The Maroon

Where are they now?: Alfred Banks

Two hours before heading off to his Underground Central tour, Alfred Banks sat on his front porch, reflecting on his life up to this point

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There was no fear in his eyes, nor any anticipation. Banks exuded an aura of calm, his mind-state never going anywhere but the
present. 

However, where Banks is now sharply contrasts where he was about 10 years ago: a first-year student at Loyola University  New Orleans, ready to begin his rap career.

“You know how they say to apply to three dream colleges and have a safe school and all that? I didn’t do all that, man. I applied to one college: Loyola. That was it. Sent the application in and I didn’t realize the importance of it until I got the acceptance letter and saw that they gave me a full ride. I was like ‘damn, I really got some potential,’”
Banks said.

While he had a smooth start, the road was rocky getting to the graduation finish line. Banks began focusing more on his rap career rather than his schoolwork, leaving his GPA in a bad spot. Even though he was able to get it together by the end of his second year, it was still not enough to gain back the scholarships he lost the previous year. With no way to pay, Banks dropped out, put his stuff in storage and got a job.

“I wasn’t blessed with a home to go back to because when I was in college. I was living with my parents, [and] we all got evicted,” Banks said. “So I had the choice of either staying in school and being homeless or getting a job and having a house. Obviously, I chose the second option.”

Running low on resources, Banks turned to his passion for rapping to survive. Even though rapping often times gave Banks better results than working at his other job, it
wasn’t easy.

“To all the kids who want to try and become professional rappers, please be prepared to not make any money the first couple of years,” Banks said. “Do whatever it takes to get the word out and rap anywhere you can, and if it’s truly for you, then you’ll believe in yourself no
matter what.”

A big part of Banks’ life and career has been the death of his older brother, Orlandas Banks, who had been dealing with schizophrenia. Banks has made multiple songs and one major project in which he talks about the moment in his life when he found out what had happened to his brother and how he dealt with it. Banks took that experience and started building himself a platform for speaking out on mental illness issues, especially in the black
community.

“I realized after  dealing with Orlandas’ death that more and more people are dealing with mental illness than I thought,” Banks said. “But the problem, especially in the black community, is that people just don’t talk about it. So in my music and as a performer, I feel it’s extraordinarily important for me to address
these issues.”

Even with the various roadblocks, Banks never gave up on his dream. He took as many opportunities as he could and it led him to where he is today: one of Complex Magazine’s best up and coming rappers in New Orleans, a performer of over 400 shows, Star of Volkswagen’s Polo Beats commercial and head of the Underdog Central school of thought.

Beginning as Banks’ life mantra and eventually becoming his rap label, the phrase Underdog Central has resonated hard with Banks throughout his career. Having felt disregarded multiple times throughout his life, Banks wanted to make a brand that speaks up for the creative individuals who don’t get the attention that they should be granted.

“Underdog Central stands for the place where the overlooked go to hone their skills to return to become the admired. That represents who I am and the people of that nature who still don’t get the respect that they deserve,” Banks said. “I still consider myself an underdog, and I work as hard as I can to get where I need to be.”

Currently touring, Banks continues to break away from the box that society says a local rapper should fit in. He attacks the problems society seems to ignore, puts a transparent window into his own life through his music, and continues to make art for a cit

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Where are they now?: Alfred Banks