Photography BARTEK SZMIGULSKI styling KAMRAN RAJPUT words RYAN CAHILL
“You know the TV show Power? I did a song for the season opening and when it happened, all my boys were calling me like, ‘Bro! You’re sick! Your singing things working!’’ Birmingham born singer-songwriter Jacob Banks tells me. Alongside his feature in Power are three critically acclaimed EPs, a world tour and an imminent album release, so it’s fair to say that his singing thing really is working.
Self-taught musically, Banks started his foray into music by getting to grips with the technicalities via YouTube tutorials and spending countless hours in front of a laptop, rather than opting for more formal music tuition. Despite his self-teachings, the intricacy of his production and vocals would have you believe he’d been a protege of the greats, with intelligent infusions of soul, R&B and hip-hop commonplace in his releases.
His upcoming album Village will drop in two parts. The first will come this year with the second half landing in 2018. “It’s based on the phrase, ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’” he says of the album. “It’s a storytelling album. I tell stories of youth and I use sounds of my youth.” Hoping that the album will help him earn respect, he teamed up with Ryan Tedder for the album, as well as “homies” from back in his hometown of Birmingham. “I’ve lived half of my life in Nigeria and half of my life here. I’m lucky to have two homes,” he shares. “There’s some dub stuff, there’s reggae stuff. It’s just very much like all my taste just wrapped into one.”
As he awaits the release of the record, he’s keeping himself busy by throwing himself into the next project, which is scoring a documentary. “It follows six kids from Cleveland, who are less fortunate – six black kids from Cleveland – who learn how to play lacrosse,” he explains. “They’re all missing fathers, but they find a father figure in their coach. I’ve always wanted to score a film and I thought it would take me years to get there!”
With plenty to look forward to, and Village on the verge of dropping, how is he feeling about his rapid rise to musical prestige? “Kind of nervous, you know, it’s just giving away parts of my life! I’m nervous in that respect, but I’m proud, so I don’t need validation. I hope every time I look back at my catalogue I’m proud of every decision that we made.” If his trajectory so far is anything to go by, he’s already got plenty to be proud of.