Though we should all probably be listening to Petey Pablo’s “Raise Up” on at least a monthly basis, chances are most rap fans aren’t thinking about North Carolina on a regular basis, let alone its capital city Charlotte. As Pitchfork pointed out this summer, several rappers serve as the tip of a diverse iceberg.
Among them, Bankroll Bird speaks on the streets of Charlotte, on a city that doesn’t garner a ton of publicity and also doesn’t have a plethora of popular voices to tell its story. On “Come From II,” Bird raps about his background with the gravity of lived experience, a measured performance balanced nicely by 40TheLifestyle’s sing-song rapping.
Watch the video for “Come From II” above and read a brief conversation with Bankroll Bird below, exploring his city and his vision.
Can you talk a little bit about the part of Charlotte where you grew up?
It’s home. I’m from the Eastside of the city. But on any side of town that feeling is the same.
If you’re from there it molds you and teaches you things you’ll carry with you for life. Around my way almost everyone went to school together at some point so it was always a sense of family.
Charlotte doesn’t get mentioned in the same breath as other cities that are known for violence or crime. It feels like your music gives listeners a window into a world they might not have known existed. Is that one of your goals?
Definitely. Your art should be a reflection of you. So when I tell my story I’m also telling part of my city’s story. I try to paint the pictures from memory and experience, as vivid as I can. But my aim isn’t to focus on the negatives or place glorification on the violence. It’s to let my generation and the ones younger than us know that they have a voice. Someone that’s been as misguided and lost as them. Felt that pain and anger. Done things that could’ve cost me my freedom. But you can outgrow and overcome all of it. Violence amongst the youth, here and everywhere else, is a problem that needs solutions. And people listen more to who they can relate to.
There don’t seem to be many artists breaking nationally from Charlotte at the moment? Is there a strong local hip-hop scene in Charlotte?
Charlotte is a melting pot of talent and has been for a while. Our hip-hop scene is very strong and continuing to grow. I feel like the only thing that’s ever held the city back is the city itself. We’ve had artists making noise. Touching the blogs, doing shows in other cities reaching the people. Producers like Jay Storm and Ryan Ryu Alexy getting strong placements. But the support from back home wasn’t at a high. We’ve always had a lack of support for our own. I feel like it’s definitely increased since the #NewCharlotte video went viral. But it’s still a work in progress. A lot more collaborative efforts are taking place now. Artists, producers, DJ’s, videographers, graphic designers, all from the city, working together. Everyone’s finding themselves and catching their stride. So it’s only a matter of time.
Do you think there’s a reason there haven’t been more Charlotte artists becoming visible outside of the city or the region?
Yeah. I feel like that’s just a matter of us networking and making connections outside of home. So many people never branch out. A lot of potential goes unrealized due to a relationship that was never built. Frais, Well$, and Deniro, all have branched out and moved around. And they’re all progressing. I’m doing my part to follow up and make my own impact. The way I see it, Anthony Hamilton made it. He’s from here too. So it’s been proven that it’s possible.
Who are the artists that influenced you most?
T-Pain. That’s always been my favorite artist. Then Drake, The Dream, Future, and Kevin Gates. Because of the level of honesty and personal depth they all apply to their approach at music. From the old school it’s Tupac, Snoop, and Master P.