2PhoneShawty: Speaking with Robb Bank$
Staying in the spotlight and remaining in the public’s image; these are things that certain artists crave and other artists avoid. For some, like Floridian rapper Robb Bank$, it’s both. The 22-year-old underground sensation started gaining attention around the same time that he was able to legally drive a car. From the jump, he found himself in the limelight both publicly via shows as well as through Internet fame, in particular thanks to Tumblr. Don’t forget, his first Twitter handle was TumblrGod.
Entering the scene back in 2012 with the mixtape ‘Calendars’, Bank$ was still a student in high school. At a time when the phrase ‘cloud rap’ was at its peak and Bank$ was rhyming over production from Clams Casino and SpaceGhostPurrp, he fit perfectly inside a new wave of Internet rap, Tumblrsphere talents before Pokémon references and weed sack selfies oversaturated the market. Bank$, not quite 18, was fresh and enticing with a mouth full of gold and plenty of content to relate to. Expressing love for the anime Naruto, the relaxed music of Sade, and crafting an unofficial tagline, “I Think I Might Be Happy” (taken from the show Skins), Robb Bank$ continued to highlight his own unique yet familiar character for the world to see. Appealing to weed heads, comic nerds and gun-toting lean fiends alike, Robb Bank$ crafted his image online. That being said, the artist is notorious for taking breaks away from the rap game to clear his head, to rebuild his brand, to breathe.
We speak with Bank$ on the phone via a Fort Lauderdale number, several months after he turned 22 and dropped ‘C2: Death of My Teenage’. ‘C2’ is a self-released mixtape that acts as the follow up to ‘Calendars’, the project that started it all four years ago. Though plenty of content has been released and plenty of hiatuses have happened in the between time, ‘C2’ comes across as closing an early chapter and opening a new one.
“It was a learning process to be honest,” he tells us about ‘C2’. “The name alone is a sequel to my first mixtape so I had to put myself back in that same mind frame that I was in when I was 17, going on 18. That’s a hard thing to do. During that time, I was nobody when I did ‘Calendars’. It sort of happened over night. I was thrown into rappin’ while I’m still goin’ to high school. I’m goin’ to alternative schools, getting’ kicked out and I’m doin’ shows for $1,000. At that time, that was a lot of money for me, at 17, girls around and shit. My mindset at that time was real crazy, so I had to sort of throw myself back into that to make the same type of music I was making back then, to give it that nostalgic feel.”
The time between ‘Calendars’ and ‘C2’ is massive, full of mixtapes, EPs, his debut album (‘Year of the Savage’), music videos, tours, international trips, substance experimentation and breaks from music. In those four years, Bank$ released songs with Sir Michael Rocks, Denzel Curry, Pouya, wifisfuneral and more. He ended his teenage years and entered his twenties. He worked constantly and effectively to help spread his sound to a larger audience with his solo releases cultivating a loyal following that needs no introduction. When the spotlight and the attention got to be too much, Robb Bank$ would jump off the grid, clear his head and handle his life on his own terms.
Although ‘C2’ dropped prior to our talk, Bank$ has plenty of content planned for 2017, including a U.S. tour followed by shows in Asia and Europe. In October, he tweeted in all caps, “DEATH OF MY TEENAGE TOUR REALLY FINNA B A MOVIE DOE.” In our interview he expands,“I got a bunch more projects to drop,” he says. “I got like two or three more ready.” He hints at upcoming projects like ‘No Rooftops 2’ and ‘Never Comin’ Down’, as well as executively producing for plenty of his fellow artists. Shortly after our conversation, he made the major announcement about his signing to Cash Money Records. “You gotta keep working,” he says, “staying consistent. I took a little bit of time off just to make sure I got the whole game plan ready. It’s just time to put it in motion now.” The quiet time Bank$ spent between his debut solo album and the recent ‘C2’ was almost a year exactly. While a year off might not seem like a great deal of time, it’s becoming more and more difficult to step away from the spotlight when the internet craves and constantly demands content from their favourite artists.
“I did that a couple times where I had to escape,” Bank$ says. “It just got to be too much. Like I was sayin’, I got into it when I was 17, I was a kid so everything was on the Internet.” In that sense, he says, he started out as a child star. “All the pressure,” he continues, “niggas hatin, know what I’m sayin’? People just wantin’ a lot of music from me at unreasonable times. That’s why I dove off some times, I’ve done a lot of hiatuses in my career. I stopped making music for a while, I contemplated not doing music no more but that was all just growing. I grew up in front of everybody. Everybody got to see me fucked up.”
While ‘Calendars’ acted as his debut back in 2012, it was his project ‘Tha City’ that followed in 2013 when all eyes were on Bank$. Still a teenager at the time of the release, full of critical acclaim and media attention, he was also consuming serious drugs, which eventually led to a hiatus. For a year, he took a break from recording music, releasing nothing in 2014. But no matter how long he would go without it, he always found himself returning to the recording booth. “That’s my first love,” Bank$ says, “at the end of the day, since the beginning. Since I was a kid, moving down to Florida and getting into all types of shit. I didn’t know what I wanted to be. I knew I always wanted to be a rapper, but I didn’t think it was realistic. I was down in Florida, I was doin’ bad ass little shit, being a bad ass little kid, I had no connection to the music world, besides my father and me and him wasn’t speaking. We still don’t speak to this day. For that to happen, it was crazy. [Music’s] something I’m always gonna go back to. That’s the only thing that catches innocence for me.”
Photos by Rick “IndigoChildRick” Mullings
Words by Ben Niespodziany