Ms Banks is on a mission to inspire the next wave of women game-changers in music, sport, culture and beyond. The South London rapper stands for empowerment and individuality, and has found success in an industry that has traditionally been dominated and shaped by men. As an innovator herself, it’s not too surprising to see BBC Sport give Ms Banks a call to drop a track in celebration of the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
Banks’ twist on Fort Minor’s powerful anthem “Remember The Name” celebrates the hunger, passion, drive and talent that athletes and artists share to succeed in their field. The song—which soundtracks BBC Sport’s trailer for a big summer of women’s sport—is Ms Banks’ latest move to level the playing field for women in all walks of life.
Ahead of the Women’s World Cup, we linked up with Ms Banks to talk about her game-changing work with BBC Sport, the rise of female MCs and why it’s important to inspire the next generation of women.
COMPLEX: It’s a pretty cool thing for the BBC to want to connect with you around the Women’s World Cup—how did it come about and why did you want to get involved?
Ms Banks: BBC Sport reached out to me because they wanted someone who could really give an empowering message and they felt that I could deliver that, because it’s what I’m all about: female empowerment. They showed me the concept for the trailer and what they wanted to do and we went from there.
So the track you laid down for the trailer—“Remember The Name”—is a rework of a pretty iconic song of the same title. Why do you think it fitted the project well, and what lyrical themes did you want to bring to a piece like this?
I had never actually heard the song before doing this piece but I think the story of it definitely correlates, because a lot of the women playing for England have been doing this since childhood. They’ve all been putting in so much work and the hook says “10% luck, 20% skill…” and I feel like all that speaks to an athlete’s mentality.
I read about a lot of the players, which definitely helped. Understanding their graft was essential. The whole idea was powerful and I wanted to talk about women going hard—whether it was in the booth or on the pitch.
So having looked into the women’s game in deeper detail than you might have otherwise done, have you got a greater love for the sport and the athletes involved?
100%. I feel like I’ve got a deeper understanding of its importance, and how important BBC Sport’s Change The Game campaign is—how important it is to just have representation on this stage. It should be easier for women to get into sport; it’s similar to what we’re doing with Nike, too, with the new sports bra. We’re gonna be giving it out to young girls in schools because 50% of women don’t get into sport because they don’t have the right kind of sports bra, which is crazy and needs to be addressed. It’s epic to get women active however we can—sport is a universal language.
Sport is an empowering thing and it has cut through for a lot of young people. Did sport play a role in your life growing up?
I just always liked anything physical. I played a bit of tennis, I played football, and I even played netball at some point—it didn’t last long, but someone told me I was tall so I should do it! I used to like being out; I find sport fun.
The whole BBC trailer is definitely an inspirational piece and I think you really feel the passion you have for empowerment and progress. Why is it so important for young girls to see women making moves on a major stage?
In loads of different fields, we’re constantly being treated as a minority. I mean, me doing music... I think only six per cent of people in the music industry are female. I’m not sure what the equivalent percentage would be in sport, but we definitely see a lot more men’s football than women’s football, and really it shouldn’t even be classed as women’s football—we should all be able to look at it as just football.
We just need to keep on making more opportunities for women because if a young girl sees a woman doing something well, it’s going to make that girl want to do it too. If they see us being successful, they’re gonna want to get out and do it, and that will grow the female population working in challenging fields. It’s all about representation and young girls need to see us be successful.
You mention that even in music—particularly rap—it’s a traditionally male-dominated environment. What sort of challenges did you face on your come-up as a result of that?
Just being taken seriously was difficult. And when it comes to getting paid, women aren’t always taken as a seriously as our male counterparts. People try to make you feel like you’re not supposed to be doing what you’re doing because you’re a woman. I thought it was just female MCs that were receiving tweets like “get out of the booth and back into the kitchen” but after talking with the football players, it’s the same for them! We all go through the same stuff and that’s why I’m so keen on letting women know that we can overcome this stuff, and do anything as well as anyone else.
Do you feel like the tide is turning in music now, too?
Of course. We don’t care about the people that are ignorant to our skills anymore—we know how sick we are. We’re talking about our lives and our experiences, and I’ve never met a girl I can’t relate to, so I’m sure there are girls out there are feeling what we rap about. That’s all that matters to me! I know who I’m talking to.
You’ve spoken about how important it is for people to pave paths that others can follow. Who are the women you look to who have made what you do right now possible?
Growing up, I really loved Lauryn Hill, Lil' Kim, Ms. Dynamite, Foxy Brown—a lot of female artists! Lisa Maffia, Whitney Houston, Jamelia... So many people inspired me.
And there’s so many in the scene right now who are killing it. I love Megan Thee Stallion, Stefflon Don, Lady Leshurr, Lioness, Little Simz, Flohio—me and her come from the same area—and there’s so many on the come-up, I can’t name them all. It’s a really good time for the UK.
So finally, has this project heightened your excitement levels for the World Cup this summer?
Definitely! I’m so interested and I’m going to France to go and watch England play, which is amazing. I’m very passionate about this and my eyes are firmly open to this wave. It’s the start of something big!
The 2019 Women's World Cup starts on July 7, and will be broadcast exclusively on BBC Sport.