David Banner was born in Mississippi and to hear him talk about his state it's clear that, despite all the places music has taken him, part of Banner is always there. Hip-hop and regional pride tend to stay in lockstep with each other; however, there's a fierceness to Banner's pride that sets him apart from many other rappers. Perhaps it comes from, as he describes it, Mississippi's status as the "most misconceived state."
Complex spoke with Banner about his state, specifically places for food, drink, and, most importantly to him, history. As you'll be able to tell, the man comes most alive when talking about his state in a grander way, all those things that can't fit in a tourism brochure.
Come to Eat
"Usually when people come to Mississippi, they want to eat. That’s the first thing that people want to do. And, of course, I could send you to a lot of the upscale joints that they got out there, but I think people really want to know where the barbecue at. If you want the barbecue, there’s a spot called E & L’s [1111 Bailey Avenue, Jackson]. It’s definitely mom and pop. You know from everybody in there from the cut, you know, their auntie, their uncle, everybody. But the food is the closest I’ve ever tasted to what my mom cook."
"For hamburgers, there’s a place called Stamps [Now known as Cool Al's, 4654 McWillie Drive, Jackson]. I’m not lying to you, they have a 1 lb burger. And I’m not just saying this cause I’m from Mississippi, even though everybody know we have the greatest food in the whole entire world, but Stamps—their hamburgers are off the chain."
Come to Drink
"As far as clubs, you got a place called Freelon’s [440 North Mill Street,
Jackson]. He owns the whole block. It’s crazy. If you go to Freelon’s, ask for Jermaine. That’s my homey."
The Upscale Spot
"For an upscale, chill spot—maybe you want to throw on a tie or something—you can go to the Martini Room [at the Regency, 400 Greymont Avenue, Jackson]. Only on Friday’s though."
Come to Find Your Heart
Medgar Evers' Home
"As far as historical spots, the place that hit me the hardest was Medgar Evers’ home [2332 Margaret Walk Alexander Drive, Jackson]. They turned his house into a museum. His daughter is one of the guides. He was murdered in front of his family.
"At the end of the tour they take you outside and say, 'You know, there are two things you can’t get off concrete.' And people say, 'What’s that?' And the guide says, 'Oil and blood.' And then she pours water on the ground and his blood rises out of the concrete. I don’t even know what more you can say about that."
Smith Robertson Museum
David Banner: And if you want to know about Mississippi history, I’d tell you to go to the Smith Robertson Museum [528 Bloom Street, Jackson]. I recently just got something inducted in there. That was real cool. I’m in the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame now.
Complex: What was it like being inducted?
David Banner: It was breathtaking. At the end of the day, I have accolades all over the world, but not in my home state. And at the end of the day, after God and your family, that’s really who you do it for; before anybody else, it’s for the hometown. Or your home state. They say you can’t take money with you, but as long as the Earth spins, as long as Mississippi exists, I’ll be in the history books. Songs fade out. We can barely remember the song that was hot last year. Much less 10, 12, 20 years ago. So to be in the Hall of Fame, where children 300 hundred years from now will walk and see me next to Elvis Presley, B.B. King—and I’m still living. I’m still current. How dope is that?
Complex: Were you the first to represent hip-hop there?
David Banner: Yeah. It’s so hard to get the generation before us to see our work. It’s funny, though, they were really impressed by the philanthropic moves I’ve made. And they were proud. It just took my breath away. Because you honestly don’t think that people hear you. Of course you’ve got “Play” and “Like a Pimp” and “Get Like Me,” but I never really thought that people were listening to the messages. Cause it is the blues to me; this is young people’s blues. And they heard it. Usually we don’t get a pat on the back till we’re definitely broke or we’re dead.
Complex: Have you been to the museum since?
David Banner: I got to see the picture they put up. But I haven’t had the opportunity to go to the actual museum. I’m happy with the thought, though. I don’t want to change the picture that I have in my head. Cause it’s never quite as good as you think it'll be. But I am gonna get more involved with the museum.
Complex: What do you have in mind?
David Banner: Museums are donation based. And we have to make sure that the opportunity [to see these things in museums] is still there. It takes money. And I have a little bit. I definitely want to support something that I’m apart of.
David Banner: I think people need to constantly be reminded of how far [Mississippi] has come and how far we have to go. Not just from a musical standpoint, but from a historical standpoint.
Complex: Mississippi seems to get singled out.
David Banner: It’s probably the most misconceived state. People always ask me what was my motivation for being a rapper and it was always the fight that my people have always gone through in Mississippi. It’s always been a battle. Even within the South, it’s always been a battle. That’s why I got “Mississippi” tattooed on my back. It’s always been about holding my people up. That’s always been my motivation. So if David Banner can make it, knowing how people think about Mississippi, then I know you can make it.
David Banner: I don’t know if that has anything to do with where you need to shop or where you need to play basketball or get tennis shoes. But more than anything, I think you come to Mississippi to find your heart. That sense of family. You know, when they say soul food, it don’t have nothing to do with chicken or ribs. You come to Mississippi to be reminded of why we even do music.