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Chicago Rapper Ano Bank$ is Neighborhood…

Written by on September 27, 2019

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There’s an immediate intimacy one feels when talking with Ano Bank$…

Perhaps it’s his small town upbringing in Springfield or his history as a barber, both of which we touched on in our thirty minute conversation, but the result is an artist who wears his heart on his sleeve while maintaining an air of mystery.

It’s this very dynamic that attracted us to Ano in the first place when we heard his EP “Luh Elephant” and his single “Better Do” earlier this year. As a rapper he shows immense range with beats that run the gamut from floaty and jazzy on “$ky High” to tripped out electronic on “Splash Waterfalls 2”. His live performances are known for their electric energy and rich sound.

We sat down with Ano Bank$ to chat about growing up in the country, putting your best foot forward, and how cutting hair can changes lives…

 


 

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Tell us in your own words… Who is Ano Bank$?

Ano: I’m a Spring-Billy turned Chicagoan! I’m from Springfield. My mom was born in Chicago and she was raised in Springfield too. I’m a recording artist, vocalist, you know… for the people. 

How has Springfield influenced your work as an artist?

Ano: It keeps me grounded because it’s a real small place. So when I go back it always humbles me. I see how small it is. And it’s the place that I look at, like in the big scheme of life as a spring-board place. It’s somewhere you go, to get on your feet, and maybe branch off and do something else, or you go there to raise kids. 

It’s really country, there’s a lot of space, it’s built outwards not built upwards, a lot of cornfields. Like I said I’m a “Spring-billy” So, you know, it’s fun. 

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You live in Chicago now, how has the move to Chicago shaped you as an artist? 

Ano: I think it has sharpened me. Chicago is a really competitive place. And I think people appreciate you in a special way when they do. I think it brings out the best in you. I think it really  tests your resolve… tests if you really want to do it. It makes you put that best foot forward in real life and not just be somebody who’s behind a screen making music. I don’t think I really started really bearing fruit from music until I started performing live here. 

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Let’s talk about the performance aspect a little bit. I know you play with a band when you play live…

Ano: Yeah i play with a band! Bankroll Mafia 

Why is it important to you to play with a band? 

Ano: I love to fill the room with live sound, it just brings out the best in me, I think because it makes me project my voice more. And it also makes me want to ride it more.. I find places and pockets to play with the song to make the song different than the recorded version or find a different energy.

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There’s a dynamism there…

Ano: I used to play football. So you know, in football, you’re only as good as the weakest person on your team. So I like having a strong team around me because, we know, everything is not always going to go your way. I have the tendency to get frustrated, but I have these super cool, malleable, raw ass musicians to keep me grounded as well. I love it.

You’ve talked about how the band may become its own project? 

Ano: We definitely plan on recording, we’re going to start recording at the end of next month. We actually got like two songs written already. We’re just working on trying to figure out which which studio we’re going to go to and  which engineer is going to craft our sound the way we want to. We’re going to be performing some of the new songs at some SoFar Sounds dates on the 17th and 21st of November. 

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You’ve mentioned cutting hair numerous times and I want to ask you… What role does cutting hair play in your life and who you are as a creative person? 

Ano: Cutting hair goes hand in hand with everything! It really goes hand in hand with everything, because I’m neighborhood…

For example when I started rapping again in 2016 (I stopped rapping for a time because I was trying to have a family) some of the first people I started working with were from the barbershop like GLOhan. Cutting hair is also how I got closer with Dennis who did all the photography work for Luh Elephant. A barbershop is a place of  teaching and learning man, verbal teaching and learning. 

I just feel like it’s a way like have genuine conversation with somebody if you don’t know them. And it’s hard to find a good barber, I find. You cut somebody’s hair for like 45 minutes you get a good idea of who they are. I love it. I fed my children cutting hair. Cutting hair changed my life, I love it. 

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You mentioned Dennis (@ddesigns_) and I just love the visual style that you bring to your work…

I feel like there’s a really cohesive aesthetic in the images you choose to pair with your songs. How do you think about visuals as they relate to music? 

Ano: We live in a time where you can not necessarily be great at something yet but the aesthetic and what you stand for can represent something beyond the art that you put out. For example: Lil B, he’s got an aesthetic…

My aesthetic is dark most times but that’s when it comes to the tone of my skin in the pictures and stuff. I try to remind people that black is all the colors combined together, not the absence thereof. That’s just a play on how darker skin people get bad raps. I try to make it so that the voice that’s coming through the microphone is…you know how this person looks. So when you see a person like this you might not necessarily be apprehensive of that person… you know what I’m saying?  Because some people have not met black people like that! Some people really don’t know what type of person a person is because they haven’t met that type of person. So I try to make sure I keep all of my stuff black. 

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Ano: It’s not exclusively that though because my best friend is a white dude… We come from Springfield. So it’s a different type of place. Moving to Chicago I really realized how segregated this city can be, how segregated large cities are in places. I think it’s always good to put your best foot forward for the people you represent. You don’t want to be an asshole! 

I try to make sure my aesthetic is dark and wholesome and inclusive and eclectic. I don’t want anyone to be turned off to my music because I’m not inviting to all cultures. Visually I just go with people that stand for, outside of their art, stand for progressive thinking and pushing conversations forward that we should have. 

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It really feels well thought out and well executed…

Martin (producer Martin $ky) taught me that you have to put your best foot forward all the way around in your artistry. I mean Martin… that’s my homie, but he’s still an enigma to me in ways you know!  Because he’s just so on top of shit.

He told me to make sure your photos are good and to look around at the artists I respect and see what they are doing… And he was right, I started looking at the artists that I really respect and they do that. 

Now I work with artists and creatives on a regular basis so the visuals just come up organically. The art for $ky High was just a picture that my homie took of me at my birthday party. He sent the picture and I’m gonna drop the song two weeks later… I’m literally plotting on the picture I have to take… He sent it to me, it was a film joint. I hadn’t done a film joint ever either, you know you got the little sparks and little lines Right now it’s kind of just an organic thing. We just keep going.

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Shot by Paul Elliot

Written by: Seamus Doheny 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity