introducing south london ballet dancer turned mc, benny mails
We meet Benny plus his friends and family in the video for I Blocked My Dealer.
Born and raised in south London, Benny grew up with something of a split life. Listening to Nas and Wiley as well as the jazz and funk records his parents played at home, he spent time breakdancing (something which led him to encounters with b-boy legends Crazy Legs and Zulu Nation in his early teens) as well as studying ballet to a high level. As luck and time would have it, it turns out songwriting comes just as naturally to Benny as dance, his innate sense of rhythm playing out in his flow. Having already won over NTS and Majestic Casual, and with firm musical friends in the form of Jorja Smith and Loyle Carner, this one is pulling all the right shapes. His new track I Blocked My Dealer is an addictive genre blender written after he and a friend had crack smoke blown in their faces as they walked past a couple of strangers in Whitechapel. The accompanying video is full of friends and family, for a lot of whom the filming process was the first time they heard the track; their genuine reactions captured on camera.
Tell us more about I Blocked My Dealer...
I Blocked My Dealer was sparked from crack smoke being blown in me and one of my closest friends faces walking past some guys in Whitechapel, it was grimey, just the idea of it gave me chills and more ideas. I really held onto the thoughts running through my head at the time and decided to air them out on a track. I won't say I'm fed up with drug-rap (as long as Casisdead and Freddie Gibbs are about) but I Blocked My Dealer is one for the consumer more than the supplier. I don't know if there's a little less fantasy involved, who am I to hold back?
How did you move from dancing to music?
There was no clear transition, I ought to be honest and say 60% of my time spent working on music involves me out of my chair and moving. If I'm not, then it's on to the next song. It's simultaneously essential, counterproductive and irreplaceable.
And when and why did you begin rapping?
It was as simple as it had to be, aged 15 at a house party, being a confident little shit. Some of the rappers that I look up to the most were cyphering and I joined in. A week later I was working in the studio with the one musician/producer I looked up to the most. 'twas romantic.
How do you define your sound?
Dense and free, there's a special layer of pressure that sits on top of all the songs I write that are closest to my heart. I'm an advocate for music that's not easy to listen to and I have no intention of changing that with force. My anxiety is often spewed on top of my verses. I'm too picky with my beats.
Where do you feel you fit in the UK scene?
As an observer more than anything, I'm always ready to clash, collaborate and call shots where needs be. I've already been embraced outside of the limelight in London, I do wonder who and what will embrace me once I have told my side of the story.
In what ways do you feel south London has shaped you and your music?
It's thickened my skin, you see things in Thornton Heath that you don't see on Worldstar.
You're a dancer. Presumably that helps your flow?
Pockets in the beat, for your words and your feet. Yes.
What do you want to say with your music?
Knowing my thoughts and feelings are here to stay longer than I am, I'll happily take responsibility for my word. If I don't speak my mind on the status quo today, the bars I write tomorrow will feel like a catch-up. Maybe I'll get myself banned from the U.S in the next four years, who knows.
What's the plan?
To see where giving my everything gets me. Then experiment further from there.
Text Frankie Dunn