Someone who is absolutely owning 2019 is British female rapper Ms Banks. She is just about everywhere, from collaborating with Pretty Little Thing to releasing the hottest summer anthem of the year, "Snack," and stepping on stage with the likes of Nicki Minaj and Little Mix.
However, hers is not an overnight success story. The rapper, whose real name is Tryha Banks, has been grafting for over five years now, breaking into the industry with freestyles on Link Up TV. The 25 year old from South London has worked with Stormzy, Cliq, and Russ. Now, Ms Banks is flourishing immensely as the new kid on the block. I sat down with the star to hear about the exciting projects she's currently working on, what she learnt from her idol Nicki Minaj, and why being a ‘snack’ is important.
Victoria Sanusi: You are a part of the new BBC Women’s World Cup campaign, and you feature in the trailer as well as writing the official song. What was your reaction when you got the call about it?
Ms Banks: I was on holiday when I got the message and I just thought, "this is serious work!" I was really, really excited. The more I looked into the stories of female footballers and their background, I felt even more passionate about the campaign.
VS: Did you have a particular message in mind when writing the song?
MB: With the song, I wanted the footballers to feel empowered and when I was shown the treatment for the trailer and the type of shots they wanted, it all seemed quite strong, powerful, and fierce to me, and I just wanted to portray that in the song. Lots of women who saw it messaged me saying they felt empowered and that was the aim!
VS: Will you be watching to tournament?
MB: Yeah, [me and my team] are going to France to watch. Go lionesses!
VS: You’ve recently announced your collection with Pretty Little Thing and have also written a song for them. How are you feeling about it all?
MB: I feel really excited. I feel like I have a lot of things going on that I haven’t had the chance to take it in but it’s lovely and I am happy because when I was younger I didn’t see that many black girls being able to represent themselves in that way, so to be able to be on a commercial with our biggest clothing line, not only in the UK but around the world, it’s truly amazing.
And we are representing all shapes and sizes!
VS: How did it feel to have two dope black women, Lady Leshurr and Lionness, by your side?
MB: I felt empowered. I watched these ladies when I was coming up. I remember being excited about Lady Leshurr’s SBTV freestyle and I was 16 and I was like to my mum "Do you see this girl? She is so talented." She really inspired me, same goes for Lionness, who also comes from South London, so it was epic and I have a lot of love for them and we really got to know each other throughout that time.
VS: Will.i.am is also apart of the campaign. What was it like working with him?
MB: Will.i.am is a genius. Period. He's so creative. I got to go to his studio and see him in his element, it was just incredible. I kept thinking this guy is from Black Eyed Peas! That’s a group I watched when I was growing up, so it’s inspiring. And now I am on a song with him? [Smiles]. It’s weird, I haven’t taken it all in.
VS: Your latest single "Snack" featuring Kida Kudz is literally everywhere. It’s one of those songs you have to play when getting ready for pre drinks, it gets you gassed.
MB: And that's how I wanted women to feel when they listen to it. I want them to feel like a snack, on the challenge [#SnackChallenge], we had different girls, black, white, Asian, slim, thick, tall, short, and everyone’s feeling themselves when they listen to it and that’s exactly what I wanted.
Being a ‘snack’ isn’t about how you look it’s about how you feel. It’s about your confidence, it’s about self-love so you gotta step in like a ‘snack’, that’s not just in the dance, that's at work and other areas of your life.
VS: There’s no doubt that "Snack" is a major hit this summer, how are you feeling about that?
MB: I feel happy. I thought I would feel completely different getting one million on my YouTube channel but the real work starts here.
VS: Can you give us any hints on your next single? Do you have an album in the works?
MB: "Snack" is doing really well so it’s buying me some time. But I'm moving with emergency [on] new music. My next single is ready! I have a feature on there — it’s a UK artist, that’s all I am saying.
I also have a mixtape on the way. An album seems so important to me, I wanna build it nicely like a lovely cake. But my mixtape will be dropping this year.
VS: I know you are a massive Nicki Minaj fan, I have to ask, are you a ‘barb’? Like a trolling one?
MB: I am a barb. I wasn’t fighting people online. [Laughs]. I wasn’t a trolling barb but yeah I am a barb at heart. I don’t want my fan base to be like that either.
VS: What’s something you admire about Nicki and hope to emulate in your own career?
MB: Oh, it definitely has to be her work rate. Nicki is known for doing lots of features and having her own singles. It’s very back to back.
She always talks about when she gets opportunities to do features that she wouldn’t take long to get a verse back. If they enquired for her to do a verse that day she will get it done within the next 24 hours. And that's the type of mindset I want to take on and just be prepared for opportunities and not waste time.
She has inspired me in that way and she is very fierce and very head on with her goals.
VS: You are all about female empowerment. It’s a running theme in your music. Is it something you actively push out there?
MB: You know what, I don't think about it, it’s just something natural, women just need to be empowered. It’s not calculated. I hope me doing what I love and being successful at it inspires women.
I have never met a woman that I cannot relate to, why would I not empower you? We go through the same stuff, it doesn’t matter where you come from. It doesn't feel like I am doing it, I am just doing me, I have always wanted to inspire young girls from my area. Young black girls especially, from South London. I could easily be a statistic growing up in an council estate not making something of my life, having a child before I am prepared, but I have actually chased my dreams and I am making a good income, legit and I feel representation is important, if someone can see me and it gives them the drive to chase their dream, I’ve won.
VS: While we are on female empowerment, what's your favourite moment in music history where women have come together that’s made you think wow! For example, mine is Beyonce and Nicki Minaj "Feeling Myself."
MB: Back in the day, there was a song "Game Over — Female Take Over." It was an all-female line up, all the girls that were popping at the time in the UK: A dot, Lioness, Ruff Diamondz, CherriV, BabyBlue, RoxxXan, Lady Leshurr, Envy, and Ms Bratt.
I remember seeing that at 16, I was like this is crazy. It was inspiring to me, I haven’t seen anything like that in a while. A line up with all UK girls. I am sure we can re-create it soon. I’d love to do that, it’s actually something I’ve been thinking about lately.
VS: I know you're a fan of a fellow tall rapper Megan Thee Stallion, she said on Instagram Live that she’d love to meet you when she comes to London. Would you two ever collaborate? I feel like it would be massive.
MB: Yes, I think we are the same height — 5”11. We will do something, I am sure. I have my ears to the ground when it comes to female rappers, I love female rap if there's a girl doing her thing I know about her. When City Girls came out, I knew about them before they were really popping, same with Meg, as soon as I saw her first freestyle, I followed her and reached out.
It’s crazy because when I came into the music industry I didn’t think artist bigger than me would know about me so quickly and when I came in the game so many people showed me love, advised me and worked with me so I would love to do the same for anyone upcoming from the new generation.
VS: There’s always controversy about female rappers and not showing love for each other, but I feel you like you are definitely an artist who shows appreciation to your fellow female rappers and singers.
MB: I always extend love. If I like your music, I will show love. I am a fan and I will support you any way I can. Little things can go a long way. I am a supporter of any girl doing their thing.
I genuinely don’t have any problem with anyone. Good music is good music. I want the girls coming up seeing us lot and people who came before us with more unity because it's going to make girls feel like they can do their thing and at the end of the everyone wants to do what they love and feed their families.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.