Alfred Banks: “I want to use my platform to destigmatize mental illness and tell people that it’s OK to not be OK.”
The full interview from the listicle, “6 Indie Rappers Dispel Myths About Being Independent And Explain Why They Wouldn’t Have Their Careers Any Other Way,” published on Blavity, June 2021.
I still remember the first time I saw a young Alfred Banks perform in 2013. First things first, I am near impossible to impress; secondly, I endorse no one. Those two things are important note because immediately after seeing Alfred, I jumped on Facebook and posted a glowing review of how amazingly talented he was and how I could absolutely see a very prosperous future for him as an emcee. He’s one of the kindest, most hardworking, and genuinely talented spirits I have had the pleasure of being in community with. Accolades aside, it was without question that he was the first person I contacted when I began working on my indie artist article for Blavity. His career trajectory has me feeling like I need to be an A&R executive, because geesh, was I right about him. This Q&A was originally published in The Living Room.
LR: What is one of your personal career highlights?
Alfred Banks: One of my biggest career highlights was the Volkswagen commercial that I did. It changed my life financially & it took me all over the world! People still talk about it to this day.
LR: Aside from having complete ownership of your work, what other benefits are there to staying indie?
Alfred Banks: Another major benefit to being indie is that I don’t have to answer to anyone when I want to make a move happen. I can just do it. That is a very underrated ability and empowers indie artists to be in control of their own decision-making.
LR: Based on your experience as an indie artist, what advice do you have for artists on the rise?
Alfred Banks: The best advice that I could give to other indie artists on the rise is to just stay at it. Half the battle is consistency.
LR: What platform, outlet, or resource has given you the best ability to showcase your work and earn money?
Alfred Banks: The best platform, hands down, is Bandcamp. I can really see who my fans are with that site. I’ve been with them since 2011 and I’m not stopping anytime soon!
LR: Any indie artist myths that you want to bust?
Alfred Banks: A myth I’d like to bust is, that if you don’t make popular music, you can’t be rich or get your hands on some bread. I’m here to tell you, that is a LIE. Lol
LR: Could you tell me a little about your role as ambassador for the National Alliance on Mental Illness and how your work as an emcee matches this accolade?
Alfred Banks: My role as an ambassador for NAMI Is to raise awareness for mental health issues within the Black community but from a hip-hop standpoint. I’ve dealt with mental health on a personal level from my brother’s schizophrenia to my own bouts with depression/bipolar disorder. I want to use my platform to destigmatize mental illness and tell people that it’s OK to not be OK.
LR: In what ways do you believe you’ve grown as an artist — from your lyrics to your performances; what has shaped you into the emcee you are today?
Alfred Banks: I’ve grown as an artist mainly by the content of my music. I’m finally at a point in life where I am the most comfortable with myself I’ve ever been and I think that it truly reflects in my music.
LR: How can people keep up with your work?
Alfred Banks: I have more exciting news and collaborations coming soon. Be sure to follow me on Instagram and Twitter at @underdogcentral to stay in the know. Please visit my website and check out my new album One Guy Standing by Himself! It’s out everywhere!