SPEAKING WITH BENAMIN

His vinyl collection takes up a majority of his work space and he doesn't collect them thangs for decoration.  He has a deep keenness for song and sound and this 88th street kid knows his stuff.  Benamin is a New york native who leads with his left hand and his ear for good noise.  From developing his own sound, a collection of illustration work and engineering for the likes of Jessie Ware, Mob Deep, Azealia Banks, Earl Sweatshirt, Joey badass, spank rock and Freddie Gibbs, Phony Ppl, this guy moves with humble ease across a console gaining accolades behind the scenes. 

Early this summer Benamin and I took a stroll through Central Park where we sat down to discuss his latest project, Beats & Thangs, the music industry and his zeal for funk.  He put me up on the roots and culture of funk music and all that inspires him to create. 

Get to Know Benamin


Beats & Thangs

I think it looks like that scene in The Wizard Of Oz when it becomes color and Dorothy is with all the little munchkins everywhere. If I had to illustrate it, it would be kind of like a cartoony version of that with an urban twist.

It's like the illustrated version of The Wizard Of Oz with all the little munchkins on psychedelic drugs if it was a musical written in the 80's in the Bronx with hip hop. I wish I could actually make an animated film of it, maybe one day I will.


Recording 

I recorded everything in protools and all the beats where pretty much made in Logic (the software) and just using whatever I had at the time.

I wasn't really worried about the drum sounds or anything and was just trying to get my ideas out.

So the beats are all either my keyboard or the stock sounds that came with the software that I messed with later on and added effects.

DJ Ginyard played live bass on the song with Wynter Gordon 'All The Way.'  Everything else I played with a keyboard, midi stuff and drum machines.


Protools

It's basically just an interface that allows you to record audio. It's like the new tape machine, it replaced the tape machine.

The music that you hear and pretty much everything you listen to is recorded into protools and that's where everything is printed and you export the final song from that.

Production

It was over the course of four years of me having the idea. I would make beats a lot, first I started trying to make beats for people to rap on.

Then as I realized that I just wanted to express myself by making beats the way I wanted to do them and that no one wanted to rap on them.

I kinda' started realizing that my stuff was way different than hip-hop beats, it was happier and more melodic so then I kind of realized that people actually do like instrumentals.

I was listening to people like Dam Funk, that were kind of doing a modern spin on older sounding funk and electronic music and realizing that they were selling records, so I decided I wanted to do something that was based on the beats that I had made.

I had all this music that I really loved that I wasn't really doing anything with and that I would play for people and get a good reaction.

It went through a lot of phases. I didn't really know what I wanted it to be, I just knew I wanted to put something out.

I had the Idea for the name Beats And Thangs because it was beats but it was different. I had ideas to get guest vocalists and do vocal-sprinklings throughout the songs, kind of in a jazzy way.

So then the beats became "thangs." I'm into P. Funk and I like this Eddie Hazel album called 'Game, Dames and Guitar Thangs' and George Clinton's whole thing was "Thang Inc." also his publishing company.

I'm really inspired by them and their whole aesthetic and the lyrics that they would use and the grooves and how the songs where songs for the sake of being a song and they would add a meaning to it as they went.

I knew I wanted the album to be a certain way and I wanted it to have certain elements. I was waiting on people to write music or I was sending it to people to see if they would write melodies or lyrics and it just wouldn't work out.

When it came down to it, a couple of my friends were like "you just gotta do it, just do whatever you want and just finish it." 

So I decided to just write the lyrics myself and sing on it myself and put the melody ideas together and produce the whole thing the way I wanted it and have friends put their voice on it.

I had been working on some stuff with 10ILLE. I would make beats and she would sing on them.

She wrote the hook for "Sophisticated" and then we worked on the melodies.

I was doing vocal production with her while we would record her stuff and we worked on vocal arrangements and harmonies together.

For "I Like It (Uptown Anthem)" I had the idea to use the hook from that Harlem World song because I heard it in my head while listening to the beat, which is why I ended up calling the song the Uptown Anthem. She came up with the melody for "Doot Doo Doo" which inspired the whole concept of that song.

I was more focused on putting it out and finishing it, than what I was going to do with it after, which was a lesson for my later releases.

It was like, this is something I need to do, this is a project, an album that for my own sake I need to put out so that people can see what I like and my aesthetic as a producer and songwriter.


The Weasel

that synth made me think of a weasel. I had called the beat "The Weasel" at first and later, as I listened to it more, I realized that the synth melody could become the chorus with lyrics in it.

I wanted to see how I could make lyrics for a song like that. That song in particular I could use the melodies that were already there and make lyrics around this concept of this "weasely" kind of guy.

I was thinking a lot at the time about "music biz" people and the way that they are. Thats who he is, I mean he's a manager.  He's one of those guys who's always walking around like "thats my artist" but is never really doing anything positive for them.

He wants to represent people for no reason other than he just wants to be "successful" in the biz and make money off of people and he doesn't really know anything about music.

I have encountered a lot of people like that, who want to be in it for the glory and aren't really passionate about the art.

The song with Wynter Goron "All The Way" is the most formulated song.  She did the melodies and I wrote the lyrics. Kind of like a weird love song about being addicted to stuff...like cigarettes and also love can be addicting sometimes.

I don't like heavy handed lyrics, I like when people leave something to the listener to take for themselves.  I don't like to explain things too much.  I like powerful and ambiguous things that make you think of your own things. 


Triumph Radio 

TRIUMPH is my weekly internet radio show on  New Town Radio that I play vinyl classics, brand new music from up and comers, and a weekly salsa selection.

Tune in Thurs. November 6th from 11pm-1am.