By Joseph 'JP' Patterson
Moments after Laura 'Hyperfrank' Brosnan and I finished interviewing Benny Banks on-camera for MTV UK last year, we both looked at each other with a 'he's gonna go far' glint in our eyes. The Islington-bred rapper is confident in his musical ability, yet he still comes across as a humble character from the hood who decided to choose overtime in the booth over working ungodly hours in the trap house.
Banks decided a long time ago that he was going to leave enough space in the atmosphere for his rap colleagues to indulge in talking about poppin' champagne and a lifestyle that they’re probably not yet accustomed to. Instead, he gets the party poppin' with Molly and continues to get past life experiences and grievances off his chest.
"Bada Bing" was Benny Banks' first release on Warner Records in 2012, and it was the breakout track that he truly needed. Although it was unable to enter the top 40 singles chart, success came in the form of mainstream radio playlisting, music television station rotation, and respected music critics allowing him to feature in their magazine pages and online column inches. "I've only just begun," he says...
I am… Benny Banks, and I tell my story through my music and don't hold back. I think I paint a real picture of how a lot of my generation grew up, and the situations and influences we encountered growing up. I pretty much represent everything that represents me. Eminem was a big influence. He was the reason I started listening to so much rap. 50 Cent kinda came as part of the package as well. I guess they just had good stories and, sometimes, that’s what matters the most. I used to rate Nas and Cassidy, too, but things change [laughs]. I can’t forget Styles P. Oh, and Uncle Murda… That’s it for now, otherwise I’ll go on forever. But yeah, they’re probably the ones who influenced me the most.
My music is… It’s truthful, because I’m a truthful guy. My imagination isn’t wild. I don’t go over the top, because rap is meant to be real. I guess I'm mainly just into telling my own story and not someone else's. Sometimes, I might just rap about chillin' with a girl, smoking weed, and you know what [laughs]. If that’s what I’m doing at the time, then that is what I’m gonna tell you about. Like, I’ll never turn it into 40 models and a penthouse, or anything like that – that would never happen. In general, I hope people get a good vibe from my music and familiarize themselves with me. I’m pretty sure my story isn’t far off from a lot of other people’s around the UK. It's good when someone tells me, 'I relate to that lyric, and it lets me know that I'm not the only one who has been through situations and has views on the way we live.' Music is so powerful, man.
I’m currently listening to… Drake, because he always pulls something fresh out the bag. Meek Mill as well, but that goes without saying. A$AP Rocky won me over when he murdered the "Yellow Tape" song with Lil Wayne. Nipsey Hussle is my guy too, he’s the truth. Over in the UK, Joe Black is back with some strong sh-- for 2013, believe me! Then there’s Nines (CRS), who is shutting things down – he’s got punchlines for days! I’m also rating Wholagun, I feel his pain. And Sneakbo. I’d say watch out for Crime, SRG and Propane this year. Their new stuff’s got me gassed!
My competition is… [Laughs] I'd give any artist a run for their money, and that’s the truth! Come on, man.
UK rap is… On the up! It's an exciting scene and there are a lot of strong names in the game. USA, you’ve gotta watch out for us. If everyone came together, it would be mental! But how likely is that, though? Maybe one day, eh?
My favorite release so far has been… "Bada Bing", as it’s my memory of things changing. I had never made a song like that before and, initially, I never saw it as being 'me'. But it’s what got me out there, so I’ve gotta love it. My favourite mixtape, though, has got to be Patiently Waiting Vol 2. It was fun to make, and it definitely let the new fans know some of my story.
My new CD is… Currently in the works. I’m not gonna let too much off, just know that it’s sounding dope and lets you know more about my life. I can’t wait to finish it! Good, truthful music is the main aim.
My plan for the future is… To do as well as I possibly can and staying true to myself. The way I see it, I just need to keep on working and take it as it comes. If I can keep on delivering, when the time is right, I foresee a successful career for myself.
RapFix's 'UK Rhymer Of The Month' is a column by UK-based music journalist, Joseph 'JP' Patterson, designed to give us a closer look at hip-hop across the pond. Stay tuned.