David Banner is very happy to meet some white guy
David Banner + Yummy Bingham + Chamillionaire
August 30, 2005
It’s impossible to overstate the difference between an ordinary show and an industry showcase. Ordinary shows are effective marketing tools, OK, but they’re also chances for artists to come face-to-face with the people who buy their music and for music to become an all-encompassing experience instead of something you listen to while you wash dishes. At last night’s Universal showcase, music never got past the level of background noise; most of the industry professionals in the audience were evidently just there for the free drinks, sometimes talking loudly enough to drown out the artists onstage. If record labels hope to introduce their artists with events like this, they’re fooling themselves. They’re spending thousands upon thousands of dollars so that a few hundred people can drink for free and ignore their artists. Open bars cost money, and so do fluorescent end-tables and do David Banner inflatable punching bags and seas of balloons and laser-projectors that keep the Universal logo rotating on the club wall. It’s not money well-spent.
For artists thrown into schmooze-fests like this, the logical route is to go up onstage, tell everyone who you are, do a couple of songs, and then go get yourself some free drinks. That’s what Chamillionaire and Yummy Bingham both did. Neither was particularly concerned with connecting with the audience. Chamillionaire one of the five or six greatest rappers on planet Earth, a Houston MC with an effortless, slippery flow, an endless supply of dorkily perfect punchlines, and a gift for sticky singsong hooks. He’s a mixtape veteran and an internet favorite, but he had to tell this crowd that his name isn’t pronounced “Chuh-millionaire” and he isn’t 50 Cent‘s little brother. He did two songs and left. Nobody noticed. Yummy Bingham is a sub-Spice Girl R&B “singer” who pretty much just speaks her lyrics and sounds like a cat being tortured when she tries to do vocal runs. She did four songs and left. Nobody noticed. I don’t blame either of them for getting offstage as quickly as possible.
But David Banner treated the crowd’s indifference as a personal insult. During the first song of his half-hour set, he ran out into the crowd, jumped up on a table, tore his shirt off, and threw Courvosier on the crowd. Then he stopped the show to preach to the crowd, telling it that the entire music industry was based within fifteen square blocks in Manhattan but that 85% of Universal’s sales last year had come from Southern and Midwestern artists, that “y’all got more responsibility to promote this music.” He said that his home state was flooded and that his father had “brain cancer and lung cancer” and that we needed to make him feel more at home. On the next song, he tore down the Universal banner behind the stage, threw it on as a cape, and then charged into the crowd again. He threw up devil horns and yelled, “All you white people, put ya rock signs up! And all you black people, I know you working for somebody white because that’s who runs the industry, so put ya rock signs up too or else you might get fired!” Then the DJ cued up “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and Banner chanted, “Rock! Rock! Rock!” He stared into the audience and said, “If my father die and you fuck this album up, I’ma kill y’all,” and gave a low chuckle. He denounced the crowd for perpetuating rap beef: “We grown men acting on some high school shit! We in front of these white folks looking like savages!” (I’m paraphrasing all these quotes, but he was really saying this stuff.) He rode some bouncer’s shoulders. He put some girl up on his shoulders. He jumped up on the bar. I’m pretty sure he told the crowd that he’d pissed in Diddy‘s pool. And when the crowd still gave him a weak cheer at the end of his set, he screamed, “As hard as a motherfucker work, I’d rather have y’all boo me!” And still the crowd paid no attention. Banner doesn’t really rap at shows; he just sort of yells along with his CD. But he bared his soul to a room full of industry scumbags who couldn’t have cared less. It made me happy and sad. I hope Banner’s functional bullshit detector and fierce pride don’t fuck up his career too much.