'It Shows the Library Cares': Rapper Alfred Banks Joins Crescent City Sounds Curator Team
Alfred Banks is an award-winning rapper and singer, a mental health advocate, and now, a curator for Crescent City Sounds, the first-ever streaming service built to exclusively feature New Orleans artists.
“Sometimes I think when people hear ‘local’ they think that means it’s bad or not good quality, but that’s just not right,” Banks said. “New Orleans is a city of musicians. We make some of the best music in the world here. But it is true that without people providing real opportunities for our local musicians, they might never be heard, even if they’re the best out there.”
As a curator, Banks will be among a team of Library staff and other local musicians and industry insiders listening to submissions and selecting artists to feature on Crescent City Sounds. When it launches, the platform will be free to listeners and its artists will be paid to non-exclusively license their music to the Library for five years.
After first hearing about the project, Banks said he immediately knew he wanted to be involved.
“It’s a music streaming service specifically for New Orleans. That in itself is amazing,” Banks said. “There’s never been anything like that, to my knowledge. Those types of ideas obviously pop up, but it really takes someone special to, like, really go in and try to get it done. I think the idea is incredible, and I want to be a part of it.”
An added bonus was the chance to work with the Library, he said. Born and raised in Uptown New Orleans, Banks grew up going to the Children’s Resource Center Library on Napoleon Avenue and said the organization remains dear to his heart.
“I’ve been rocking with the Library since I was a little kid,” he said. “I have big love for the Library and what they do. So, to me, it’s extra special that that’s where this service is coming from.”
For Banks, Crescent City Sounds shows that the Library is utilizing its resources to fill the unique needs and desires of New Orleanians.
“It means the Library really cares about the community,” he said. “Everybody knows about the Library, but I think a lot of people don’t necessarily know how much they do to go above and beyond to serve the people of New Orleans. And this is a perfect example of that.”
After starting to make a name for himself in the New Orleans music scene over ten years ago, Banks has earned critical acclaim both locally and beyond. In the past few years, he has been recognized with numerous awards, including Best Hip-Hop Artist at Offbeat’s Best of the Beat Awards, and Best Rapper at Gambit’s Big Easy Awards. He’s headlined tours domestically and abroad, and performed alongside heavy hitters like Big Freedia, Tank and the Bangas, and Soul Rebels.
In addition to his solo work, Banks co-founded SaxKixAve with Tank and the Bangas’ saxophonist and flautist Alfred Allenback. In 2020, the duo was nominated for Best Emerging Artist at the Best of the Beat Awards.
Banks also uses the moniker UnderDogCentral, a fitting name as he embarks on this new endeavor to help lift up budding artists.
“I’ve been so blessed to have my music heard, and I’m excited to be able to pass that blessing along to other artists, especially ones that might not be on my radar without me working on this project,” he said.
Aside from opening doors for new musicians, Banks said he’s hoping to broaden his own horizons through the curatorial process.
“A lot of people think New Orleans music is one of three things: brass bands, zydeco, or bounce music. But people here make all types of music, all genres of music,” he explained. “I think working on Crescent City Sounds will be a great way to expand my understanding and knowledge about all the great local music that’s out there, as well as provide an opportunity for listeners to get a more complete idea of what New Orleans really is and how diverse of a scene it is.”
Banks is represented by Tavia Osbey, who also manages Tank and the Bangas, and will be joining Banks on the Crescent City Sounds curator team. Other community curators include WWOZ DJ and music journalist Alison Fensterstock and Euclid Records owner Lefty Parker.
Library associate Joshua Smith helped bring Crescent City Sounds to life and is leading the project as a curator and coordinator. Smith has been working for the New Orleans Public Library for 12 years and is currently based at Algiers Regional Library.
To Smith, products like Crescent City Sounds allow the Library to tap into the city’s cultural roots by providing free, high-quality entertainment made for New Orleanians, by New Orleanians, while ensuring creators are paid for their music.
“We have a unique situation here that allows for many musicians to be working musicians without having to leave the city. It only makes sense to me that we do what we can to support them and their work,” Smith said.
And Banks said while he was thrilled, he wasn’t surprised to hear that the Library had taken up this mission.
“I think music is really important right now, and in my experience the Library has always been tuned in to community needs,” Banks said. “Especially during COVID, people really started to realize that musicians need all the help they can get. So, people are going above and beyond to really try to create these opportunities, and I think that’s really dope.”
Banks said he’s been wanting to find a way to collaborate with the Library since he was 17 years old and couldn’t have asked for a better fit than Crescent City Sounds.
“The New Orleans Public Library is an institution, and to be affiliated with it in any way, in any regard, it goes my heart good,” he said. “I’m excited to see what comes from it.”
The Library is currently accepting submissions to Crescent City Sounds. For more information, visit crescentcitysounds.org.