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MS Banks Brings the Heat 2019

Written by on 18th May 2016

Had all my ppl reciting the verse over n over last night,” Nicki Minaj tweeted at south London MC Ms Banks in November. “Last 2 bars is a mood.” The superstar MC was appraising the remix of Yu Zimme, a track by Stylo G, on which Ms Banks delivers a magnificent 16 bars, running from funny metaphors (“lean to the side like fake Uggs”) to perfectly weighted patois, via demands for oral sex and handbags.

“I was over the moon – it felt like a dream,” she says of Minaj’s patronage. “She’s so smart and so fun. I’ve watched her since her come-up, when she would always use crazy words in her bars – I remember having to search on Google for what they meant.” The 23-year-old Banks – who doesn’t use her first name Tyra for obvious reasons – is now having her own come-up three years after starting her music career.

Born to a teenage Ugandan mother on Camberwell’s Brandon estate, Banks says growing up in such relatively poor surroundings “builds strong people. You learn how to make do; you learn how to be optimistic.” Her flow is now buttressed and vulcanised into an assertion of unshakeable womanhood. “When you live your best life, and you love yourself, it inspires people that you’re even trying,” she says. “Going as hard as the guys, or being forward with my sexuality, some people won’t get it. But for years ladies were taught to be proper, and to not speak on certain things, and I’m like: pssh! Even if I was to walk down the street naked, no one should trouble me. It’s my body, and I should be able to do what I want with it. I may like the way this dress hugs my body.”

British female MCs like Lady Leshurr and Little Simz have struggled for wide success, but with Stefflon Don recently hitting the Top 10, maybe the deadlock is breaking. “Female MCs were seen as a novelty, deffo,” Banks says. “There are still people who’ll make comments: ‘Get back in the kitchen!’. But it is getting a bit easier – people want to hear what we have to say. Leshurr, Simz, their hard work has made it easier for us now.” And while she admires American MCs for “entwining melody into their raps”, she doesn’t feel like she has to sing choruses to succeed. “I feel like I could come through the game just rapping. That could be me just being optimistic!” In that respect she’s like another recent breakthrough female rapper, Cardi B, who Banks supported on a UK tour. “I learned a lot from her about being myself – she’s so transparent, and unapologetic.”

Banks may be known for party-starting verses, but her forthcoming mixtape The Coldest Winter Ever turns far more reflective: “People struggling with mental health issues, seeing what’s happening in Libya, that’s what’s in my heart now.” As is the pain of a breakup earlier this year. “A lot of people see me for songs that hype up the crowd, that show I’m a boss,” she says. “This is me in a more vulnerable space. Because rap is such a bravado act, you can constantly get caught up in ego – it looks like stuff is always good for you, you’re always strong, you’re popping. But how about when you don’t feel like that? When you put your all into someone and they treat you like crap – how do you feel then?” So what has she learned about herself? “I’ve found I can endure more than I thought, and that a woman’s intuition is never wrong. And my worth – I know what I’m not going to accept.”

The depth and breadth to her nimble bars means 2018 should be her most successful year yet. “My mum was also talented – she could sing and dance, and she sacrificed that for me,” she says. “I just pray I can be half the woman she is, and give back to her. That will happen.”

 


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