Bill: You are heading here to the US to do shows. Have you toured in the US before?
Ben: Yeah, I came to South By Southwest with my first record. I've done the Bowery Ballroom. I've done a show in L.A., but it was pointless what I've done with my first record. It was just pointless. I'm like this English white kid with an acoustic guitar rappin'. No one would listen to what I had to say or even give my lyrics a chance because of my accent.
One of the problems I had here when I first started was we had the UK hip hop purists, the backpackers, that said hip hop is two turntables and a mic. As soon as you have any live element like a guitar it's not hip hop. So when I first came out over here the UK hip hop minority f**kin' hated me and dismissed me. I managed to break down that barrier for a time just through beatin' these motherf**kers in my lyrics.
Now when I tried to do that in America it was the same thing obviously. You can't play guitar and rap over the top of it. And you can't be an English white rapper and do that either. I had everything countin' against me. With this record I'm not comin' with straightforward hip hop, I'm comin' with soul with little elements of hip hop. I think people, hopefully...the only way it can work in America, cause it may not work, but the only way it can work, the only chance that I've got is if people will love the soul music I make so much that they will be a lot more open-minded to the element of hip hop that is within this soul record. This is a soul record that is presented by a rapper which is why it's Plan B Presents...The Defamation Of Strickland Banks. This is my interpretation of what I think Motown soul music is coming from a rapper.
Bill: Are there any key artists that have influenced your music?
Ben: Yeah, I think Eminem made it OK for me to be a white rapper. I think before that even I felt and I was made to feel by black people that hip hop wasn't something that I was allowed to do, and he came and destroyed that. Then recently Drake was the only rapper outside of the US that kind of smashed it in such a big way. For me he is the best. He is the best rapper now. There's no one touching him. There's no one coming close to him, and he's from Canada, and I think before Drake, a rapper wasn't allowed to be from Canada. Your life wasn't hard enough. Your life wasn't real enough for American people to listen to your rap music.
Time goes on and themes get so stagnant and inundated with bullsh*t to the point that people just get pissed off. I think that's why Eminem broke through. I think that's why Drake broke through. I think the next taboo that we need to break is UK rapper. Or you f**kin' know what? I'll say it. Gay rapper. You know what I mean? What's the next thing after that? What is the next thing after that? As people are forward thinkin', they're movin'. I think right now I have as much chance as a gay rapper trying to make it in America right now. For real, because people look at my act and say, "Nah, I'm not havin' that," but as soon as I start singin' soul, it's a different story. At least, I hope it is, because if this record doesn't break in America then there's no point in me ever comin' back in my eyes. There's no point.
I've made it here. I think I can kind of say that I'm probably set up for life now over here in the UK, and I don't do this for fame. I don't do this for any other reason than I love art. The only reason money means anything to me is because in order to make the art I want I need the right kind of budget. I can't be makin' the kind of art I wanna make on a shoestring budget. So success is important to me only for that reason. If it doesn't break in America, you know it's not the end of the world for me. Honestly, I would love for it to happen across the pond, but if it doesn't, I'm cool, man. Now I can pay off my mum's mortgage. I can make a bit of quality of life for my family. They've kind of had to struggle all these years. My mum has been workin' very hard to support the family as a single mother. Those are the things that are important to me, and I can do that now. And next year I can do that tenfold.
The only appeal that America has to me is connecting with more people on a human being level writin' music that hopefully they will grow up listening to. Music that will hold a place in their hearts in a personal way, and it's not because I want to be the celebrity sittin' there crackin' bottles of Cristal champagne and livin' it up. That just ain't me.
Bill: That is all that I had to ask. Is there anything you would like to add?
Ben: I wanna say if you feel like you're bored of music right now or in the past five years you've been bored of music and there's nothin' coming out that touches you the way that music touched you when you was a kid and you was growin' up. The sh*t you was listenin' to like to me it was the Prodigy and Rage Against the Machine and Eminem and sh*t like that. If you feel like there's nothin' out there that's doin' that for you, take a chance on me. Yeah, I'm from the UK. Yeah, I sound different, but my head and my heart's in the right place. When I rap, I make sense. I don't chat sh*t. I don't chat about hos and money and rims. I talke about real sh*t. If you're willing to take a risk on me and leave all your prejudices behind, then I guarantee that 90 out of 100% of the people that listen to my sh*t if they really let all those prejudices go, they're gonna get somehing out of my music, and they're gonna feel like its money well spent. So just give me that chance.