By Justin Ivey
A rapper is defined by his stage name. It’s not just a nickname for the artist, it’s a brand. For many years, Lyriqs Da Lyraciss fit the bill for New Orleans emcee Alfred Banks. While he was able to develop a significant amount of buzz and recognition as Lyriqs, Banks realized that the name no longer suited him.
After contemplating a change, Banks finally made the decision to officially drop his alias in December 2014. His new stage name would be his real name, Alfred Banks. The switch was provoked by Banks’ growth as an artist and person.
“My music is going into a more personal realm,” said Banks. “With a name like Lyriqs, people expected you to be very one dimensional. They expect you to have bars and that’s it. A lot of the stuff that made me who I am, that made me Alfred, is what I’m putting on record now.”
Banks reflects on a conversation with his late brother that inspired the decision.
“I was comfortable running with my [government] name,” Banks said. “One of the last things my brother said before he passed, he told me it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to go by Alfred Banks. He just kind of hinted at it and I rolled with it.”
The biggest challenge for Banks would be how his fans reacted to the change. Banks’ fan base had grown over the years with increasing online coverage of his music, performing twice at the prestigious A3C Hip Hop Festival and touring with popular hip-hop acts like Mickey Factz. Luckily for Banks, the transition went smoothly.
“I hinted at the change on social media and people gravitated to it,” Banks said. “A majority of my fans wanted me to change my name. I was scared at first, but luckily it worked out.”
Banks’ transformation as an artist is not simply a superficial one. While Lyriqs’ music relied heavily on lighthearted anthems and slick rhymes, Banks’ new direction is centered on his life experience including the death of his eldest brother in March of 2014. Banks’ brother suffered from schizophrenia, which led him to suicide. His upcoming album The Beautiful is a concept album detailing his journey from his brother’s funeral to a live show.
“The majority of the album takes place from the funeral to a show that night,” said Banks. “But on the way to the show, I develop schizophrenia because of the stress of losing my brother and dealing with this music grind. So, I battle that throughout the album. My brother’s been the real energy behind this next album. I’m very proud of it.”
While Banks’ name and content may be changing, one thing that’s stayed the same is the rush he gets from performing for a crowd. Banks made it clear the live performance continues to be the highlight of his artistry.
“Being onstage, there’s just a certain energy,” Banks said. “Something about it is very addicting. Jumping onstage and doing what I do, it’s one of the greatest feelings in the world. You may go up there and people look at you a certain way beforehand, then you prove them wrong. It’s crazy. I love it.”
Banks is a New Orleans native and represents the Big Easy’s hip-hop scene, but he also has deep connections to Baton Rouge. Baton Rouge underground hip-hop staple Marcel P. Black is mentor to Banks, and helped him establish deep roots in the city. Banks also spent time as part of the group New Renaissance, which included notable Baton Rouge rappers such as Luke St. John and Marz The Superior. Banks has traveled to many cities to perform, but still holds Baton Rouge in the highest regard.
“Baton Rouge is my favorite city to perform in,” said Banks. “I’ve been to a lot of cities, but Baton Rouge is still my favorite. Every time I perform there, my merchandise results are great. I always come home with way more than what I went in with, which is awesome. The energy is always good. They show me mad love when I come there.”
Banks plans to put on a memorable performance for the Baton Rouge crowd in attendance for Club Culture’s live hip-hop event on February 27. Banks will be headlining the show with Baton Rouge native Ronny My. Joining those two emcees on bill are Armed Rhymery, A.R. and Made Groceries as well as an open mic for any aspiring rappers to showcase their skills. All the artists on the lineup will have to compete with Banks, who intends to steal the show.
“I take every performance seriously,” said Banks. “I want everyone to know I leave it all out there on the stage and perform like it’s my last one. You can expect plenty of energy and interaction with the crowd. When you come to Alfred Banks show, you get everything that you paid for.”