When it comes to Atlanta’s hip-hop scene, ratchet, bass-heavy and twerk are a few of the typical words that come to mind. But like Kanye West staying quiet in his seat after an Album of the Year upset, something out of the norm can occur. In Jarren Benton‘s case, he’s bringing a breath of fresh air to the recorded standard — not a bad trait to have.
Due to his solid lyrical stylings, Benton earned the prestigious title of XXL Freshman in 2014. Two years prior, he signed with fellow Freshman alumn Hopsin’s indie label Funk Volume and had more than a few mixtapes under his belt — Huffing Glue With Hasselhoff and Freebasing With Kevin Bacon are the most interesting due to their titles alone — before he graced the magazine’s cover.
The Decatur, Ga. native has come a long way from the days when he was causing his mother and grandmother daily “hell” — he was kicked out of school on a regular basis. But his love for hip-hop and the need to put his artistry over everything came with a price. Benton said he was “too old for this s—” at some point and calls his youthful passion for acting up “selfish.” Now he’s older, wiser and moving toward his goals at a rapid pace.
Slow Motion Vol. 1 may be the name of his first project of the year, but his work ethic is far from being at a snail’s pace. Inspired by the death of a close friend — the EP is named in honor of his former manager and friend, Jahmal “Slow Motion” Pryor, who died in 2013 — Benton is dropping songs and accompanying visuals vigorously.
The trunk-rattling vibes of “Diamonds & Fur” and the bold lyrics of “Killin My Soul” featuring Hopsin and Locksmith prove Jarren Benton’s music isn’t for the wall flowers; this is the kind of music for people with passion. The MC opens up to The BoomBox about his new material, breaking the mold when it comes to Atlanta hip-hop, the price he paid for success and the serious side of Slow Motion. Get involved in the conversation below.
The BoomBox: You’ve never been shy about letting people know you enjoy doing music your way. You use your music to let people know who you are. Who exactly is Jarren Benton?
Jarren Benton: I’m a fusion [of things]. In life, sometimes we’re sad… sometimes we’re mad. Sometimes we like sitting on the beach, and sometimes we don’t. I never figured that question out. [I] can’t put a category on myself.
You also listen to some out-of-the-box musicians for inspiration. Who are those artists?
I used to be really f—ing into [Marilyn] Manson and Trent Reznor [of Nine Inch Nails]. I got a love for rock just like I like hip-hop. I started getting heavy into Radiohead. I’m still heavy into Radiohead. I just don’t… have a voice to pull off rock, so hip-hop was easier to pursue. You’ll see my catalog and you’ll be hella shocked.
Watch Jarren Benton’s “Diamonds & Fur” Video Feat. R. City
Aside from your rock affinity, you say your new EP, Slow Motion, has a “different vibe.” What do you mean by that?
What I mean by different vibe is that…most people know me from just being hella outlandish [with] videos [that] are always like crazy as f—. I just wanted to tone it down. The name of the album is called Slow Motion. My homeboy who passed [away] is called “Slow Motion.” So I wanted to dedicate it to him. I touch on a lot of serious [and] personal s— on the album, but it’s still got the aggressive tone to it beat-wise. Lyric-wise, I’m opening up a little bit more on this one.
You don’t fit the typical mold of what fans would expect from Atlanta. Is that a true statement?
I’m really just being honest about who I am and what I’m feeling at that moment. I’m totally different.
One thing that will always be heard in hip-hop is rappers’ definition of success. You switch things up on “Diamonds & Fur” by using the shiny chains and fur coats as a metaphor for success and the screwed-up mentality that it can create. Has your way of thinking always been that way?
When you think of diamonds and fur, you always think of [being] rich and wealthy. I have some furs on deck, but you know they might be fake, but we’re gonna get some real ones [eventually]… but I’m not necessarily on a quest for diamonds and fur. [The song] is a metaphor for it all in general.
In the track you spit the line, “My mind was thinking so f—ed up / I put hip-hop before anything.” Did you find a point where you were so caught up in the grind that you think it effected you negatively?”
Hip-hop was my mission back then. I don’t think that is the wrong mindset to have. It was a selfish mind state, but that was my mind state back then. I would be the n—- with no job, just a struggling artist. It’s like damn, you’re sacrificing everything for this s—.
So you made everything in life secondary to your music. What’s it like looking back on something like that?
At the end of the day you lose so much. And the s— you lose on your quest… when you get to somewhere where you think you’re satisfied, you’ll look back and realize you’re not satisfied because you lost so much other s— [in the process]. That comes back to haunt you. Then it’s like, damn, all this just for this? My mind is way different now, but at that time, that’s exactly where my mind was at.
Watch Jarren Benton’s “Killin My Soul” Video Feat. Hopsin & LocksmithSee 10 Most Anticipated Rap Albums of 2015