The nebulous producer Lee Bannon has been steadily making beats since he was in high school, but he's not necessarily happy about it. "If I could do it different I would have held all my work and waited until I was at the point where I wanted to be, skill-wise," he tells The FADER over the phone from the Williamsburg loft he shares with five friends. Bannon has evolved beyond the beats you hear Joey Bada$$ and Ab-Soul rapping over, a shift he's solidified by abandoning his better-known name and committing to the cryptic moniker "¬ b." (His new EP, Pattern of Excel, concludes the saga of Lee Bannon.) We asked Bannon how he lives now, so we could hear about this period of reinvention in his own words.
Lee Bannon: "I was doing music in high school. I met Del the Funky Homosapien when I was really young at a skate park. By the time senior year came, I was like the producer for like a bunch of local people. I went to school for a semester; my mom's a registered nurse and I was going to be an X-Ray technician. But then I met with the school counselor and they said, 'Okay after you graduate you will be making this amount.' At the time I had job making eleven dollars an hour, and that was damn near that salary already, without spending 50 grand a year on school. I invested what I would have spent at school into my passion."
"When I first got my deal and moved to New York, I went crazy. Damn, I remember buying like a $900 jacket. It was like bright red and yellow straps. I probably wore that thing like 3 times and then took it to like Beacon's Closet or something. That was the last time I went like, really shopping. New York has definitely changed my outlook as far as fashion goes. It's all about necessities. If I have a pair of pants, it's like a solid pair of pants—like it might have cost like $300 or $400, but I'll have them for three years. I don't mind splurging on core pieces because I know I'll have them for a while, especially shoes. I have a really big sneaker collection."
"I love playing pool. I'm not going to say I'm good because I might want to do some pool sharking later but, yeah—I'm decent. Black Bear bar is probably my favorite hangout spot, it's super low key. Certain nights there's this older white guy DJ-ing; he looks like one of the wizards from Harry Potter. He has really long hair and this really long beard, but he'll play like a trip hop mix and then drop Fetty Wap. It has a pool table, too.
"I love movies. When I'm not working on a project or hanging out, I probably spend the other 80% of my time just watching film after film after film. Heaven Knows What is my favorite movie this year. My friend Wiki [from Ratking] was supposed to be in that movie but they ended up giving that role to Necro, remember him? The second best I've seen this year is Wild Tales. I change up my favorite movies all the time. At one point I was just watching all these Australian mobster movies like Two Hands. Movies used to influence my music more, but I think it's a sign of maturing that I don't rely on any one thing to influence the outcome of a track."
I'm a homebody when I'm creating. When I first started working on my album in early 2014, I had just got back from Japan and my sleeping pattern was messed up. I would wake up at five in the evening, take a shower, eat, start watching movies, and then start actually working around like eleven at night until around noon the next day. That went on until I finished it and then I kind of snapped back into the regular time-zone life I guess.
My process changes—it's very free. I can get up and just start working on whatever I want. When I'm working with an artist it's like 90% trying to understand what they're going for, their vibe, and then making something around that. It's more like customer service when I'm producing for someone else. The difference between writing something for passion or writing something for someone else is a lot like working at a restaurant. It's like a menu: you order, you kind of have to deliver, if you don't then there's an unhappy customer, and I guess they won't come there again.