Interview: Ms Banks

Ms Banks

‘I’m so proud of my generation,’ says UK MC and rapper Ms Banks, who recently woke up after a gig to read fan-girl tweets from Nicki Minaj quoting her lyrics. ‘With so much talent, it feels like there’s no better time to be making music in Britain than there is right now.’

With her brazen lyrical flow, Banks is at the forefront of a charge of bold, exciting UK talent, alongside fellow artists such as Flohio, Manchester’s IAMDDB, Stefflon Don and Lady Sanity who are all standing up and slaying harder than ever before.

‘For me as a woman, I feel like our music is getting way better, we’re living true, empowering each other to go on to even greater things. That has a big role to play in why there are more of us breaking through and we’re getting more attention and respect,’ she tells M.

Despite all the tastemaker tips for 2018, Banks’ success is no overnight sensation. Previously supported by the PRS Foundation’s Momentum Fund, hers has been a steady rise through open mic nights, raves and memorable moments like her 16 bars on Stylo G’s Yu Zimme and her own killer track, Bangs.

US overnight star Cardi B invited her on tour last year and 2018 has started just as strong. Her brand new EP, The Coldest Winter Ever turns the party vibes down just a notch to reveal a more vulnerable and reflective side to her writing, taking in reflective themes on Libya, love, sex and death.

Here, in this extended interview taken from our upcoming Formidable Flows feature, Banks chats to us about her musical beginnings, that Nicki Minaj tweet and the boundaries between UK rap, hip hop and grime…

How did you first begin making music?

My friend took me to the studio when I was 18, I recorded three songs and posted them all on SoundCloud, then went to some open mic nights and took it from there. That’s how I started my career.

So it was a natural thing from the start?

I’ve always loved music since I was a child. I grew up in a musical family and always knew I wanted to be an artist, I just didn’t know how to go about it from the get-go. But it was a lifelong dream. I loved Ms Dynamite, Lil Kim, Estelle, Foxy Brown, Minaj… loads of female rappers and MCs.

You’ve been tipped for success in 2018: how you feeling about it?

I’m just really glad that people are open to me and my music, and are interested and loving it. But I’ve been working on it for years now, it’s not some overnight success thing. At the same time, I’m delighted that people have an urge to check it out.

There’s a rich seam of new female artists coming through in 2018 – why is this happening now?

I love it, I’m just so proud of my generation. With so much talent, it feels like there’s no better time to be making music in Britain than there is right now. There are so many great artists doing things, the sounds are amazing. I’m so glad to be at the forefront of this day and age – it’s special, it’s a good time.

Why do you think so many female artists are breaking through at the moment?

It’s everything coming in to focus. For me as a women, I feel like our music is getting way better; we’re living true, empowering each other to go on to even greater things. That has a big role to play in why there are more of us breaking through and we’re getting more attention and respect.

The quality of what we’re releasing and putting out is much better – just how we carry ourselves and knowing our worth. Women aren’t sitting back any more, being quiet and taking things on the chin. They are coming out and standing for what is right and sticking up for themselves. The industry and music fans are more open to our opinions as we’re not holding back.

You’ve toured with Cardi B and received props from Nicki Minaj. How was it, getting attention and respect from these big stars?

It’s amazing, I’ve loved Minaj for years and I’m a massive fan of Cardi’s so for them to give me so much support has been great. It’s one thing knowing you’re good and great at something, it’s another to have that confirmation from someone you respect and admire so much too. It definitely helps you to keep going.

UK grime is now huge. Are there any boundaries between UK rap, hip hop and grime? Or are they merging?

For me, whatever the genre, it’s all under UK rap – whether that be grime, hip hop or drill, it’s all under the umbrella of UK rap. I try not to get too specific. Singers can sing on any genre – no one really cares about the genre – but with rap, everyone tries to define things so much.

For me, I know the difference between the beat for drill, hip hop, grime and trap, but for someone listening to UK music from the outside, they count it all as grime – that’s an issue. But as long as you know the sound and difference, it’s cool to label them. You just need to know what makes a grime beat a grime beat, and a hip hop beat a hip hop beat.

Which new artists are you tipping for success in 2018?

Octavian – he’s got a song called Party Here that’s really good, and making a lot of noise right now.

Who are the most innovative artists working within hip hop right now?

J Hus of course, Notes3, Ramz is doing really well – they’re doing the scene great justice.

What else have you got lined up for 2018?

I have a mixtape dropping, hopefully in spring – I’m just going to keep flooding the market place with great music, I want to be really consistent this year. I’ve got some great music lined up for this project I want to do visuals for. As soon as they come to life, I’ll be sharing them with the wider world.

Are you going global and doing shows overseas?

Yeah defo, I’ve had some crazy bookings already. I’ve got a show in Hong Kong in March which is mad, Ibiza… I’m excited – it’s crazy.

Have you got any advice for new artists?

Be consistent and be yourself as much as you can. Figure out what you like about yourself and what you don’t and focus – know what you’re about and make that clear. Finding your identity is what it’s all about when it comes to standing out.