“The tour is going great—I’m traveling to Fort Wayne [Indiana] right now, heading to Atlanta tomorrow. As far as having bigger audiences out on the road than in New Orleans, I’d say yes and no. Some of the places offer a bigger platform—I opened for Waka Flocka in Memphis [April 1 at Rhodes College] and had 1,000 people there. But I had 100 people show up for my album release party [for The Beautiful] at the Hi-Ho on March 19.
I named my album The Beautiful because, even though my brother went through some serious things, we went through some beautiful things, too. His girlfriend was pregnant at the time of his suicide, and he still inspires me to keep fighting and do the right thing. My brother meant the world to me. It sounds crazy, but he created this body of work. The Beautiful debuted in the Billboard Top 100 and debuted at 12 on iTunes’ rap and hip-hop chart. So that shows something beautiful can come out of darkness.
Even though I lived Uptown the whole time my brother went through what he went through [having suffered from schizophrenia prior to his March 2014 death], I didn’t realize until I started doing research for the album that for the last 10 years of his life, we lived right down the street from NAMI New Orleans [local chapter of National Alliance on Mental Illness]. I walked in one day, presented my idea. They were down to work with me and I’m proud to partner with them to present this album.
Everything I’ve done musically the last two years, CZA [Chris Bunch] and I’ve done it together. He’s my best friend. He’s constantly making beats. And on Homecoming [Banks’ 2015 album] and on everything I’ve ever dropped, even as my profile rose, people have always told me that the best song was his beat. For The Beautiful, CZA did the beats for the entire album—a lot of samples, and a lot completely original, too.
With the exception of me actually developing schizophrenia, everything on The Beautiful actually happened. Like having to leave my brother’s funeral early because I had a show that night. That trip was extremely emotional for me. I felt like that ride was a moment for me, a symbol of my work ethic. Playing that show is what my brother would have wanted me to do. His suicide letter told me, ‘There’s no reason you can’t be the greatest of all time.’
My purpose on Earth is to create music. I don’t do music because I want to, I do it because I have to.”
Alfred Banks performs at Bayou Boogaloo on Friday, May 19, 5 p.m. on the Mothership Foundation Orleans Stage.