May R&B/Hip-Hop Rookie of the Month

Your greatest haters are sometimes your greatest followers, and few individuals know that higher than Lay Bankz. 

At simply 19 years previous, the Philly native is a component of a era that’s acutely conscious of how they’re perceived. Thanks to social media, they hear – and typically internalize – each final praise and piece of criticism. But it takes an artist like Lay Bankz to harness the beast that’s the Internet, and remodel it right into a self-promotional software to totally notice her childhood goals. 

“I’ve always known this is what I wanted to do since I was a baby, and everybody around me can vouch for that,” she says over Zoom. “I’ve been doing this my whole life. This is nothing new. I played the violin, I played piano, I was in orchestra, I was in vocal [lessons], I did musical theater, I took poem classes and I learned how to write poems and write raps. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.” 

Before the sugary ‘00s-indebted “Tell Ur Girlfriend” conquered TikTok and became her first Billboard Hot 100 entry (No. 58), Bankz’s “Ick” took the Internet by storm – for higher and for worse. Despite vocal critics deriding the lyrics and sound, in addition to her hip-rocking Jersey club-inspired dance strikes in the accompanying music video, “Ick” turned the soundtrack to over 200,000 TikToks, reaching No. 8 on the TikTok Billboard Top 50 and incomes 73.1 million official on-demand U.S. streams, in keeping with Luminate. 

“Ick” adopted a string of smaller regional hits that flaunted Bankz’s versatility, and its success even landed her a shock efficiency at Houston rapper Monaleo’s 2023 tour, throughout which the headliner introduced out Bankz alongside fellow ascendant feminine rappers Cleotrapa, Maiya the Don and Connie Diiamond to carry out their respective hits throughout her Brooklyn cease. Bankz’s efficiency of “Ick” was electrifying; if individuals weren’t satisfied of her star energy earlier than, her seemingly easy steadiness in spitting verses and executing full-body choreography definitely modified their minds. 

A gifted rapper and singer, Bankz’s rising catalog pulls from myriad genres and influences, however R&B and hip-hop — by manner of ‘00s heavyweights like Beyoncé, Ye (fka Kanye West) and Brandy – reign supreme. Those influences shine via on “Tell Ur Girlfriend,” which leveraged its Timbaland-nodding manufacturing to success past TikTok, touchdown on further Billboard rankings akin to Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (No. 17), R&B/Hip-Hop Streaming Songs (No. 10) and Hot Rap Songs (No. 14). “Girlfriend” has logged 53.4 million on-demand official U.S. streams since its Feb. 7 launch. 

Between her reside efficiency talents, her ear for melody, her innate understanding of find out how to most successfully use the Internet and a help system in Artist Placement Group (APG) and supervisor Kenney Blake – whom she related with after he challenged her to sing on the spot in entrance of a crowded barbershop — Bankz has collected virtually each infinity stone crucial to make sure that she’s “here for a good time and a long time.” 

Billboard spoke with May’s R&B/Hip-Hop Rookie of the Month about her “messy” relationship with music, placing on for the Eritrean girlies, and her favourite songs from the Kendrick Lamar–Drake beef.

Walk me via the way you created “Tell Ur Girlfriend.” 

I make songs based mostly off of real-life experiences and “Tell Ur Girlfriend” is in truth one thing that I went via. At the time, I knew what I used to be going via, however I didn’t have a track for it, and I really feel like I’ve a track for all the pieces at this level. Well, at the least I’ve made a track for all the pieces. I walked in the studio with Johnny Goldstein and Ink – a dope producer and a dope author —  and I advised each of them, “Yo, I had this idea!” Johnny performed me the chords for “Tell Your Girlfriend,” however there weren’t any drums. 

I’m like, “I need to speak about how I’m feeling proper now, and I mainly sat there with Ink and Johnny for 2 hours earlier than we made the track and I broke down the scenario that I used to be going via. We had been sitting there like, Alright wager like that is what we’re going to speak about. 

I obtained on the mic, freestyled some melodies, got here up with some issues that I preferred after which [Ink] helped me write some lyrics and piece collectively the hook. I freestyled verses, so I simply went in and stated how I felt. I truly needed to re-record [the song] from the first time I recorded it as a result of I felt like some issues wanted to be modified to make it just a little extra truthful. It was in all probability a two-week course of to get this track the place I actually wished it to be, however I truly recorded [it] two months earlier than I dropped it. 

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Do you ever really feel nervous or scared to get that non-public on the mic? 

Not actually, as a result of I really feel like music is an outlet for dialog, and it’s additionally a manner for me to precise myself once I really feel like I can’t. Getting on the mic and saying how I really feel isn’t the arduous half. Saying how I really feel frequently with out the microphone is the place it’s arduous for me. 

So far, “Tell Ur Girlfriend” has peaked at No. 58 on the Hot 100. Congratulations! What does an achievement like that imply to you? 

Honestly, it’s a blessing and it looks like a dream. I’ve been working! Me and my supervisor met one another 5 years in the past and I signed my deal two years in the past — we simply been working actually arduous. I prayed for this and all the pieces that’s occurring for me. It don’t really feel too unrealistic or surreal, as a result of while you work in the direction of one thing your entire life — I’ve been singing since I used to be 3 — after which it begins occurring, you don’t actually notice it’s occurring till the huge second. I really feel like I’m having so many huge moments and each time I feel I obtained my greatest second, I all the time get that new huge second.

You actually do are likely to eclipse your huge moments with even greater ones, even while you had been gaining traction on-line as a character. How do you suppose you’ve used the Internet to your benefit? 

I feel the Internet is a playground, and it makes all the pieces simpler to market your self when you use it the proper manner. [It’s] a present and a curse, as a result of with out it, I feel we might be again in the previous instances the place star high quality was larger — like Michael Jackson star high quality, the place individuals faint after they see artists. Stuff like that doesn’t occur anymore, as a result of if somebody needs to see you, they might simply see you on their cell telephones. And there’s magnificence in that. There’s additionally a draw back to it, but it surely’s actually been the easiest method [for me] to advertise myself. I management my social media narrative, and no one might persuade me in any other case. 

Has your relationship with the Internet developed in mild of your current success? 

Honestly, I don’t discover it disturbing now. I feel once I first began, it was extra disturbing, as a result of I wasn’t used to all the consideration and other people commenting on my on a regular basis life, how I look, how I gown and what I do. Then once more, I’m from Philly, so individuals decide you by all the pieces and that’s simply how we’re right here. I obtained a more durable pores and skin.

The Internet actually can’t get to me, as a result of at the finish of the day, don’t none of these individuals know me in actual life. All y’all doing is streaming my music and that’s serving to me. I realized that [by] being your self unapologetically, you’re going to be extra completely happy than attempting to please a bunch of individuals on the Internet who don’t know you anyway. 

You talked about rising up in Philly, which, of course, has its personal lit music scene. What are your earliest musical reminiscences of your hometown and what from Philly do you need to carry with you all through your profession? 

My earliest reminiscence of music might be being in the automobile with my mother on our approach to daycare. We would hearken to albums on prime of albums early in the morning as a result of she labored exterior of the metropolis. She wished me to go to this actually good daycare, so we used to drive 45 minutes exterior the metropolis each morning. I bear in mind her taking part in a bunch of Beyoncé, and that’s one of the the reason why Beyoncé is one of my favorites. We listened to Keyshia Cole lots, Sevyn Streeter, lots of what was popping in the early 2000s. 

What I need to take with me from the music scene from Philly is that authenticity, by no means dropping sight of who I actually am. Everybody from Philly is really distinctive, and I feel rising up in such a nitty-gritty metropolis, when you’re not your self, they’ll knock you down for not being your self they usually gon’ try to say you attempting to be like anyone else. I’d die earlier than I attempt to be like anyone else and I imply it. 

You’re additionally placing on for the Eritrean girlies. What does it imply to you to have the ability to pursue your goals to this extent, whereas nonetheless honoring all the totally different components of your id? 

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I feel it’s wonderful as a result of there’s not that many of us — Habesha, Eritrean, Ethiopian individuals – in the trade. Putting on for Eritrea and letting individuals know, Hey, it is a nation! This is the place I’m from, what I grew up consuming, what I grew up studying, that is my second language, it is a half of me. 

That’s tremendous vital to me — as a result of I obtained household in Eritrea that watch me on their telephones, and don’t have half the issues that I’ve, or aren’t as lucky as lots of people who I do know. I need to allow them to know that they will do that too, it don’t matter the place you’re from, what you appear to be, or something. Anybody can do that so long as you imagine in your self! 

You signed with APG in 2022. What drew you to them and why did you resolve to remain impartial? 

I felt like [APG] actually cared about my artist growth. When I first signed, I wasn’t prepared. I’m solely 19 now, so I nonetheless have a lot room to develop. When I signed, I simply turned 18. Signing with APG was a choice based mostly off of [knowing] that they’ll care about me rising as an artist and never simply me coming as what I’m. I really feel like since I’ve signed, I’ve grown a lot from being over there and large shoutout to my supervisor too as a result of he did his analysis on APG earlier than he went over there. 

Your huge track earlier than “Tell Ur Girlfriend” was “Ick.” Did you be taught something from that track and its success that you just delivered to the marketing campaign for “Tell Ur Girlfriend?” 

When I first posted “Ick,” no one preferred it! I type of shied away from it as a result of I used to be like, Wow, no one likes it — oh s—t, am I doing one thing unsuitable? In actuality, I’m simply being myself. I didn’t let it get to me, so I’m like, All proper, I’m nonetheless going to advertise, I’m simply not going to feed into it. But once I begin taking a look at the greater image, I [decided to] begin replying to hate feedback with movies of myself. When I began doing that, I began controlling the narrative. Whether y’all like me, hate me or no matter, y’all nonetheless listening to it. 

“Tell Ur Girlfriend” was the identical factor. When the track actually began blowing up, everyone was making feedback like, “Oh, we can’t condone cheating songs.” I’m like, “Whatever, y’all listen to Keyshia Cole’s ‘I Should’ve Cheated’ and y’all listen to ‘Break Up With Your Girlfriend’ by Ariana Grande.” Music is a kind of expression. There are individuals who felt precisely what I stated in the track they usually’re simply afraid to say it. I’m not afraid to say these issues. Once I actually leaned into not being afraid to say what it’s that I felt and stand on it, I feel that’s when it actually modified for me. 

What is it about your relationship with music that offers you that sort of fearlessness to say what you need to say? 

Music is my past love. I’ll be mad and I’ll be like, oh my God, I don’t need to do that no extra, however, in actuality, I wouldn’t need to be the rest. I wouldn’t be completely happy doing the rest. When I cry, I might cry in the sales space and cry on the track. When I’m in love, I might be so in love and make a love track so lovely that each time I hearken to the track, I really feel the embodiment of that emotion, simply from my lyrics. I feel that’s highly effective. My relationship with music is intricate and it’s messy, but it surely’s my past love. Music is all the time going to be that. 

What’s the messiest factor about your relationship with music? 

I feel that it’s not excellent, however nothing is ideal. And I’m not excellent. Sometimes, I would get author’s block, or I could be so harm and so mad that I make a track and it feels so good as a result of I’m letting my feelings out… however then I can’t by no means hearken to the track once more as a result of it’d harm me an excessive amount of to pay attention [it]. At this level, all through the 5 years of me making music, I’ve over 10,000 songs, and all of them are distinctive and imply one thing to me. I don’t know what I’m going to get up and need to speak about. I don’t know [how] I’m going to get up and really feel tomorrow or how I’m going to go in the sales space. It’s messy as a result of it’s throughout the place. 

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Was there a specific track or second that confirmed that music is what you wished to do along with your life? 

I feel I simply preserve having moments [and] that’s the distinction between the elevator and the steps. The elevator, you get on and it takes you to the subsequent ground. It’s no journey. You’re simply going straight up. And while you go straight up, you’ll come straight again down. I really feel like I’m taking the stairs and each time I step on a brand new stair, and I get to the subsequent ground, I’m getting to a different milestone and coming into one other period of my profession and life. You don’t know that your life is altering till it’s altering. 

“Na Na Na” was the second. Before “Na Na Na,” I had “Left Cheek,” and earlier than “Left Cheek” I had “Boyfriend N. 2,” and earlier than that I had “Cmonnn” and even earlier than that I had songs that had been lit in the metropolis. I’m having second after second, as a result of I’m taking the stairs. The stairs don’t imply nothing however longevity to me.

When it comes to creating music, capturing music movies and crafting your reside present, who’re your greatest influences? 

I’ve to say Beyoncé, 1000%. I really like Beyoncé, simply from rising up and seeing her artist growth from Destiny’s Child to now. I went to the Renaissance Tour, and it was wonderful. I actually couldn’t imagine it. I used to be so astonished. I simply love Beyoncé! Everything about how she performs and the way she will get on the stage is so charming while you see her. You can’t have a look at the rest and she or he makes you imagine what she’s saying. You imagine how she’s performing and the way she’s dancing. That’s actually what impressed me to be the performer I’m. I’m nonetheless rising and I’m nonetheless studying, but when I’m going to be like anyone, it’s gon’ be like her.

As an MC, I gotta ask you this, who you bought on this Drake and Kendrick Lamar battle? 

Ohh man. Both of them are actually OGs in the recreation. I actually don’t have a choose. I feel each of them are actually wonderful rappers and I really like each of their music. I hearken to Drake faithfully, and Kendrick obtained some hits that I actually f—ok with. I’m not going to say, Oh, such and such is killing such, as a result of I really feel like they each throwing some loopy s—t on the market. I f—ok with each of them. 

True. Which observe have you ever preferred the most out of all the ones that we’ve gotten? 

[Sings, “Drop and give me fiftyyyy” from Drake’s “Push Ups.”] S—t was loopy! [Laughs.] “Euphoria” was loopy too, so it’s kinda arduous to choose. But off rip, Imma say that jawn, [“Push Ups.”] 

So what’s subsequent for Lay Bankz? When can we anticipate your subsequent venture? 

My venture will truly be popping out in a couple of weeks at the finish of May. It’s uncooked and it’s me and it’s uncut. Versus my first venture, Now You See Me, I really feel like this venture is far more modern. I actually sat down and thought of how I wished my venture to sound and the way I wished it to really feel. I obtained the most uncooked, uncut model of After Seven – that’s the title of my venture. This goes to be the venture the place individuals actually have open ears, and I’m standing on that. People going to actually hearken to this jawn, and I’m believing in that. 

What’s one factor you need to have 5 years from now? 

I would like to have the ability to put the people who I really like in a greater scenario. I feel I obtained lots of people who depend on and anticipate lots from and out of me. Without my individuals, I’m nothing. I simply need to be sure that in the subsequent 5 years, whether or not I’m giving them a job or I’m shopping for a automobile or a home, it’s all for the individuals who helped get me the place I’m at at this time. 

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