Forming a solid group of friends in high school is vital to pretty much everyone. For Elijah Bank$y, a rapper out of Orange County, NY, that made all the difference for his artistic career. By joining a group of young artists and creatives, he honed his skills and slowly began gaining more popularity. In the past five years, he has grown tremendously from his first show in Poughkeepsie, NY to having 10,000 monthly listeners on Spotify alone. This past weekend, he took the time to sit down with Colossus and discuss his craft, his grind, and most importantly, the influence of his tight friend group.
Colossus Music: Let’s begin by talking about Orange County, NY where you are from. How has that influenced you as a rapper and an artist?
Elijah Bank$y: I mean it influenced in the sense that it is who I am. I grew up listening to 90s hip hop. My mom is from Brooklyn and my dad is from Nyack. They both listened to different styles of hip hop and things like that. I mostly grew up listening to guys like Jay Z, Biggie, all those people like that. A lot of the kids I was hanging around when I was a kid were listening to Lil Wayne and those kinds of guys. I’m honestly not a huge Lil Wayne fan because I grew up listening to stuff that was slightly different. It was all old school stuff. My first big mainstream artist was Eminem and 50 Cent. Those were the two people that I was like ‘alright, these are the two rappers I am gonna listen to that are new.’ I was one of those weird kids.
CM: Then what was the moment that really made you switch to not just listening but making your own music?
EB: When I was much younger, my cousin and I would always mess around with rapping. I have been writing since I was in fifth grade. One day I was at his house and he had an mp3 player that would let you record. I wrote my parts and he wrote his and we sat there and hovered over this little mp3 player. We would bring in family members one by one and show them it to them. That’s a little bit of what had started it. From there it grew over the years.
Phones have the voice memo thing so I was doing that on all my old phones. It really just started by messing around with my cousins recording stuff on phones or mp3 players. I took a year off from it because I played sports and wanted to take it more seriously. Then one year in high school, I decided I didn’t love playing football anymore. I loved writing more and was still always looking at the lyrics for rap songs. I tried focusing on that and thought it was pretty cool and stuck with it. That’s really how it started!
CM: After doing a deep dive through your Instagram, I saw that you did your very first show way back in February 2014. Now you have 10,000 monthly listeners on Spotify alone. That’s a pretty incredible journey!
EB: Yeah it’s honestly been special, so special! That first show I opened up for this frat rapper. It was so funny cause like I don’t even make music like that. We were laughing because it was literally the total opposite kind of music to what I liked and what I was making. I don’t even remember how I got the chance to do it. In my friends and I’s minds, it was like once we did that show we would be the next big thing. I ended up choking on the first verse of the very first song.
I was just so hyped and then the beat drop and I was like ‘uh’ and looked into the crowd and played it off like the mic was low. I was tapping it and everything but I was choking. I knew the hook was coming so I did the hook and from then on it was smooth sailing. Right before I went on I called it too.
From there to now, I’ve just been working man. Constantly making music, constantly doing this. It’s just weird like now I have two projects getting mixed and mastered and before I just had the one. Coldest Days in February Shines the Amethyst Rock was the EP I dropped last year and it wasn’t even supposed to be serious because I already had a bigger project I was working on. I decided to put the big project on hold to finish the EP because it turned into me having to put my all into it. That kind of took off on its own. I just constantly create music. I know I’m not completely answering the question but I just work and try to make songs and figure out that algorithm. I always try to drop certain things at certain times to see how the response is.
Every time I thought I had something, there was always a different response to it. Some wouldn’t get as many plays or other people would comment on SoundCloud or social media and be like ‘yo I love this song!’ I was seeing in real time how things worked on different social media. It’s a climb now. I know I’m making better music, at least I hope I am. It’s a big climb.
CM: So explain your connection to Gus Dapperton. He’s not a rapper, pretty unique alternative guy, but you guys go way back. He even had a feature on Coldest Days. What’s the connection there?
EB: He’s just my best friend! He’s like my little brother and I say that cause he’s just younger than me. That’s really it – he’s just the homie. I have known him for like the past 7 years I think, maybe a little more. When I first linked up with him, he wasn’t Gus Dapperton and he was just making beats. Once I met him, I started taking things way more seriously. We had a whole album that we were working on and stuff like that. I was always going over to his house, making a bunch of songs or writing a bunch of raps. All that work led to me building my own work ethic. Initially, it was my recording stuff but now it’s my perfecting stuff. At first, I would just go in and not focus on getting the best verse but instead bust a bunch of them out. Once I got with him, we really focused on perfecting the studio work. That’s really how that started.
We would always send our work back and forth to each other to critique. Even that song “Coitus” was me, Tomas, and Gus all chilling at his apartment in NYC and I was like ‘yo I would love to have you on my first serious project.’ Tomas hooked up the beat and I didn’t even write anything down or listen to it. Once we got down to the studio we hung out, drank, shared stories, then I started coming up with some bars and Gus provided the hook. We recorded it and that was that!
CM: With that being said, what is the music scene like coming out of Orange County? Is there a community or a lot of support up there for rappers?
EB: It depends. There is definitely a bigger rap scene starting to come up but before it was way more of a band scene. But like Pardison Fontane is from Newburgh and he co-wrote for Cardi B and Kanye. There are also people from Rockland that are also doing stuff. For me, it was just me and my homies. Like W Swisher is another rapper who I grew up with. Ever since I got out of high school, I’ve been making music with him. It’s kind of a weird knit group of people who rap, produce, edit, some are part of the skate culture. It’s not a specific kind of person. Rap hit everyone differently here.
Even Gus, he is a huge fan of it but like there isn’t your prototypical hip hop person up here. I have another homie who raps and produces but also makes lo-fi beats and plays guitar and sings. We all have to be our own different person. But at the end of the day, it’s really a band area. Like no one wants to go to the local bar to hear you rap and the bar owners don’t even really want us. Usually, we have to trek it down to the city or more upstate. My first show was in Poughkeepsie, an hour north of here. It’s just tougher to get people behind you. If you aren’t making a certain style of rap like trap or frat rap it’s just a little bit tougher.
CM: So bringing it into your inspirations and writing a bit, one of the first songs I heard from you was “FIFA Pro Club”. Where did all the references and inspiration come from for that track?
EB: Okay so this is some SoundCloud shit. One of my homies who I know strictly through SoundCloud linked me up with Chris Rose. We both knew of each other but never worked on anything together. We chatted back and forth a bit then he wanted to give me a beat. I was at work working retail when he sent it to me and I saw it was titled “FIFA Pro Club”. I was like ‘wow that’s a tight beat name’. I had never seen anything else titled like that. I knew for the hook I had to use FIFA Pro Clubs in it in some way. I ducked down behind the counter at work and held it up to my ear, listened to maybe 30 seconds of it, hummed to myself ‘something something green, FIFA Pro Clubs’. I knew I wanted to make it something soccer related and knew I was on to something.
I just ran with it and threw a whole bunch of soccer references in there, while trying to not make it too cheesy. I only knew soccer through FIFA the video game and only ever followed the sport loosely. I know tidbits here and there but I am not the biggest soccer fan. I actually mixed those vocals too on the first version I put out. Then I had my friend Tomas like actually mix it when I was going to put it out to streaming services. People liked the mix of it but I wanted to get it sounding clean.
CM: Your latest track, “Heavy Heart”, that dropped early June, is clearly an extremely personal track for you. Do most of your songs come someplace personal?
EB: Yeah. I mean that one was about my Pops who just passed. Now more so than ever actually. After Coldest Days, I was in a weird space because I thought things would happen. But then other things happen and I didn’t drop it exactly how I wanted to, especially with PR and things. We had some stuff with PR people and it just didn’t work out. I’m the one who put all my money into it and to do PR and shit like that so when it doesn’t work out, I’m out of whatever money I just put into it. That’s the game of an independent person who’s just trying figure shit out and get his music places. If you put your money into some shit and it doesn’t work out, you say to yourself time to grind a little harder. That’s the lows of it.
After that, I was just stuck on what to rap about. I didn’t want to stay on one topic or repeat stuff from the EP. I went a created a bunch of random songs then hit this huge rut. I went to Gus’s house and just hung out with him for like a week. Called out of work and just stayed there as long as I could. That helped clear my head and came back and starting writing more personal shit. Not even more personal but like globally, everyone is going through the same things in some form. I knew if I could talk about some of the stuff I had been through, it could help other people go through whatever it is they are dealing with.
Dealing with a lost person in the family or your normal family troubles or perspective on life in general. I started doing more of that and for me, that’s when it started coming a little easier. Not even that…like I could make a two-minute song with just a verse and a hook but it still would be as heavy and hit the same as a three-minute track. I would say yeah almost of my life is written into my raps but at the same time, I can do a song like “Coldest Out” where it’s more so a feeling or a vibe.
CM: Any scroll through your Instagram shows you have a keen eye for style. What is your go-to, especially when you are performing? Is it pure style or is it comfort-focused?
EB: It really depends. Sometimes I will hit up a couple of friends to borrow stuff. Like most of my stuff is comfort but some I know is strictly for fashion. I love the old vintage stuff; Nautica, Polo, things like that. A couple of my friends make shirts too. Most of the time I try to wear my friends’ stuff. I will hit them up and be like ‘yo I need this in an XL and will pay you afterward!’ Afterward, people will come up to me and be like what hoodie or shirt is that and I point them straight to the homie who’s stuff it is. As much as I can I try to involve the homies in everything.
Even my homie James Paris in Philly did the cover art for me on Coldest Days. He has a multi-media brand called In-House and he makes a “Fuck Nazis” shirt so I will wear that too. I especially like wearing that shirt cause I’m like, you know fuck Nazis! I will wear that one a lot but now it’s really whatever. It just doesn’t matter that much about what I am wearing it’s more delivering the best rap at shows and having fun when I can.
CM: Who is your favorite mainstream artist right now? Maybe broaden that out to be top three favorite artists making music right now.
EB: Damn you got me in a bind here. Mainly I listen to underground guys because I can hear their hunger and the stuff I want to hear from people. That’s way more relatable to me than listening to like Drake rap about how rich he is and same with Jay Z. At the same time, I do understand how good Drake is when he is in his rapping bag and I’m a huge Hov fan. But for three, it would definitely be Wiki from Ratking, Roc Marciano for sure because I just think he is one of the better rappers, and King Krule because he’s rapping about being depressed and stuff but at the same time he’s being so descriptive. I’ll go with those three.
CM: Those are all solid!
EB: And Frank of course.
CM: Well who doesn’t love Frank Ocean!
EB: It’s a cheat code really!
CM: Now rolling off that topic and moving into the standard Colossus interview wrap up, if you could have dinner or drinks with any three artists, dead or alive, who would they be?
EB: Definitely Gil Scott-Heron. I have “Pieces of a Man” tatted on me. That’s an album and song he did and it’s one of my favorites ever. I just feel like I would learn so much from him about where we come from and my people and stuff like that. I’m big on that. I will ask my grandfather who came over from Peurto Rico how it was for him coming from where he was killing his own chickens to NYC where there are huge buildings. Obviously a huge difference. So I would want to talk to him and definitely also talk to Hov. Just to learn as much game as I can and pick his brain on stuff.
After that, I don’t know. Actually, I would group all of my friends together five years from now. Like all my friends that make music and are creatives, I would just want to sit at a big table and have drinks with them. Like we all started in a basement and then to become super huge artists in our own ways – rapping, singing, producing, art, all that. I would just love to talk with them about it after five years and see how everyone is feeling.
CM: Last question! We are halfway through 2019. What do you want the rest of the year to be like for you?
EB: I definitely want the EP that I’m working on out. It’s called From Me to You. Or at least getting close to being out by the end of the year. Besides that, I want the world obviously but a couple more shows would be nice. And just to be happier, man! 2019 has been kinda dull for me and the last few months got really serious. I got a lot of shit to drop in 2020 so watch for that!