How Hip-Hop Ukelele Player Einer Bankz Became The Unlikeliest Rap Star


If you haven’t heard, there’s this kid running around with a ukulele and recording videos with a bunch of burgeoning hip-hop artists. His name is Einer Bankz and you probably caught his video featuring Chance The Rapper at Coachella when it made social media rounds back in April.

That viral performance led to an opportunity for Bankz to attend Grizzly Fest out in Fresno, Calfornia equipped with an artist pass, thanks to the efforts of his good friend and manager Anthony Rodio. The next step for bringing the Tuned Up movement, what he affectionately calls his combination of ukulele and hip-hop, to Grizzly Fest was seeing which artists would be down for making a video with Bankz — and Jhene Aiko was totally down.

It all took place in the confines of her festival trailer. The two sat on a cream-colored, leather couch as Bankz plucked at the strings of his darling ukulele. The thump of heavy bass from the festival threatened to overpower their sacred performance but never succeeded. Jhene performed the whole song, including Swae Lee’s verse.

“She sent over a couple of songs and she had this record with Swae Lee, ‘Sativa,’ and I heard it and was like, ‘This is raw.’ We did it in one take,” Bankz explained to me in the hotel lobby of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles recently. “It was in her private trailer and with just her team. I love her team. They are just so down to earth. I love seeing that with somebody who is that successful on that level and they’re just very human.”

I met up with the Bay Area native one weekend at Crowne Plaza to see what happens when he links with an artist to perform their music with this peculiar stringed instrument. For a while, it was up in the air who we’d meet up with but eventually, I suggested we focus around him linking up with Jhene Aiko at Grizzly Fest for their acoustic rendition of “Sativa.”

Less than 24 hours later, I received a text message from Rodio to call him because they might have someone else for tomorrow, so I called him immediately. “Hey, do you know who Trae Tha Truth is?” he quizzed me.