Erica Banks Almost Didn't Release "Buss It"—and Now It's a Viral Sensation

Erica Gonzales
·5 min read
Photo credit: RonJ Photography
Photo credit: RonJ Photography

From Harper's BAZAAR

Dallas rapper Erica Banks has charted on the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time. The song that got her there? “Buss It,” her dance floor banger whose popularity skyrocketed, of course, because of a viral TikTok trend. While other modern hits are linked to mastering a specific dance (like, “Say So” and “Blinding Lights”), the Buss It Challenge features primarily women undergoing drastic glow ups in a matter of seconds. In the first part of the clip, the challenge undertaker appears on camera in sweats and other laid-back attire while the intro of “Buss It”—a sample of Nelly’s “Hot in Here”—plays, but when the beat drops and introduces Banks’s hook, they drop it low, revealing their made-up look.

The first major TikTok trend of 2021, the challenge was started by a user named Erika Davila, but since then, it has evolved into a sweeping movement. More than two million videos on the app feature the song. Celebrities like Gabrielle Union, Monica, and Tracee Ellis Ross have joined in with creative, hilarious takes on the platform. Even Nelly thinks it’s dope (though we’re still waiting for his entry in the trend). The track also landed in iTunes’ top 10 for hip-hop/rap, and it has upward of 15 million streams to date on Spotify.

“It’s just overwhelming a little bit,” 22-year-old Banks tells BAZAAR.com of the Buss It Challenge’s mass spread and celebrity following. Now, she’s getting used to seeing herself all over the Internet. “I’m glad it’s happening. But it’s just crazy for me, because it’s new.”

Banks found out about the challenge only two weeks ago, when she woke up to calls and messages about a viral TikTok video. She wasn’t even familiar with the app at the time. “I’m just now learning really how to work it,” she says. But once she discovered the post, the rapid success of her song started to sink in. “It’s been a week, and the video has jumped from 5,000 to a million in just over seven days, it’s crazy.”

“Buss It” was first recorded in 2019, and at the time, Banks was hesitant to release it. “I wasn’t sure about it. I didn’t know if people were going to like it,” she explains. She created the song with producer Sgt J during what she calls a “regular day” at the studio.

“We were in the studio, and we were just playing beats, and I had him stop on that particular beat, because I was blown away by the Nelly sample,” says Banks. "I thought it would be really dope to put something on there, because we both knew, you know, everybody knows the ‘Hot in Here’ song by Nelly. So I said I’m going to try this out with my own spin on it and see how it turns out. I actually didn’t like the song. I wasn’t going to put the song out.”

After some convincing from Sgt J and her friends, Banks gave in. “So I put it out, and it did what it did, but creating it was just another regular day.” The song appears on her self-titled mixtape, released in June 2020, following her trio of releases the year prior: Cocky on Purpose, Pressure, and Art of the Hustle.

Banks got into rap by way of poetry. An avid writer, she started penning poems in sixth grade but soon learned that she could set her rhymes to a beat. As she got older, she would perform “little rap concerts at school at the lunch table, stuff like that,” she reminisces. “When I got to high school, I had outgrown poetry. At that age, I realized that music is poetry, so I said, ‘Okay, well, I like to write rap, so I think I’m going to just start rapping.’” When Banks got to college at Texas A&M Commerce, she decided to start recording songs. She left her sophomore year to pursue music full time.

Photo credit: RonJ Photography
Photo credit: RonJ Photography

Having grown up listening to Missy Elliott and Nicki Minaj, Banks was recently shouted-out by the latter on a freestyle. “It was exciting, but it was also a surreal moment for me, being that she’s somebody that I looked up to growing up,” she gushes. Now, both artists are on her list of dream collaborators, as is the R&B singer Tank.

Today, Banks is still making music, hopefully with an album underway, but she hasn’t quite confirmed that yet. After announcing earlier this month that she signed with Warner Records, she can only go up from here. She also teases that a remix is on the way.

“We don’t know. We always in the workflow. We’re always trying to make things happen,” says Banks. “So you can expect new visuals. I might be doing a feature with somebody who you listen to every day. We never know, but I always tell people to just stay checked in so that they don’t miss a beat.”

Banks hopes that her music makes listeners—whether they're new fans or OG followers—feel good about themselves. “I just want them to get fun out of it,” she says. “Not only fun, I want people to feel themselves. When they listen to my music, they feel like they are greater than what they think.

"I want it to be in an esteem boost almost, is what I’m really trying to say. ... I just want people to realize when they listen to me that it’s always a good time.”

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