In 2014, fans were promised the brilliance of the Southern’s legend newest album “The Godbox”. Accompanied by a stunning 808-driven production and hints of funk, aggressive, titillating rock, and other modes of music which effortlessly elevate Banner and his reputation, the 15-track album is a delightful resurrection of the Southern rap legend and a reminder that in order to survive and stay relevant in this music, you must reinvent yourself again and again.
Hip Hop has always been a genre founded on borrowing the very best from which sound is closest to it: disco, punk rock, etc. and so when the chorus swept in from the first track “Magnolia”. Flanked by CeeLo Green and Raheem DeVaughn with gorgeous, loud church-like voices, electric guitar riffs, and heavy bass drums, it becomes very clear Banner’s long hiatus was a needful one. In order for him to orchestrate this eclectic array of sounds in a way that did not seem haphazard, Banner needed to rediscover music’s capabilities.
Banner tackles many critical topics in “The God Box” in ways that both unnecessary but often can come off as heavy-handed. In “Elvis”, for example, Banner, without reservation, calls out many white musicians (Adele, Timberlake, Robin Thicke, Miley Cyrus, and the like) for appropriating black music and culture to advance their own careers. Banner is incredibly gifted at calling out the predatorial behavior of white musicians towards black art. “What I find the most fascinating about this track is the title itself pulls Elvis at the center of white musicians who exist in this lineage of commandeering the music of others without credit.
“The Godbox” continues this refrain of commenting on socio-political issues with “Amy”. The track is enjoyable for its aggressive beat, yet the refrain pulls the track down because it just gets way too heavy-handed—however this is only one side of the fence. Among us in the Black Disapora, it has been a long standing point of contention that Black folk should not call themselves ni**a when the very word is a derivative of the very word which has divided us from our humanity. “Amy” takes a firm stance, by introducing the word’s complicated and violent history, that Black people do not need to say the ‘n-word’, but Banner isn’t here to tell people how to live, but to just ruminate on the power and weight of words. Also, Banner says ‘nigga’ casually in songs like “Who Want It”, so this track can be assumed to be food for thought.
Banner taking a step back from hip-hop has given him ample time to digest the world and all it has taught him. It is a marker of legend to have that much faith in his discography that he could return to the studio with not one voice, but so many that “The God Box” has multiple entry ways to which seasoned Banner fans and new ones alike can be introduced to the “MTA” rapper. I ,for one, am immensely grateful to have such a strong and refreshing voice back in circuit of this music.
The God Box can be found here on SoundCloud:
I.S. Jones is a Staff Writer for Dead End Hip-Hop. She can be found on Twitter @isjonespoetry