Jarren Benton acknowledges his progression in life both personally and musically as he detail his struggles on his debut album, My Grandma’s Basement. Back in June 2012, when the Atlanta native joined the rebellious Funk Volume record label, he was not initially fully embraced by fans. However, he reflects on how this changed and how fans began to give him an honest listen.
“So initially when I first came out on Funk Volume, you know they were used to Hopsin and they were used to SwizZz,” Benton explained. “I don’t think I’m too far, too much from them, but at the same time I think Hopsin was changing his tone a little bit and he was doing ill mind shit, and I was just putting out a lot of outlandish shit. So I felt like they hated me because I would hear shit like I make meaningless music or my shit’s just Trap music, and I don’t a goddamn thing about being in the fucking trap. I don’t know. I just think they weren’t giving me an honest listen. I just think the more they got used to me, they started to give me an honest listen and that’s how it changed.”
Fast forward to May 2014 and Jarren Benton is now an XXL freshman, as the Funk Volume crew has made it on the list three years in a row (first with Hopsin in 2012 and then Dizzy Wright in 2013). Jarren Benton says that he has come a long way, but that he still has a long way to go. He also adds that he attributes the accomplishment of making it onto the list to the fans.
“Only reason I feel like I got there is just I owe all that shit to just fans, man…the fucking fans man and the people that support me, and the people that fuck with me. All of that, I contribute all that shit to them. That’s the only reason I’m on that bitch is because they go so hard for it.”
Jarren Benton On “XXL Freshman” List & “Independent Grind” Placements
HipHopDX: You’re currently on a 70-city tour with Tech N9ne and Freddie Gibbs. How do you think you complement their respective styles?
Jarren Benton: You know what, it’s a different element. I think I complement it because it makes the tour very diverse. For instance, you got Freddie Gibbs, and you know Freddie a gangsta. He on some gangsta shit, and then you got Tech N9ne. Tech is in his own fucking world. And then you add a different element like Jarren Benton—which is wild, in your face Hip Hop shit—so it’s a very diverse tour, and it reaches different core audiences. What’s dope about it is we all can merge fan bases. If you’re a Freddie Gibbs fan, and you never heard of Jarren Benton and you fuck with me, cool. Same if you’re a Tech N9ne fan and you never heard of Jarren Benton, then hey there you go. So it’s awesome, and there’s a little diversity if that makes any sense.
DX: In one of your past interviews, you joked about making it on the XXL “Freshman Class” list the following year, and you actually spoke it into fruition. How did you celebrate that, and how did you accomplish this goal?
Jarren Benton: Oh you know, I haven’t even celebrated yet, because I feel like I have so much work to do. I feel like I still have so far to get to where I want to go. I don’t ever know how far I am because I can’t see the road. I’m just walking ‘til I get there, so I hadn’t celebrated because I feel like it’s a dope accomplishment. I’m proud of it, but I feel like I can’t celebrate yet until… I don’t know. I don’t know. The only reason I feel like I got there is just I owe all that shit to just fans, man…the fucking fans man and the people that support me, and the people that fuck with me. All of that shit is them. That’s the only reason I’m on that bitch is because they go so hard for it.
DX: That sort of leads into my next question. In your interview with Brooklyn Martino, you said that you felt like everyone hated you or had something negative to say about you being signed to Funk Volume. How do you think you changed that perception if at all?
Jarren Benton: I think initially when you’re young, even when you’re old… I got a lot of older friends that’s like that—some people get so caught up to like music in a sense of like… what’s the word? I can’t even think of the right definition. I’m going to give you an example. For instance, you got people that say what’s real Hip Hop, what’s not real Hip Hop, what fucking rappers should talk about and what rappers shouldn’t rap about. Then you got people like myself that just love music. It doesn’t matter. I take it for what it is. Like if I listen to Waka Flocka, I’m not putting the same expectations or I’m not listening to it like I would to a Nas CD, but I enjoy both of them equally just as much. They give me a different vibe, so I’m not caught on that fucking what’s real Hip Hop, this that shit. I just enjoy the music and take it for what it is. But you still got young kids that are in that same frame of fucking mind, even adults. People have their definition of what real Hip Hop is supposed to be, and I just think people should just take it for what it is. Music is music. Enjoy it how it is. Everybody can’t be on the same shit, so initially when I first came out on Funk Volume, you know they were used to Hopsin, and they were used to SwizZz. I don’t think I’m too far, too much from them, but at the same time I think Hopsin was changing his tone a little bit. He was doing “Ill Mind” shit, and I was just putting out a lot of outlandish shit. So I felt like they hated me because I would hear shit like I make meaningless music or my shit’s just Trap music, and I don’t know a goddamn thing about being in the fucking trap. I don’t know. I just think they weren’t giving me an honest listen. I just think the more they got used to me, they started to give me an honest listen, and that’s how it changed.
How Fatherhood Inspired Jarren Benton To Launch A Rap Career
DX: That’s fair. One of your standout tracks on your latest project My Grandma’s Basement is “Heart Attack,” which is about a girlfriend leaving you for another guy and your emotional reaction. The track is reminiscent of Eminem’s controversial “Stan.” As a fan of Eminem, would you say storytelling is a skill you like to utilize in your music?
Jarren Benton: Hell yeah, I definitely say that, and that shit’s been popping even before Eminem. You could go back to like Kool G Rap, Rakim—all the greats were like great fucking storytellers in Rap. Even with Nas, I like how they paint pictures. It’s like you’re listening to it, but you feel like you’re watching it as well. You have no visual to it, but at the same time these words, you’re so in tune to the words and the description that they’re giving you that you fucking mentally see it. So I just think that’s just Hip Hop right there. I think that’s with all the greats. Even with Em, he’s a fucking dope storyteller. But yeah, that’s definitely some shit I love doing it. I did it on that song and a couple of projects and on a song called “Crazy Day,” a song called “24 Hours to Live” where it’s just like great, fucking crazy, ridiculous stories. So hell yeah, I love the art.
DX: Nice. Another standout song is “Dreams,” is about chasing your dreams in order to make it out of a bad situation. Now that you’re living your dreams as a Rap artist, what was your moment that made you realize you needed to do something different to make this dream come true?
Jarren Benton: Probably having kids, really. And even having kids, it made it seem like the dream was so fucking far away, and it seemed like it wasn’t even attainable. But I think I would definitely say the things that made me say, “Fuck it. I just want to make this shit happen,” was probably [my] kids, and I devote that shit to just working a lot of jobs. I had a lot of nine-to-five bullshit jobs, and it was just like, “Fuck these jobs.” It was like, “Fuck, do I want this to be my life? Fuck that. No.” And then I felt like this [is] the shit I do best. And I feel like I can only shine at what I do best. All that other shit I’m not that good at, so I don’t know. I mainly attribute it to just, I don’t know. Just fucking… I say [my] kids. That’s probably what really made me say, “Fuck it, let’s go.”
DX: For those today going through similar struggles, what advice would you give them?
Jarren Benton: Just fucking hang in there ‘cause you just never know. It seems like—when you got that feeling of hopelessness—sometimes it seems like shit’s never going to fucking turn around, but you never know. You just never know. Shit can turn around. Say you’ve been struggling for fucking 10 years, and you feel like, “Fuck it. I’m never going to fucking make it. I’m never going to get out this bullshit.” Let’s say that’s just been 10 years of your life, and let’s say you got another 40 years of life to live, and the rest of the 40 years of life are going to be fucking just beautiful. It’s fucking worth hanging on just to see that, so just fucking hang on.
How Jarren Benton Rapped For OutKast & Why Freestyling Is Important To Him
DX: Yeah, definitely. In a past interview, you mentioned a college radio interview and freestyle with OutKast and Goodie Mob. Can you revisit that and how much OutKast influenced you?
Jarren Benton: Yeah. Hell yeah. OutKast is like a hella big influence. OutKast is another one of those groups that I listened to. They were just so fucking creative and they just sparked so much other shit in my head, but when I was in that moment, it was like a little… I don’t know, I just felt I was a little fucking shocked. But I sucked back then, so I’m pretty sure whatever the fuck I was spitting was just completely fucking horrible [laughs]. So if I could rewind and look at it, then it would probably be the worst fucking rap ever in the world.
DX: You also mentioned no one would believe you, so did you go to school the next day telling people about your experience?
Jarren Benton: You know what? At that time, people did believe me, because OutKast weren’t as big as they are now. When OutKast was out back then in Atlanta, they were kind of like our hometown heroes. They wasn’t like the fucking OutKast that they are now. Now they’re fucking legends. Back then, they was just popping, so of course if you told somebody that you was chilling with OutKast, that didn’t seem far fetched. The shit seems unbelievable now, but back then, hell nah. I wouldn’t say nobody believed ‘cause like I said they weren’t humongous back then; they were fucking Atlanta heroes. So nah, it wasn’t that far fetched back then. Hell nah.
DX: Do you think he remembers?
Jarren Benton: I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t remember that shit ‘cause I got people that come up to me and ask me if I remember shit, and this shit was like a year ago, and I don’t remember. So I’m pretty sure that he’s not going to remember some shit that happened like 10 or 11 years ago.
DX: That’s interesting. In all of your interviews, you’re always down to freestyle, which is not as common for Rap artists of today and is widely criticized. How important is it for a rapper to know how to freestyle?
Jarren Benton: I think it’s important, but nowadays it’s really not important. I think it was some shit that was important back in the day, but now it’s really not important because motherfuckers don’t really listen to lyrics like that, so it’s like a lost fucking art. No one gives a shit. They just want to fucking…I don’t know… I just feel like it’s not that important now. It was important back then, but now it’s not, but as an emcee I think it’s important.
DX: Why do you think that’s the case?
Jarren Benton: I just think that music just changes dynamics; back then, that’s what it was about. It was about lyricists, it was about hearing some crazy witty shit, hearing some dope shit, but now it’s about… I don’t even know what the fuck it’s about now. Anything goes now, but back then it was just more so about that. It was more so about the art of rapping versus the fucking I don’t know… the popularity now. Now I feel its just a popularity contest.