Ms Banks, a South London native of Nigerian and Ugandan heritage, brings her own unique perspective to the UK Grime scene. Her rhymes are authoritative in nature and speak on her experiences growing up in the ‘hood with a predominantly male circle. Banks smokes weed, finds it uncomfortable presenting herself in an overtly sexual way and loves a challenge, but prefers to keep things classy. These traits make her stand out in an industry determined to make her fill the feminine stereotype. She feels that her gender only boosts her popularity and isn’t worried about breaking into a male-dominated industry.
Ms Banks has been rapping since she was 12 years old, inspired by her uncle who used to rap over drum and bass beats. Her real name is Thyra with a silent H, so the comparisons to the American supermodel turned businesswoman were inevitable. Adding the Ms to the Banks was her way of formalizing her take on the name and Ms Banks was born. She began songwriting at the age of 15 to vent her experiences and help herself through troubled times. These songs formed her debut mixtape Once Upon A Grind, which came out in 2014.
Her big break later came when her radio host friend encouraged her to start recording in the studio at 18. From there, she was invited to open mic nights and started to build her social media presence, including posting popular covers on YouTube. Since then she has collaborated with the likes of Tinie Tempah and JME and stacked up quite a few awards. At this point she is happy to be an independent artist and doesn’t want to sign to a major label anytime soon.
The 22-year-old recently released her second project, New Chapter, which showcases her singing talent and new layers of her personality. Her musical influences like Lauryn Hill, Nicki Minaj, Lil Kim, Ms Dynamite, Kano and Dizzee Rascal are apparent in this new chapter. The EP takes listeners on a sonic journey through her intricate wordplay, fierce delivery and eclectic beats. With this EP and her no-nonsense approach to freestyling, we’re officially excited.
Your recent #FireInTheBooth freestyle was crazy and your passion really came across. What motivates you to push forward when obstacles occur? You’ve previously spoken about the power of positive thinking, has that impacted your musical journey so far?
Just remembering why I started in the first place, to help myself and my family, keeps me going. Positive thinking has had a major impact on my career 100 percent.
Your lyrical content tends to be aggressive at times and describes experiences that aren’t stereotypically feminine. As a female rapper, is there pressure to conform to certain gender stereotypes in your music and image?
There’s pressure, but I don’t mind. There [are] certain things that girls will understand more and there [are] certain things males will understand more. As long as I’m true to myself, I’m good.
The “Ain’t On Nuttin Remix” was a rare example of British femcees coming together on a track, why do you think this doesn’t happen that often in the industry? How can we change that?
Female artists are told quite often [that] in order to stand out they shouldn’t collaborate with other female artists. It’s sad because there’s only like five percent females in the UK music industry. Hopefully they’ll soon understand that if you’re unique it doesn’t matter who you work with, as long as they’re talented, you can all stand out and help each other.
In a previous interview you talked about wanting to explore your African heritage more by experimenting with Afrobeatz tracks. Have you reached out to any Afrobeatz artists or producers for a collaboration? Is there anyone in particular you’d like to work with?
I haven’t reached out to anyone so far, but I’ve done a few tracks with an artist called KC Pozzy. He’s my family, as well as a sick Afrobeatz artist. We’ve got a song called “Car Key” dropping real soon, so look out for that. I reckon my ideal Afrobeatz collaboration would be with Wiz Kid. I love him.
What do you think about the state of Grime music today and how it’s becoming an international phenomenon? Do you think American artists taking interest in the genre will make the music more or less authentic to England?
Everyone knows our sound, so no matter how much it grows, I don’t think it will lose its authenticity. I think it is great [that] people are finally recognizing how good we are and using our sound for inspiration. It’s a big deal.
Now that your second project, New Chapter, is out, what’s next for the rest of 2016?
Just more visuals, more singles and better music. I’m always working [and] trying to perfect my skill, so it will show in my new music I reckon.