Wrap Up And Watch Out: Benjamin Ad
Hailing from Lewisham, South London, Benjamin AD is the latest signing to Universal's 2wo7even division. His track, 'Sunday Stuff', caused a stir on Channel AKA a couple of years ago and stylistically, he's been compared to both J. Cole and Lupe Fiasco. The Wrap Up's James Walsh caught up with the grime-turned-rap artist to discuss his musical influences, signing to a major, his new single and more...
The Wrap Up: Nice to meet you, Benjamin. Going back to the start, who would you say were your earliest musical influences?
Benjamin AD: I was a big fan of Nas. I write consciously about the harsh realities of life and studied rappers like Styles P and Mobb Deep. Stevie Wonder was also a big influence, there's just so much essence in his music.
TWU: And how did you first get into rapping?
Benjamin AD: I always wrote poems, short stories and liked to use words when I was really young. Then when I was in secondary school, I got into the grime scene and people in my area started to take notice of me. Then at college I'd spit before lessons and sell mixtapes, I used to make a killing from them (laughs). Grime’s a great platform for UK artists to express themselves, but I never really fitted into that genre – I was always more of a rapper spitting over a grime beat – so towards the end of 2009 I started jumping on rap instrumentals.
TWU: At what point did you think you could make a career out of music?
Benjamin AD: People in college would always tell me how good I was but, back then in 2007, I didn't really think it was viable – there was nobody out there doing what I was doing who was really making any money from it. The scene has grown a lot since then and in university the reaction I was getting from people really encouraged me to pursue it. I didn't want to regret not having ever tried to make it.
TWU: And how did it develop from there to signing with Universal?
Benjamin D: I met a guy at university, Prince, who was a post-production video editor. I told him that I could spit, he liked what he heard and we started making videos together. We were on a small management company at the time, just trying to get a buzz going for my brother, Young Adz. We did a track together called 'Dope As It Gets', shot a video for it, got it up on Grime Daily and people started going mad for it. My brother was about 14 and Pierre from Grime Daily called to tell us that Rich Costello, the manager of N-Dubz, was trying to get hold of him. We had a meeting and what he had to say was real confirmation that what we were doing was good. The perspective and goals he showed us, which were achievable, was crazy for us to get our heads round.
TWU: So, you didn't get signed right away?
Benjamin AD: No, but thankfully a couple weeks later Rich called me into Universal and asked me to bring a CD, and it was then that he told me he wanted to sign the both of us. He took me round the building, I met Semtex and we all started rolling together to see what happened. There were no contracts at this time, and I kept my feet on the ground, but it was all cool and went through about 8 months later. There were other labels interested, but it made most sense to run with Rich and Universal. Normally, people get their buzz and then get signed, but I've done it the other way round.
TWU: Tell us a bit about your new single, 'I Just Wanna Know'...
Benjamin AD: I wanted to write something for both the girls and guys. It's part of a trilogy of songs and is about the feeling out process you have at the start of seeing someone new, trying to get to know them and if they're worth your time, making sure you're both on the same page before getting too involved. The second in the trilogy is about locking that girl down and the final track, 'Let You Go', deals with the break up process, learning to be without someone. I can do punchlines, but I pride myself a lot more on what's being said, lyrically. Freestyle lyrics aren't timeless, songs are timeless, they help people get through bad situations and that's a lot more important.
TWU: And finally, what can we expect from Benjamin AD over the next few months...
Benjamin AD: The trilogy of tracks is on my new mixtape, 'Chapter 0.5'. It'll be a free download and is solely me, no collabs. I want to be respected for my own vibe and show people what I've got. That'll drop early 2012 and the mixtape after that, ‘Chapter 1’, is finished too. There's a track on there with Bluey Robinson you'll need to look out for. I'm not really using them to try and gain a buzz, but to reinforce and solidify the belief that the fans, who are already there, have in me. I know that when they hear it they'll tell their friends to tell their friends.
Stay up to date with Benjamin AD on Twitter - www.twitter.com/Benjamin_AD
Words: James Walsh (@JW_DittoMusic)
Online editing: Joseph 'JP' Patterson (@Jpizzledizzle)