Robb Bank$ Is His Own Man
We spoke to the Florida rapper about celebrity, fatherhood and selling fake lean, as well premiering his latest video for "On Me"
It's true—Robb Bank$' dad is Shaggy. If you spend a lot of time with hardboiled Tumblr rap sleuths this is likely old news. If you don't, here's the Cliff's Notes of the whole affair: rising Floridian MC and SpaceGhostPurrp affiliate denies rumours of paternal kinship with Mr. Boombastic, changes his tune when evidence surfaces. Bank$ laid doubts to rest when he used a photograph of his father for the cover of last months' mixtape Tha City.
Clearly, the internet likes to essentialize. Anonymous teenage Colombos claim that celebrity lineage invalidates Bank$ street persona, calling him a poser who paid for fame. Truth, though, is always stranger than fiction. Talking to Bank$ on the phone for an hour, a complex picture of an artist searching for himself in a vortex of internet gangsters, absent father figures, real gangsters, and fake lean emerges. One thing's for sure: he's no Gabe Day. Check out our premiere of his video for "On Me" and see for yourself.
Noisey: What have you been up to the last few weeks?
Robb Bank$: I guess I took a little break, you know what I'm sayin', from the studio. I've been in the studio workin' with it. Tryin' to keep shit under the wraps a little bit. You feel me? But I'm still workin' like that. I've just been on the block filming with all my dawgs, same shit like that.
So, what was your inspiration for the vampire girl in the "On Me" video?
All right. So, what are the two strongest emotions?
I guess like, happiness and sadness. Or like, fear.
Robb Bank$: Exactly. Love and fear. And I feel like the last project Calendars was happiness and love and, you know, shit like that. Like, I mean, I was talkin' about my life, but a lot of it was just a lot of fabricated shit. Not a lot, but, you know, when you're a rapper.
Yeah, you create character.
I wanted to be the antagonist. I was like, "What's everybody gonna do if the antagonist starts rappin', and he's actually good at it?" You know what I'm sayin'? So that's why everything sounded a little bit more angry, because everything that I was talkin' about was things that happened to me in the last year since Calendars dropped. That's why there was a whole bunch of shots throwin' at people. I mean, right now, I ain't got no problem with nobody. But I have to rap about my life at the end of the day, you know what I mean? And so those are experiences that I didn't get to say on a song, so I set 'em on a song. Somethin' about the atmosphere of hip hop nowadays has made me uneasy. It's like, everybody's holdin' hands and bein' friends.
Speaking of criticism, you've recieved a lot for how people percieve your relationship with your dad. How do you feel about the way that's been discussed online?
If I was in their position, I'd see it like this, too. Shaggy's son is out here rappin' about this, that, blah, blah, blah. But at the end of the day they don’t know me. He did not raise me. Me and his relationship is not the best relationship. We're workin' on it. We're tryin' to get shit back. Well, not back 'cause it never was. But we're tryin' to get shit to a level where it's all love, and we could all just be good. You know what I'm sayin'? I was raised by my mom in Florida. You know, I was raised right here in Coral Springs.
What was it like growing up there?
It was a mother fucking shocker to me, to be honest, 'cause I had come from New York when I was 6. So I came down, and it's like, everybody was so damn black. Like, everybody was Haitian. You know? Like, and I was sorta the outcast, 'cause I was light-skinned, But the only niggas that would talk with me were Haitians, the Zo's. And obviously anybody who knows anything about Florida, you know about Zo Town. You know about 203.
Well, explain it for people who might not.
The Haitians run Florida. They run Miami. They run the drug scene and all that. They taught me how to do everything. They taught me how to fight. Taught me how to get my first bitch. Taught me everything. Straight up. Them niggas was father figures to me. You know what I'm sayin'? As well as people that I still love 'til this day.
When did you start rapping?
Sixth grade. We had a rap group. We was called LBS, Little Boy Fresh. My rap name was Emcee.
What did you rap about as Emcee?
I have no fuckin' idea. Just some stupid lying shit. I was fuckin' like, 12 years old, talkin' about drivin', like, shit like that. Lyin' my ass off. Normal, dumb, rapper shit. After Calendars, I really feel like I found a little niche that I got into as an artist. You know what I'm sayin'? Like, I started to listenin' to a lot of different rappers. And I feel like lyrics really need to come back. I'm not gonna say names just 'cause I don’t wanna start no more problems. But I feel like a lot of rappers that people think are lyrical are not lyrical.
Are you more interested in technical skill versus ability to tell a compelling story? Which of those do you think is more lacking?
Everything. I feel when it comes to lyrics, you have to be able to tell a story. You have to be able to have punch lines. And not just any punch line. Not no dumbass punch line like, "Nigger, I got shells like a turtle." Like, I need like, I wanna punch line that's gonna make me sink, like, "Oh, shit. I remember that when I was a little boy, and I saw that on TV. Or I saw on that in passing," some shit like that. You know what I'm sayin'? Like, those type of punch lines. Those are the type of punch lines I like to do.
What have been some of your biggest learning experiences in the rap game?
Robb Bank$: When the picture of me got leaked with my dad—it wasn’t nothin' that I was tryin' to hide. It was really just somethin' that I wanted to say and put out when I was ready to put out. But they tried to put it out to discredit me. And I lied, and I was like, "Oh, that's my uncle." And I really said that because I felt resentment towards him because he wasn’t there for me a lot of times in my life. You know what I'm sayin'? So that's pretty much why I said that. Like, for example. You know when it's like, a family reunion? And then, you see like, an uncle or somethin'. And then, it's like, "Oh, hey, what's up?"
I mean, it's like, "I love you, but I don’t really know you." It's awkward like that. That's how it's always been with us. You know what I'm sayin'? So that's why I said that. But I 100 percent regret sayin' that 'cause I felt like that's the only time I've ever been fake in my career. That's the only time I ever lied in anything I've ever done musically. I lied. I'm man enough to say—I'm a real nigga enough to say that I lied because I felt peer pressure. And what made me feel worse is that I'm being peer pressured by these little fat-ass, gay-ass, internet niggas on their mama desktop. You feel me? Like, what the fuck? Like, you all shut yo ass up. You ain't seen a damn thing. Growin' up in Broward, I've seen everything.
Yo, Dooney. Tell him about Broward.
[hands phone to Dooney Montana]
We was young, so we need to find somethin' to do. We 13, 14 at the time, but before you know it, like, we the niggas at the events, we the ones givin' out the the drugs to buy.
What drugs were you selling?
Just the weed and the Zan. The Zan was like, really the first thing that we was like, "Man, we like this for ourselves." And then the lean came, and then the molly.
[hands phone back to Robb]
How'd you and Dooney meet?
Glenn Middleschool, sixth grade. And the Haitians, like I was talkin' about before, I got cool with the Haitians. They adopted me, and then, Bobby was the only other nigga besides me that wasn’t Haitian. So it's like, "Oh, we're friends." We don’t fit in, but we fit in. That's been my dawg ever since.
One thing I've heard about is people selling fake lean. Where you put corn syrup in it to water it down. Were you ever involved with that?
[Laughs] Who told you about that, man?
I first heard about it from this song Water in the Bo, about stretching lean, in like 2011.
Oh, man. Dude, you just add Caro. All right. This is what I can tell you about the Caro. The Caro is corn syrup and pretty much protect yourself. When you're goin' to buy a pint, make sure it's sealed. 'Cause if it's not, just know that the bitch ain't clean.
So you pour out the lean, and replace half of it with Caro?
No, no, no. Man, I don’t even wanna tell you all that—fuck it. I'm gonna tell you.
Here's what you do. You take out the lean, add some water, and some corn syrup, mix it up, take some crazy glue, take some tinfoil, reseal the pint. Sell it, $400 right there.
And I keep all the lean. You know what I'm sayin'? But other people, they'll be a little nicer about it. They'll put like, eight ounces in there, and then the rest, water and Caro. You know what I'm sayin'? That's how you made the lean stretch. And that's what I was doin' for a long, long time. And the reason why I was doin' it is because me and my dad was really on bad terms. Like, not bad terms, but we really wasn't speaking like that. My mom got cancer. You feel me? And I felt like I needed to be the man of the house and buy anything necessary. It's not somethin' I just picked up. I was doin' it since I was 13, 14 years old. I was honestly just influenced by people who I thought was like, father figures. They lived right across the street. My friend's other brothers, I looked at them like they was the man because they had the car. They had the big dogs. They had the Chevy sittin' on the big ass rims. They had guns. They had the bitches, the clothes. So it was like, "Oh, man, I need to be with these niggas. This is who I need to chill with," 'cause my dad was out tourin' and just doin' shit artists do.
How often would you see him?
Just once a year, every time. And I could never knock him. He always took care of his family. But I was so oblivious to the whole situation because I didn’t even know why I was leavin' New York. But it was because my mom and my dad—I'm not gonna put their business out. But obviously, they had some issues. And my mom wanted to be closer to my aunt. Keep the family close-knit. I wanted to know where my dad was at that point. Anybody who I saw that was like, man, he's doin' it. I saw them as like a big brother because I'm the oldest of four kids.
Are you like a father figure to your younger siblings?
I don’t wanna be a father figure to them. I wanna be a big brother because I feel like my dad now, his career—I mean, he's gettin' older. He got three more kids, man. He got three more shots to not let what happened between me and him, all of the distance, and all of the miscommunication, and all of the drama not happen. He could make it. Everything could go right. They look at him like he's god. And I'm happy for that 'cause he really is a good person. The only reason I denied it is really just peer pressure. And I feel pussy for being peer pressured because it's like I done had way more harder beef livin' in Broward than on fuckin' Twitter.
What do people say online about your relationship with your dad that most frustrates you?
I know my family gonna read this, and I just don't want my mom to feel a way about shit—and I ain't tryin' to put her business out. But right now, we not doin' good. You know what I'm sayin'? Like, even though everyone thinks Shaggy got millions of dollars, and blah, blah, blah, that's not the case. And one thing for damn sure. One thing I would actually like to clear up, that —Shaggy, as you can see, I don’t even really call him dad—Shaggy has never, ever put me in the studio. He's never gave me no placements. He's never said, "Yo, I'm about to get you signed here. Yo, I'm about to get you on this block. Yo, I'm about to get you this producer. Yo, I'm about to do this, this, and that."
You did it all yourself?
Yeah. Bro, honestly, like, that's one thing about the internet and the kids on the internet—I feel like they're so stupid. Tumblr, and pictures of unicorns and fuckin' waterfalls and goddamn guns and lean fuckin' fried their brains. Like, do you really think if me and my dad had such a great relationship, and we lived in the same house, I wouldn't be a fuckin' superstar right now? Obviously, I'm doin' this by myself. And that's somethin' you can ask him. I'm doin' it alone. This is the only thing I've ever been good at. So I feel like I can accomplish it alone.
Robb Bank$ on Twitter
Ezra Marcus on Twitter