Benjamin A.D is doing his best impression of a phoenix. His short hiatus from music came at a time when his tracks were generating quite a buzz; so rather than rising from a career that went up in smoke, the 25-year-old is regenerating from his former self that to all intents and purposes was pretty burnt out.
“I got to the end of the ILUVLIVE regional tour and realised I wasn’t enjoying it any more. I felt like I was onto something, but didn’t quite have it yet. I’ve been spending all this time ironing out the kinks,” he says.
Always having the feeling that his music didn’t quite “sit anywhere”, one of the major adjustments he has made this time round is coming to terms with that fact and says: “I’m content with not really fitting in.”
“When you’re with a label, they try and get you to think a certain way to please a certain amount of people. You have to put your mind in a different mode to when you just used to make music,” says the Lewisham native.
Signed to Universal back in 2010, Benjamin says his situation was made difficult by the fact that his A&R/manager also managed N-Dubz. “To cut a long story short,” he says: “I felt I played second fiddle to them, which I understand, because they are going to make you a lot of money.”
Now independent he says: “I feel much better because the situation there took a whole year to get out of. After that I dropped a mixtape and it didn’t move mountains, but it got me a lot of praise and made me feel good because I put it out at a time I probably felt at my lowest.”
Benjamin is able to reflect back on those days in a way that sounds more insightful than bitter, and says: “It showed me a lot about life, not just about music. That approach has helped me not take things too personally because you can see them for what they are and not get in your feelings.”
With his eyes set straight on the road ahead, he is still able to look back at when he first started out in music as a grime artist at about 12-years-old. “I always loved to rap, but over here it seemed like grime was our version so culturally it made sense. When it got to about 2008 I was like ‘forget this, I’m too old to do grime.’ Everyone would be going around spitting the same bars over and over again, but I had written loads of bars – I didn’t want to spit just one,” he says before adding: “Plus, I’m not the most animated and I’m not the most hype, so the whole reload thing wasn’t for me.”
That said, Benjamin is quick to praise the genre for what it has managed to instil in him and others that had their beginnings in it. “When you look at how many people that are at the forefront and came from grime, there’s no doubt it’s a great teacher. You have to be really thick skinned because it’s very competitive, so I take stock in what it’s given me.”
Combining all of the lessons he has learned so far, Benjamin believes he is well on his way to becoming the complete artist. “There is a difference between being a good rapper and a good artist. It’s something I worked on because I knew I was a good rapper, but were my songs memorable? Am I picking the right beats? Can I bridge and transition from the verses and choruses properly?
“Long gone are the days where you would be sent a beat and the hook is already done and all you have to do is put 16s on it, that’s too easy. Nowadays you can’t just be a rapper because you’re not just a rapper. You need to have an ear for production and really know what you want else you will be placing your trust in the hands of someone that doesn’t really know what they’re doing which could be a massive mistake,” he warns.
Benjamin is a huge music fan and admits: “I’m weird when it comes to music because if I like something I will rinse it to death.” His musical influences range from D’angelo, Lauryn Hill, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Kendrick Lamar, Nas and Mobb Deep. Confessing to liking some of Young Thug’s music even though he can’t understand him all the time he says: “Sonically he has certain flows and certain melodies that make me wonder how he came up with it. I don’t know how much of it is artistry, or just being in the booth on lean freestyling.”
His musical ear lead to the creation of new single ‘Monster’s Ball’ produced by Toronto’s Junia-T. “I have been working with Junia-T, and one day I was on the phone in the other room and heard the sample and fell in love with it. I asked him to keep it minimal and that’s what he did. Another artist from north London called Skripture, laid the bass on it and it was just perfect,” says Benjamin.
Excited about what he has coming up this year, Benjamin says: “If you wanna hear organic music that has real thoughts and real feelings from real situations, you will like my music.”