Thyra Banks (not to be confused with the smizing enthusiast) understands how the success game goes. As a rapper on the come-up, you can spend years putting in the work, but all it takes is one tweet - in this case, from Nicki Minaj - to become an overnight sensation. “I’m not even gonna lie to you. [The media] can say what they want,” Banks tells Clash over the phone. “A few people have been like, ‘You’ve been approved.’ I hear that, and I know that. But sometimes it takes a co-sign from someone bigger to get people’s attention. And in my case, that’s what happened.”
The south London MC has been spitting fire for years; earning respect from industry vets Charlie Sloth and Tim Westwood and really got attention when she put her inner demons on display during a candid SBTV Warm Up Session. She’s collaborated with Stefflon Don and Lady Leshurr, and recently completed a tour with Wiley. But it’s all good; you can still catch her vibe during the festival season. “This year I’m finally doing all the shows I’ve wanted to do. I’m on a majority of the festival and UK line-ups. It’s really good. I’m happy.”
Banks understands the importance of being a voice for the UK’s young, diverse community, particularly other girls of dark brown hues, many of whom see themselves when they look at her. “Colourism is still happening. It’s not personal to the lighter shades of the world or white people. It’s a thing,” says Banks. “Sometimes when you speak on it, people feel some type of way. But it’s not about you. The situation is bigger than us. But it’s there. Things are easier when you have a more international appeal. Which in their eyes is being a lighter shade or just being white. I just have to make sure I keep going harder. And I will.”
Ms Banks has come way too far to stop grinding. The celeb co-signs are a bonus, but she hasn’t finished - not until she feels the true impact her music makes and sees stronger bonds within her community. “I feel like our people need to come together,” she explains. “Black men need to show more love to their sisters. A lot of the black guys [in the industry] work with a lot of lighter skin artists; that’s cool. No shade against them. I work with them, too. But don’t forget your darker sisters as well. We’re not separate. We are all one. Let’s help each other.”
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WHERE: Camberwell, South London
WHAT: Straight-up bars over hard-hitting beats
GET 3 SONGS: ‘Come Thru’, ‘Vibez’, ‘OMG’
FACT: She used to stock shelves at Marks & Spencer, trading her name badge in for a mic and the spotlight.
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Words: Safra Ducreay
Fashion: Josh Tuckley
Photography: Sophie Mayanne
For tickets to the latest Ms Banks shows click HERE.
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