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Erica Banks Hustled To “Buss It”: Meet The South Dallas Rapper Making Waves On TikTok And Beyond

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LEE ESCOBEDO

If you were to visit Erica Banks’ hometown in the quiet, welcoming South Dallas suburb of Desoto, Texas, you would be struck by the plainness of it all. Desoto is awash in beige and concrete. Shopping centers are filled with nail salons, wig shops and dollar store chains. Entrepreneurs have opened renovated storefronts out of shuttered Blockbusters, hardware shops and CD stores. 

Desoto is a predominately African-American community and many young, white-collar professionals looking to start a family have moved there in the last decade. “It’s like a real city now!” as Banks tells it. The 23-year-old rapper exploded out of the city’s everydayness with her 2020 hit, “Buss It,” which dominated the airwaves and went viral on social media thanks to a TikTok challenge.

The challenge saw girls and gays recording themselves nonchalantly grooving to Banks’ song specifically the Nelly-sampled chorus of “I think my butt getting big,” from 2002’s “Hot in Herre.” Once the beat dropped, the video would reveal its creator squatting in their best outfit, with nails done, hair did and a sultry stare at the camera. The trend vaulted “Buss It” to the top of the charts  and earned Banks a record deal with Warner Brothers and 1501 Certified Entertainment, where the song was re-released. 

If there is anything plain about the cozy suburb she hails from, you can’t tell by Banks’ stylish flow and insatiatiable drive for success. She has a penchant for tempo — whether delivering a rapid-fire flow or a slow, and steady rhyme — while her lyricism seamlessly blends pop, R&B and rap influences. Most importantly, Banks makes music for women to feel good about themselves, and encourages them to seek out money, power and respect.

There’s a deep sense of pride, and competition, in the connecting cities of South Dallas — and Banks is the first rapper to rep Desoto. Yet Banks’ rise isn’t the result of an empty playing field; her ability to utilize social media to generate cross-genre appeal has enabled the rapper to rise above others who call South Dallas home.

But Banks’ rise was far from overnight. She spent years traveling on the weekends from Desoto, up I-35 to downtown Dallas, networking with DJs and clubs to get her music played. Today, with mainstream hip-hop success, Banks joins a lineage of legendary South Dallas rap artists who have made it big: DSR, Big Tuck, Durrough, Yella Beezy, MO3, Fat Pimp, Asian Doll and the Queen of Dallas, Erykah Badu. Dorrough, specifically, is from neighboring Lancaster and inspired a young Banks to get out of her hood and into the music spotlight.

Banks’ is keeping busy: Her newest singles, “Pop Out” and “Slim Waist,” precedes an upcoming mixtape due this summer; she just finished a tour opening for Summer Walker and is about to head out with T-Pain. Banks spoke with GRAMMY.com about her place in the legacy of South Dallas rap, her city and dreams.

What did you think the possibilities were while living and working in South Dallas?

Seeing rap artists out of Dallas, inspired me to want to do music. It made me feel like if people from my city can make it, maybe I can too.

Do you still have family living in Desoto and South Dallas?

Oh yeah, my parents still Iive there. My cousins and aunts and uncle still live there. My grandparents too, before my grandfather passed away. I live in Atlanta now. I love Atlanta.

How did you work to have your songs played in clubs as a rising rapper?

It was a matter of me introducing myself. I had business cards made with my picture on it and my Instagram on it. I would say, “I’m Erica Banks and I do music, I want to send you my songs.” The DJs were always very nice and played my stuff, but sometimes they already knew who I was. I just had to be vocal. I realized over time being more social and more vocal about who I was, helped people get to know me. Who I was started to spread by word of mouth, just by talking to DJs.

Where did you have your music played in Dallas?

Definitely, Club Status downtown. Club Pryme, V Live, XTC. I was in all the popping spots.

How familiar are you with Dallas hip-hop? Did you grow up listening to Big Tuck and DSR? Or Dorrough who came from nearby Lancaster?

Yes, Lancaster is where my dad lived for a long time. I was a very big Durrogh fan. When “Ice Cream Paint Job” came out it was my ringtone. I was always into that culture. Even Big Tuck. Now, this isn’t Dallas, but Texas in general, Pimp C, Bun B, they had a big effect on my career as well, as far as inspiration.

It would be great to have a South Dallas collaboration track with Durrough and Big Tick.

That would be so lit. I just might do that. I’m gonna tell people you gave me the idea.

How did the deal with 1501 Certified Entertainment come to be? Did you have them on your radar to sign with? Or the other way around?

I had gotten lucky. Carl Crawford, the CEO of the label would get on Instagram live, and people would play their music, and he would give his feedback. One week I decided to try my luck and play my song, which was “Buss It.”

He loved the song and ended up hitting me up a couple of days later asking me if I was signed. I wasn’t. So I let my parents know, and we met with him a couple of times and we felt like the vibe was right. We went from there and everything has been good since then.

How important was it to have your family’s approval on that?

It was very important. Your parents know more than you do. I was fresh out of high school at the time. Especially when it came to contracts and lawyers, my parents made sure we had the right legalities to make sure I was good. My parents played a big part in that, so I appreciate them for that.

I’ve read you were kinda burned out for a while talking about “Buss It.” And even that you didn’t really like the song when it first came out. Do you still feel this way?

When I saw how my fanbase responded, I loved it. It became my favorite song. I saw the effect it had on people and why people liked it. At first, I was like, “I can do better than this.” But, once my fans started to love it so much, I felt like I was thinking too hard. I’m not as hard on myself as much as I was.

I love that “Buss It” and “Toot That” speaks on sexuality from a women’s point of view. What were you trying to get across when writing the lyrics?

Basically, that girls run the world. That’s the moral of what I’m saying, just in a fun way. Most of the time it’s always the men that’s the dominant ones. But I think it’s okay to be dominant as a woman too. I had to make it known that hey, we too can be dominant and run the show.

Were the lyrics of “Tony Story, Pt. 1” based on life growing up in Desoto? It’s a very dark, intense song about drug dealing and violence — were there specific experiences that informed the song?

Actually, no. With “Tony’s Story,” when I wrote it and made it up when I first heard the beat, it sounded very sad. This was something I wasn’t familiar with doing because I make club music. I was like, let me try something new, and I might like it. So I made up a character, I called him Tony, and I gave him this very hard life.

Once I was done with it, it was a great song to relate to. Because I know there’s a lot of Tonys out there. Not even that, there are a lot of people out there that know a Tony. The whole point of the Tony song was to have people relate to me on another level outside of the club level, to diversify myself as an artist.

With women running rap music right now, it’s easy for outsiders to group you in with your contemporaries. In what ways do you want to stand out as a rapper?

I have my own way of being an artist. My own sound and style of music. I also call myself the Flow Queen…[which] came from fans complimenting my flow, and how I ride a beat. How I can switch it up. That makes me feel like I’ve differentiated myself from other artists because I’ve come up with this name in relation to my talent. It all starts with me as a person.

As a woman in rap, what issues are important for you to talk about in your music?

Being a woman in this industry is not always the easiest thing. Sometimes, men, in particular, think we’re not as smart as them or we don’t know as much. Or they can get over on us. It takes a strong-minded woman to know what you’re getting into or if you’re being played with or not. It will try to take advantage of you, you just got to be smart.

As your popularity has grown, how do you remain true to yourself?

I continue to do things I did before I was who I am now. I still take time to myself. I still spend time with my family, I still take time out to pray. I still take time off. Like, I’ll take time off if I need to get my mind right. I never stop doing the things that kept me grounded as a person, before all this.

Do you have plans to expand beyond music? Would you ever produce or act?

Absolutely, I would love to be a writer for other artists. I want to get into acting. I’m excited about that; I feel like that’s going to happen for me. I also cook. I have a cooking page. So hopefully, somebody gives me a cooking show. Or maybe I could publish a cookbook. I’m definitely interested in things outside of just music.

Have you thought about opening up a business in Desoto? 

I have! At first, I thought about a nail shop, since I used to do nails in college. Then I thought of a restaurant when I started my cooking. I could do both! You never know. I’m gonna have to set that up and write that out.

You could take over the Dallas landmark shopping center, Big T Bazaar!

That would be so legendary! I actually shot a music video there a year and a half ago, it was just me, by myself. If I brought all of Dallas out, it would have a different effect. I still go there when I’m in Dallas.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Erica Banks Hustled To “Buss It”: Meet The South Dallas Rapper Making Waves On TikTok And Beyond

With a stylish flow and insatiable drive for success, the “Buss It” rapper encourages women to seek out money, power and respect.

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