Alfred Banks is holed up inside his New Orleans home, attempting to find some respite from the non-stop Mardi Gras activities taking place outside. “This Mardi Gras is the first one where I’m like a rapper, like where people have been constantly hitting me up for appearances and shows,” Banks says. While his neighbors are partying outside, he’s been busy finalizing the release of his new project, The Beautiful. It’s an album the 25-year-old artist says “means so much to me on a personal level”—mostly because it relays the emotional aftermath of the suicide of his brother, Orlandas Banks, who sadly lost his struggle with schizophrenia.
Naturally, the 12-track project can be a heavy listen. After leaving Orlandas’s funeral on the opening track, Banks steps into the character of a person who hears voices in his own head. But the rapper insists that The Beautiful shouldn’t be seen as a depressing or disturbing listen, but rather his nuanced take on a deep issue. Smartly, his serious lyrics are balanced by the always-nuanced production of Banks’ long-time creative partner, CZA, who comes through with the sort of “big and epic” beats that the rapper says “sound like they should be in an amphitheater somewhere.”
Speaking from his crib in New Orleans, Banks broke down the way he tackled the schizophrenia concept that underscores The Beautiful, the time his brother almost signed to Master P’s No Limit Records, and his long-standing relationship with sneakers.