The more you consume music, the more you internalize it. Once it becomes deeply rooted in you, it’s certain that you can recreate something that has the same impact as what you’ve previously witnessed. That idea holds weight with Syracuse-born, North Atlanta-bred rapper BenjiHavinIt, who has crafted his career from everything he’s gathered as a fan himself.
His secret weapon is keeping listeners on their toes, as he appreciated when he used to listen to music growing up. “As soon as you feel like you know my style or my flow, I’m switching it up on you and it’s going to slap,” he says. He’s consistent on that note, and shows how serious he takes staying fresh in songs like “Pieces.” Upon the release of this single came the solidification of his confidence and comfortability on the mic as well. ‘“Pieces” is where I finally found my pocket and felt dominant as far as flows and vibes,” he remembers about the song. “When I made “Pieces,” that’s when I was like, ‘Ok, yeah I’m getting that swag.’”
From listening through his two projects Fxck A Feature and the most recently released self-titled EP, it’s clear that Benji keeps an armory of flows and rhyme schemes to tap into whenever he wants. His range is impressive, but according to him, he still has yet to fully press his foot on the gas. He plans on using his highly anticipated project Uncle Fred to reintroduce a more polished version of himself. But because of the coronavirus, he had to push the release back.
In the meantime and on the edge of what seemed like an endless quarantine, BenjiHavinIt chopped it up with TUC Magazine about why he started pursuing rap, how his next project Uncle Fred differs from his first two, adjusting to the coronavirus pandemic as an artist, and more.
When do you remember falling in love with music?
I fell in love with music when I was a little kid. I was probably my son’s age, like two or three, growing up on Michael Jackson. I’ve always loved music as a little kid.
I never knew I wanted to be a rapper. I wanted to be a basketball player; that was my love. I wanted to hoop. But I always loved hearing music from my mom and my family. I’m from the hood, so you know, music is a part of life. I didn’t ever think I would be a rapper, until I started rapping. But I always knew I would be doing some kind of entertainment.
Where did the transition come in? What made you think or decide that you could become a rapper?
After high school, I played college basketball, but I didn’t know what else to do. I was always around rappers and in the studio, watching people make music. Where I come from, everybody raps. And I always knew I could do it. By the end of December 2014, I went in the studio for the first time ever and recorded something. And it was hard. That’s when I decided I was going to start rapping for real. But even back then I wasn’t taking it too seriously. I figured it was what everybody probably thinks it is; you know, just make a couple of good songs and you’ll get on. But around 2015 is when I started focusing on it.
How did the fact that everybody made music affect you?
It affected me. It made me hungrier to do it though. I was around Migos and I watched them do it. So if these dudes could do this and make millions, then I could do it too. I was more inspired watching people like Migos and Skippa Da Flippa really do it. So that’s what made me hungry. Like, “I’m not playing basketball anymore, but I could do this music thing if I really put in the work.” It’s one thing seeing folks on TV, everybody thinks it comes easy. But when you’re in studios with rappers, you can really see how it’s done. Even my peers grew up in music. It can really happen if you just stay down.
How are the music scenes in Syracuse and Atlanta different?
Syracuse is a 180 from Atlanta, but that’s comparing it. When I used to come up to Syracuse, there was no music scene at all. But before the coronavirus, I was seeing things start to happen. Clubs were opening more and artists were coming together. Before there wasn’t any of that in Syracuse.
In Atlanta, there’s always something going on. There’s always an open mic or club or just anywhere to go to get your song spun. You could leave the studio one night and want to try your track out. You could pull up to the club and find a DJ to play your song. In Syracuse, it’s not really like that. For one, there are no clubs like that. We got Club 11. When that started, the scene got bigger from the outside looking in. So I could see the opportunity in Syracuse. You just have to take advantage and that’s where I come in.
Syracuse is not like New York City but the scene is definitely building up. It gives you an opportunity to take over the town because it’s really hard to make it if you can’t get your city around you. In Syracuse, it’s hard because there aren’t many events to showcase your music. Club 11 was for sure one of those spots where you could make something out of it. It’ll be back though.
As an artist, have you been calculating how you’re going to move during the pandemic?
Definitely, that’s all I think about every day is how to be more creative and put out better content. And honestly, the corona has its pros and its cons. I’ve been more creative than ever, bored in the house all day. Thankfully, I’m able to get to the studio whenever I want. I’ve been cooking up some of the best music I’ve been making lately. The only thing that holds me up is that I can’t really shoot visuals how I really want to or anything like that. But we’re not waiting on anything. We don’t have time to wait. While we wait, somebody else is moving. So we’re still working, shooting videos, recording, and getting mixtapes ready for y’all when we can. If we can’t come outside, then I’m going to flood the internet with content.
Word, let’s tap a couple of songs on Fxck A Feature. How did you create “A Different World”?
I feel like I made that one at my house. We just were just chopping it up, playing 2k, and recording. I was in there with the gang. I’m shouting out a lot of people in that song because they were all in the crib. When I heard the beat, it was on a Detroit type vibe. And I rock with those beats so heavy. I rock with the Detroit wave, like the Sada Baby and 42 Dugg type flows. I heard that beat and it started to slap.
One thing I do remember about that song is how I came up with the first line. I just kept telling the engineer to run the beat back because I was punching in on that song. I punch in on a lot of my songs. I was trying to think of something to say and as I was catching it, a woman was calling my phone. That’s why I start the song like, “Blowing my high, tryna go live.” I was trying to go live and she kept calling me so I couldn’t go live. I do remember that about “A Different World.” That was a true story. I just started going in after that.
How about “Hate it Or Love It”?
That’s one of my favorites. I recorded that one back home when I was in Atlanta. 4pointO recorded that one. That song stuck with me because that day was lit. I had a studio session and everybody came out and showed love. I made two or three songs that day. I made “Hate It Love It” and “22.” I was so lit that day, I literally fell asleep in the studio that night. A lot of people were mad because they missed a lot of the good stuff we laid down by coming late. I still had an hour left so I could’ve recorded like three or four songs, but I fell asleep on the couch.
But that was a learning lesson for me. All of that getting high and going to the studio stuff? Dead. I’ll do that after I record. I can’t be falling asleep. I like that song because it taught me something that day. I can’t be too lit in the studio because we gotta work. And on top of that, it slaps. It taught me a lesson.
What’s the backstory behind the song “Pieces”?
“Pieces” is the single coming off of my project Uncle Fred. The song is going crazy right now. A lot of people are liking it. It’s got that feel to it. Something has got to come out of it because you can’t deny it. The craziest thing to me is that I feel like that isn’t even anything compared to what else I have. If y’all like “Pieces” then you’re going to go crazy over my new music. “Pieces” is where I finally found my pocket and felt dominant as far as flows and vibes. When I made “Pieces” that’s when I was like, “Ok, yeah I’m getting that swag.”
You recently dropped the music video for “Pieces.” How did you come up with the concept?
It was a team thing between me and 102 Studio, who shot it. We collectively came up with it. I wanted to have a message behind the song. I know that everyone goes through those kinds of conversations so what better way to do it than a therapy scene where we’re talking it out? If you hear the song, it’s a conversation between me and my girl or whatever the case may be. That’s where the idea came from.
What’s Uncle Fred going to be?
It’s a little tape, it isn’t the album yet. Uncle Fred is going to be the next thing I put out. It’s done, honestly. It’s been done. I’m just waiting for a few visuals to put out with it. Once we get that done, it’s lit. I’m dropping that ASAP. I’m so ready to get Uncle Fred out so y’all can hear this new music. Uncle Fred is like the old me.
Can you explain the title to me?
I got the title Uncle Fred from a character from a movie. Are you familiar with How to Be a Player? You remember the scene when they were at the cookout? Uncle Fred was that old player uncle. He was a pimp. He had all the women and whatnot. Now that same character that plays Uncle Fred plays in a movie called The Mack. But his name in that movie is Goldie. He’s still that same type of character, that same player pimp. Those are two of my favorite movies.
So Uncle Fred is basically my fake alter ego. But if you don’t know The Mack or How to Be a Player, you have to go watch it and you’ll understand exactly who he is. I’m turning Uncle Fred into an adjective. It’s a way of life. A player dude, getting money, handling his business; that’s Uncle Fred. Each track on the EP is going to paint that picture for everybody. It’s a whole movie. And you gotta be a cool ass person to be an Uncle Fred. That’s where I got the title from.
How would you compare Uncle Fred to Fxck a Feature?
You’ll see the growth from Fxck A Feature to Uncle Fred sonically and with flows. Fxck A Feature was everything out of the mud. I mean in-house studios out of closets. I feel like a lot of those songs on Fxck A Feature could’ve been way better if we had what we had now as far as setups and whatnot. Even then, I was trying things, but not all of the way. But once I got with my engineer that I work with now, somebody named Coop, in his studio, it gave me room to get in my bag and really lock in and try different things as far as expanding and coming in different ways.
Uncle Fred separates itself from Fxck A Feature because of the range. On some tracks, I can get on my rap stuff or I can get on my melodic stuff. Uncle Fred is really showcasing that. I’m going places you wouldn’t even expect me to go with each song. As soon as you feel like you know my style or my flow, I’m switching it up on you and it’s going to slap. I’m proud of Fxck A Feature but it didn’t do what I wanted it to do. Now, I’m in a better headspace with better vibes, a better mindset, and better ideas. I’m free. Uncle Fred is like my reintroduction.
You also just dropped your self-titled mixtape BenjiHavinIt. Were those already-made songs or were they newly created over the quarantine?
Two of the songs were going to be on Uncle Fred. And then I ended up recording a couple of new songs. A few didn’t make it. The whole point in me putting out the mixtape is because the corona messed up so much that I wanted to get something out. So I took some songs that were really good enough to be on Uncle Fred. But that was like a quarantine mixup to let the people know that we’re working. People have been wanting music. I have visuals coming from the tape too, so that’s what we’re working on now. Every song that was on the self-titled project is getting a video.
What’s the first song that’s getting a video?
I know me and J’O are definitely shooting a video for “Day Dreaming.” That’s going to be the priority because that’s the one that people are liking the most. And then I’m definitely following up with “Intro (Oskii Gang).” Next will be “Pop Star” with Novascotia; we have to link up when I get back to the A. Atlanta is shutting back down, but hopefully, we can get back at it. I already have concepts cooked up.
How did you link up with the artists that are featured on the tape?
Novascotia, that’s my day one from back home on the Northside of Atlanta. That song just came about when I was in the A. We finally knocked it out.
Me and J’O have stuff in the stash. He’s right here in Syracuse so we’re always cooking up. To keep it real, we probably have a tape coming for y’all. With our chemistry, we can probably make hits every time.
And then Dai Glizzy. Free Glizzy, first and foremost. That’s a song that him and I had in the stash. I put that one out there for my boy. That’s where the features came in.
Uncle Fred isn’t going to be too heavy on features. This one was more of me showing y’all how I rap with other people. Every song is a different vibe. So that was my way of showcasing what I can do with whoever.
Your ability to bend words is apparent on “Pop Star.” Do you purposely focus on the rhyme scheme when you’re creating?
I can’t force myself to do anything. So yeah, part of me is purposely trying to do it. But it also has to happen naturally. On “Pop Star,” I knew Novascotia was going to come hard so I had to go a little bit harder. Once the vibe is there, it’s just going to come out. Every single time. It’s a mixture of both me trying and it being natural.
In “Oskii Gang” your flow is getting hotter and hotter as the song goes on.
Yeah, exactly, it’s the vibe of the beat. That’s what creates my words, literally. Not to even sound cliche, but it really is the vibe. That’s how I cook up the rhyme scheme and the flow on a beat. I like rapping on beats that change. I hate beats that stay the same If I can’t switch it up, then nine times out of 10, I’m not going to want to do the song.
A talent I have is being able to hear everything in the beat. I can hear the way a beat breaks down or changes. It ticks off something in my head. Then I come up with a flow and go an entirely different way. It keeps people interested in my verse. If I’m rapping one-two-three-four, I know whoever is listening probably doesn’t want to keep hearing that. So I might take it one-one, two-two, three-three, etc. That’s how I like listening to music. I like to hear things switch up.
What’s up next for you?
What’s next is just more music and more music videos. I also have something called throwback Friday’s where I’m remixing my favorite old songs and remaking them into my own. I’m going to start a poll so people can tell me what songs they want me to remix. I’m going to be doing more features too.
Me, DJ Execution, and a young lady named Nadia got a podcast coming soon. We have our own web series coming up too, just so we have a lot of content. But the podcast is in the works. We’re just trying to stay in a space where there’s no choice but to notice what we’re doing and what we have going on. I’m not worried about the music because it’s undeniable. We’re just going to have great content and keep working. I’m trying to get us up out of here, for real.
Be on the lookout for Uncle Fred. I hate that I have to keep saying that because I hate when rappers say that. I’m a fan of music too. But we have more visuals, more singles, and it might be another little tape coming before that project. That’s depending on how all of this COVID stuff goes though. We’re opening back up in New York so things will come faster and with a better flow. Follow me on everything; Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and even Snapchat. I’m going to be dropping, definitely.