Delusionists Interview

I can’t take the credit for this interview as i didn’t conduct it but you should read it all the same. It was featured on the rather excellent hip hop blog Certified Banger. you may remember me posting their EP – ‘The Prolusion’ in May. If you missed it, Check it out HERE. It’s THE SHIT.

Certified Banger: Can you tell us your necessary background details so we can build on basics for the rest of the interview? For example: who you are, projects you have worked on, people you have worked with.

Ben Black: Ben Black aka Beanz aka that rapper/producer out of Delusionists. We dropped our debut EP ‘The Prolusion’ earlier this year, which was a strictly in-house production. Off the strength of that we’re starting to link with some other heads so we’ve got a few remixes and collabos bubbling beneath the surface… Some of it has come off the back of being on On The Radar 4 so big up to Certified Banger for that!

CB: What are your current or upcoming projects? ie albums, singles, tours, guest spots…

BB: At the moment we’re still pushing ‘The Prolusion’. We’re pressing hard copies of it and trying to get ’em in people’s hands at shows and when we’re out and about. There’ll be a few bonus cuts on there too – remixes and a couple of other things we’ve been working on lately, like ‘The Movement’ which we dropped a couple of weeks back. Oh, and a remix of ‘Parallel Worldz’.

The album is also well and truly in the works and I’m enjoying writing it and piecing it all together. I’ve produced all of our stuff myself so far but I’m taking a bit of a backseat this time and my boy Slim Pickens (UK All Day) has stepped up to handle a lot of the beats. He did The Movement and it instantly just seemed to fit, so we’re using that as the blueprint for the way forward. We’re also trying to hook up a few suprise collabos for the project, which should get people excited if it comes to fruition…

CB: How would you describe your sound? Is there any one track that would best define your style?

BB: Difficult to say, man! ‘The Prolusion’ was all about finding our sound really so you’ll find a mix of styles on there. Fast, slow, happy, sad, clever, ignorant… It kind of shows the full repetoire of what we could do at the time.

I suppose ‘The Evil’ sums us up best though, because it deals with two sides of a coin. It’s like a message to females saying “Look, I am a twat, I will do twattish things. But I KNOW I’m a twat and I intend to change’. A lot of hip hop deals with the first part, in that it puts a spotlight on the negative behaviour but doesn’t always acheive a balance by showing the other side. I suppose we’re coming from a similar angle to someone like Common – he’s said some pretty ignorant s**t in his time, particularly in his early career, but it’s always tempered with the conscious, insightful stuff. Some people would say that’s contradictory but humans aren’t one dimensional, so music should reflect that.

But yeah, you’ll hear a lot of cocky, bragging stuff from us because that’s what we enjoy, but you might just hear some deeper stuff if you listen close enough. I like the type of Hip Hop where you won’t necessarily pick up on things until you’ve had a few listens, so we try to make stuff that has a little something beneath the surface.

CB: Who have been your biggest musical influences and which Hip Hop artists have inspired you? Which are your favourite albums? What music were you brought up on?

BB: I was chatting about this to DBF (fellow Delusionists MC) the other day and we agreed that pound-for-pound Jay-Z has probably been our biggest influence over the years. Can’t say I’m too impressed with BP3 though…

Other than him, I’d say De La, Tribe, DOOM and Jehst have all been massive influences at various points in my development as an emcee. De La and Tribe because they showed that you don’t have to be “hard” to make proper Hip Hop. DOOM because I love the way he just seems to be having a laugh without being a corny punchline rapper. And Billy Brimstone because he’s consistently proved that a Brit can be up there with the best in the world, and that gives you belief!

I could write a huge list of my favourite albums but the ones that spring to mind? ‘The Score’, ‘ATLiens’, ‘The Chronic’, ‘Midnight Marauders’ and more recently Q-tips’ ‘The Renaissance’. And now I feel bad because I’ve left out loads of classic albums… ’36 Chambers’! Oh, and just to avoid being a complete cliche, ‘Illmatic’ probably isn’t in my top ten.

CB: What is your earliest memory of anything Hip Hop related? First rap track heard? First time you rapped?

BB: My earliest Hip Hop memory was my brother playing ‘The Show’ in the mid-80s. Inspector Gadget was my s**t at the time and when I heard that theme music mixed with that beat I was hooked from then on. I’ve got to thank my big bro really, for letting me watch them breakdancing movies with him and letting me ‘borrow’ his Eric B and Rakim records. Yep, I’ve still got ’em and no, you ain’t gettin’ ’em back!

I did fanny about with poetry for a bit but I wrote my 1st rap when I was about 10. It was for a school project about tbe Tudors. Henry VIII was the original gangsta! “F**k a pimp slap, cut that bitch’s head off!” Me and a few others performed it to the class and when i realised that I could get away with doing that instead of proper work there was no stopping me. Our next one was about Ancient Egypt and I’ve been writing gradually less educational rhymes ever since.

CB: Where are you from? Can you tell us a bit more about the Hip Hop scene there?

BB: Well, I’ve lived in West London for the last few years but I was brought up in Lowestoft (Google it). There wasn’t any sort of Hip Hop scene, other than a few of us who used to play basketball and listen to whatever The Source told us to. It was good though because it made me go out and seek Hip Hop culture and allowed me to have a fairly unique take on it without being influenced by friends or whoever saying this or that is what i should be into. I didn’t really feel that peer pressure to be into any acts in particular, because nobody else really had a f**king clue about Hip Hop. I think you also value stuff more if it’s hard to come by, y’know? Which is probably what’s up with things at the moment – you don’t even have to walk to the shop to get an album now, let alone pay for it! I can remember saving up for weeks just so I could go and get the Dogg Pound album when it eventually came out in the local record shop (about a year after it was released).

CB: What about the Hip Hop scene in general, UK or worldwide – where do you think it’s headed? Are things good/bad? What are your current philosophical thoughts on the current trends in rap music?

BB: Arrrgghhh! The current trends… Well, there is a lot of shit out there. That’s my philosophical insight! But nah, there’s always been rubbish out there, it’s just that now the rubbish is getting some exposure. I’m a bit suspicious of big name DJs getting behind acts that have their ads all over telly and the internet, like “You really like that? Really!?!”. Maybe I’m just being cynical but it’s a bit strange that you want to co-sign something with a big marketing budget but you don’t say f**k all about something of real quality like ‘The A-loop Theory’. That’s not supporting the scene, it’s damaging it by making the general public think “oh, so this is what British Hip Hop sounds like…”.

But I’ve gotta say, although it hurts to see hip hop bastardised and repackaged to suit the teeny boppers you can’t be that mad. I can’t lie, I liked Kriss Kross and MC Hammer as a kid – who didn’t? As long as there’s some balance I think Hip Hop will be okay, but if Gang Starr came back sampling 2 Unlimited I’d be worried. What’s reassuring is that hip hop will always rebel against itself. For example, there’s a lot of people trying to ‘Push the boundaries’ production wise and neglecting the lyrics a bit. But I think there’s a lot of fans who just want to hear some no-nonsense music and entertaining lyrics, which hopefully is where we come in.

CB: What process do you go through when writing a track? Do you start with a beat, a concept, a lyric that you thought of in the shower? What happens next?

BB: It’s any and all of those things! Quite often i’ll just hear a word or phrase and think “I’ve never heard that on a record” and I’ll think of something that rhymes with it and take it from there. That’s one way to stay original I suppose. More concept-heavy songs can take ages to write though. Sometimes a beat conjures a certain emotion and you want to do it justice so you have to choose your words carefully. I’ve just started writing to other people’s beats and that’s much easier coz you’re not thinking ‘That bassline’s a bit muffled” or whatever. You can just concentrate on the lyrics and let the producer take the blame if people don’t like the beat!

CB: Where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years, 10 years time? Is it an achievable goal?

BB: I want to be in a position where we can put out music from ourselves and others and have a fanbase that trust us to consistently put out strong product. If I can sort out the business side of things so i can do my bit for the artform and support my family, i’ll be happy. I know it’s gonna be a long, hard road but If I didn’t think it was achievable I wouldn’t bother.

CB: Any last words?

BB: Yeah, I haven’t had a chance to do the whole cliched shout out thing yet so… Big up all the people that have got behind Delusionists so far; Certified Banger (obviously), Disorda, HHC, HipHopHypeDog and all the bloggers, DJs and heads who have let us know we’re doing something right.

Also, shout out to the crew – DBF, Chantelle, Zombie Killer, PITMO, Mr Baker, Slim Pickens and King Hektah. Oh, and go cop ‘The Prolusion’ and keep in touch on Facebook or Twitter and check out the blog, Beats Laying About – it’s not exactly Certified Banger but we do our thing!

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