Two Or Three Things I Know About Banks and Steelz

Drew Millard takes an honest look at the Banks and Steelz album by breaking down its merits in list form.
By    September 14, 2016

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Drew Millard is a child of Marx and Coca-Cola.

1. In quantum mechanics, there exists something called the many-worlds interpretation, which states that the reality in which we live is but one of an infinite number of realities. These might exist further out in the known universe: i.e., there are only so many different ways particles can arrange themselves but endless space in which those particles could hypothetically exist, so it’s not outlandish to say that there’s another, nearly identical version of our own planet out there somewhere. Or they might exist concurrently—which is to say, every time something happens that even infinitesimally alters the course of history, a new reality is created, and those realities are stacked on top of each other. Either way, we live in the one specific reality where Paul Banks and RZA combined to form Banks and Steelz and made an album called Anything But Words, the title track to which vaguely resembles “Float On.”

2. “I’m not trying to break any records. I’m doing this because I enjoy it. Not to mention the most important reason for climbing a mountain—because it’s there.” — Captain James Tiberius Kirk

3. I’m not going to speculate as to why RZA and Paul Banks made Anything But Words, and it’s certainly not my place to sit here and tell you whether or not it’s any good. It’s definitely worth listening to, and listening to multiple times, but I’m not sure it’s conventionally enjoyable in the sense that I’d listen to these songs if they were by people who weren’t Paul Banks and RZA. But they are, and pretending otherwise is pointless.

4. Having said that, this seems like a record that might end up appealing to no one, but even so, I think even the parts of it that suck are amazing.

5. “Might as well ask, ‘Why’s a tree good? Why’s the sunset good? Why are boobs good?’ Man, firecrackers!” — Joe Dirt

6. RZA’s solo records are always better than you remember, mainly because in addition to being perhaps the most gifted producer of his generation, The RZA loves making the types of bizarre choices that make you wonder if he burst through one of the aforementioned alternate realities like the damn Kool-Aid man. This is a guy who made three albums from the perspective of a fictional superhero, and claims that because “the feds” were trying to kill ODB, he actually tried to become said superhero.

7. “I had my brother order a Level 4 fucking vehicle—what the president rides in. You can shoot it with an AK and it keeps moving. I still got it. It weighs nine tons. It’s parked at my brother’s house in New Jersey. And the suit I built but one of my employees sold it to a drug dealer. A $20,000 suit—Level 4 bulletproof and knife-proof. You couldn’t stab or shoot me. Head to toe. I had a briefcase to go with it as well—to block bullets! We were just buggin’ out! We was getting high, too. Don’t get that twisted.” — The RZA,2008 (Quote has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

8. The interview that Paul Banks and RZA gave to Pitchfork to promote Anything But Words reads less like a traditional “Hey, buy our album” interview and more like the entirety of a short story that was doomed to run in McSweeneys.

9. Oh yeah, but I do sort of wonder, why in hot disco-fuck did they call themselves Banks and Steelz? I don’t have my copy of The Wu-Tang Manual handy, but I’m pretty sure that RZA never made a distinction about when he was rapping as Bobby Steelz like he did with Bobby Digital or RZArector, both of whom were (at least in theory) fully defined characters. And Paul Banks used to make solo stuff as Julian Plenti, which is a WAY cooler name than just Banks. They could have called themselves Plenti Digital or some shit and Pitchfork would have automatically given them a 6.5.

10. They should really consider publishing pocket-sized copies of The Wu-Tang Manual so that people can carry it around with them, like Christians get to do with bibles.

11. Have you guys seen Weiner? Great documentary, both extremely funny and very, very sad. Anyways, one thing I’d forgotten about the whole Anthony Weiner sexting scandal, or maybe something I never realized in the first place, was that America’s most notorious sexting Democrat chose “Carlos Danger” as his nom du plume. Now that I’m thinking about it, I’m pretty sure—like, about as sure as I am that “One by One” is about some war I didn’t know existed until I googled it—that Weiner chose that name because of Carlos D, the former bassist for Interpol. Like, Anthony Weiner is one of those vaguely with-it “cool dad” types who seems like he’d be interested in music, and he’s a lifelong New Yorker who was under 40 when Interpol released Turn on the Bright Lights. Not only that, but Carlos D—whose last name is already the pretty aggressively phallic “Dengler”—was alleged to be an intense, herpes-having hipster horndog back in the day. So it’s not necessarily a stretch to assume Weiner knew who Carlos D was and thought it would be funny to riff on his name as he was coming up with a sexting handle.

12. Things RZA and Paul Banks have in common:

  1. Each were the driving forces behind groups that went on to define both a sound and era in New York music history.
  2.  Their lyrics make absolutely no sense.

13. Things RZA raps about on Anything But Words:

  1. Marie Antoinette
  2. Battles of the sexes
  3. Battles of people of the male sex in which they dismember each other
  4. Fracking
  5. Immaculate conception
  6. Uncircumcised thoughts breaking through mental condoms
  7. Cloning
  8. Chi energy
  9. Swarming on your college dorm
  10. Using his words as weapons but having a closet full of actual weapons in case words fail him
  11. Werewolf hunting
  12. Being a real werewolf
  13. Winchester rifles
  14. Cocaine
  15. Cocaine (again)

14. And judging by the Wikipedia hole I just fell into, I’m pretty sure “One by One” is at least partially about Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. I’ll spare you the details, but if you want more info, start here and get to clicking.

15. It seems superfluous to point out that RZA yells “SUPER SPERM!!” on the song with Kool Keith, but oh, what the hell.

16. “The mountain is climbed because I think the climber wants to hug the mountain. He wants to envelop that mountain with his body, he wants to make love to the mountain… Why do I climb the mountain? I think the climber would say, ‘Because I’m in love.’” — William Shatner