scott, her new record deals, and what’s next. The interview, lightly edited for clarity, is below.
How did “Buss It” come together? Did you know you had a hit while making it?
Making the track was just another day in the studio. Shoutout to SGT J who produced the track. He’s awesome. I kind of pick what I like. Everybody knows the “Hot In Herre” song by Nelly, so that just makes a cooler track. I didn’t think the song was going to do what it did because I, personally, didn’t care for the song. I wasn’t going to release it, but SGT J and my friends and family were like, “Nah, you should put that out. That’s hard.” So, I put it out, and it’s been the best performing song yet.
That’s interesting you say you weren’t crazy about it. Why weren’t you a fan of the record at first?
It was really the hook and the verse. I just felt like I could do better. As an artist, you know what you’re capable of, and you know what you can do better than. So I felt like I could do a little bit better than that. But I mean, the people love it, so I’m just rockin’ with it.
“Buss It” came out in 2020 but popped off later. Why do you think it’s taking off now?
It was very surprising just to see the overall feedback in general, just because, like I said, I didn’t think it was going to do what it did, especially on TikTok. That’s an app that I’m not even familiar with, so to see it do what it’s doing is very surprising. I’m excited about it.
So TikTok was never a part of your marketing strategy?
No, it wasn’t at all. I really thought it was going to be the social media platform that was going to get the least drive from it, but it’s the one that’s doing the most.
The song has turned into an empowering anthem for women. Did you always intend for that to happen?
No. This is what’s so crazy about the whole situation. It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t thought of. It was just me saying, “OK, I’m going to just put this out because you all think it’s cool. Whatever happens happens.” I had higher hopes for “Toot That” with Beatking. I felt like that was going to be the one to really take off, but it ended up being “Buss It.”
“Travis said, himself, that he’d just been seeing me do my thing and he’d been seeing me work hard. He loved it. He loves my work ethic, so he just wanted to come in and bless me with that.”
Who has been the most surprising person to reach out or show love since the song took off?
Tracee Ellis Ross and Gabrielle Union. Those would be the top two that I just never expected. When I saw it I’m like, “OK, how do they even know this song?” Like, these are not 22-year-olds who are my age, so I’m like, “What’s going on?” But that’s what TikTok does, so it was crazy. There were times I would get on Instagram, just casually, and I’m seeing me pop up or I’m seeing challenges. Even on TikTok, there have been a couple times I got on there just to see what was going on, and I’m on the front page.
Congrats on the new deal with Warner Records. What made you decide to sign with them?
I’m an energy person. I go off a vibe, so I just felt like that was the right thing for me. I’ve had plenty of offers. I could go all day just talking about that, but I felt like, at that moment, that was for me. I met the Warner team, and everybody seemed family oriented. I’m really big on family, so I felt like that was the right choice for me.
You mentioned vetting other deals. Were you at all shocked by the growing interest in you? Or did you always see it coming?
Oh, yeah. I knew at some point I was going to get to do that. Now, I didn’t know who I was going to go with, and I didn’t know who was going to come to me, but I felt at some point that I would go to the next level and do this.
You have a joint deal with Warner and 1501 Entertainment. What made you enter a deal like that, and what concerns did you have, if any?
I just felt like that was right for me. Everything seemed right. Everything looked right. Everything felt right. Nothing felt out of place or weird. I didn’t have any second thoughts. Then, of course, we did what needed to be done on the business side to ensure that Erica Banks is going to be able to have what Erica Banks desires.
How did the “Buss It” remix with Travis Scott come about?
It’s so crazy. I got a phone call, and the phone call was like, “Yo, I’m about to send you this song. I’m about to play this song for you. Tell me what you think.” I’m not knowing what I’m about to listen to. So I hear “Buss It,” but I hear [Travis Scott] on it. I’m just wowed. I’m like, “What the hell is going on? How did he even get this song?” That’s how I found out, through a phone call of somebody calling me and telling me.
That’s crazy. Did you ever have a conversation with him or figure out why he wanted to jump on the record?
I did find out why. He said, himself, that he’d just been seeing me do my thing and he’d been seeing me work hard. He loved it. He loves my work ethic, so he just wanted to come in and bless me with that. I’m so grateful. He didn’t have to do that. But just from him saying that, it showed that he’s really invested in what I have going on. It’s just all a matter of him being proud of me as an up-and-coming artist.
What do you think this means for your career, getting a record with Travis Scott so early on?
It excites me. I say it excites me, because I’m just now getting started. For people to be coming to me and wanting to do records this early on, it just makes me wonder, what am I going to be doing in a year? It’s very exciting because I know I’m barely outside and things are just going.
Who are some of your other dream collaborations you’re aiming for in the future?
I say Nicki Minaj all the time. Missy Elliott, love her. Definitely have to do something with Future, too.
Texas seems to be having a surge in female rappers. What are your thoughts on Texas rap right now?
I love to see it. I feel like it’s finally getting the recognition it deserves. I feel like we’re finally starting to come out. It feels surreal. I’m just excited to be a part of it.
Aside from the remix that’s coming out, what else are you working on?
I’m always working on music just to have. And I’m just getting ready to see what we’re going to do next. It might be a new project. We never know.
What are your goals for 2021?
Coming bigger, better. [I want] to be a bigger and better artist, bigger production, bigger music videos. Everything is just going to be enhanced. That’s what I want to keep doing as an artist: just keep leveling up, keep enhancing, keep growing, and just be a better me, all in all.
What’s the most important thing people should know about you right now?
I’m determined. A lot of people say or think, “A lot of people wouldn’t have been able to come this far with what you had to deal with and go through.” It’s not for everybody. So, I would like people to know I’m a different breed. I’m a different kind of girl. It took me some time to really grasp this world, and this life, as far as the industry goes. I’m still here, though, and I now have one of the hottest songs in the country. That’s crazy. It wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t determined. I want people to know that I am a strong woman, and at the end of the day, it’s going to get done.