Benny Cassette
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Benny Cassette: Hip Hop / Alternative / Experimental

"The Only Way Is Up"

By: Alicia Milburn and Lisa Anderson
Posted: 11/14/08

Inspiring, thought-provoking, passionate and hopeful are just a few words one may use to describe an artist with as much talent as Benny Cassette, a rising but already very accomplished hip-hop artist. His music is in no way the shallow, morally unconscious garbage that fills a lot of the airwaves. He is a refreshing and pleasant break from the norm. A mere conversation with him, in fact, bears witness to his overwhelmingly kind-hearted and upbeat personality.

In regards to his music, he writes all of it himself: "My music is like my diary," he said. Cassette recently finished a song called, "Working Man's Hero," featuring Mos Def and Willie Nelson. His music has also been featured on two of the "Fast and the Furious" movies as well shows like "Nip/Tuck" and "The O.C." and he co-wrote one of Eve's song which featured singer Tara Ellis and played on the premiere of Entourage. His debut album will be released next year by the record label Crimson World and distributed by Universal Music Group. But so far, his best experience was his performance in Africa on New Year's Eve.

Cassette's inspiration derives from an eclectic mix of music including artists like Willie Nelson, Miles Davis, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Beastie Boys, Outkast, and Will.i.am. "I love great songs," he says, smiling.

Cassette says that he officially became interested in becoming a musician in high school. There, he became part of a youth-performance group. "They did drama, they sang, but it was kind of corny," he admits. That is when he decided he could be the rapper of the group" "Every summer we'd go across country and perform." He said they went to various places, and sometimes prisons where. "I learned real quick how to cover stuff up because if you mess up there, on stage, you get boo'd."

He then explained some of the difficulties of becoming a musician. "I had no clue... I didn't grow up around industry parents. I grew up in Echo Park." So for Cassette, "it was a matter of survival." The Echo Park Cassette grew up in is not the one that people see today, "it was once a breeding ground for gangbanging and drug dealers." Perhaps this is why his music is so honest and full of content. Cassette also tries to stay close to his roots and visit his neighborhood when he can. He explained that "when you don't visit your hood, you end up just making art in a bubble." But as important as it is to stay in touch with your roots, he advises not to get caught up in them.

As of now, his motto parallels a song he just finished called, "The Only Way is up." The song arose from a phone call he got from a close friend who had just lost his girlfriend, didn't have any money, and had generally fallen into hard times. Cassette, to his friend's surprise, responded with congratulations rather than sympathy: "That's great," he said, "[because] when everything has all fallen down, you can only go up."

After the phone call, Cassette realized it would be a good song and started putting it together. "The best songs are the ones that come out in 10-15 minutes," he said. He adds that when it doesn't come to you like that, "sometimes you've got to fight to find the inspiration." He knows some artists who relax for several days, waiting to be inspired so that their work doesn't come out forced. That's fine for some, but Cassette explains that "you gotta get in there," instead of idly waiting around. For inspiration, he looks to the youth. "The biggest inspiration comes from when I'm in front of kids…you get up in front of some kids that have no connection to Hollywood and they're moved... there's nothing greater than that feeling." For youth who may also strive to succeed as an artist, he adds, "not everything is just overnight." "Everyone gives that same answer: don't give up on your dreams. But it's kind of true." "People hear about an artist and assume they just blew up over night," he said, laughing. "They don't know about the five years there was Top Ramen… and then the other five years there was Hungry- Man. Most people that don't make it give up too quick." Cassette feels that drive and perseverance are never easy but if it's your passion you just cant give up. "People have to really work to get everyone behind them. You're going to hear a thousand 'no's,' but the one 'yes' makes it totally worth it."

Cassette's struggles were well worth it, his accomplishments are reflected through the peaceful appearance of his home. The serene house, elaborately designed by his architect father, was filled with the subtle scent of quietly flickering candles sitting on a shelf near his computer. The studio is equipped with a great stereo system where he played some of his soulful yet upbeat songs. Cassette himself remained upbeat throughout the interview, showing an obvious passion for his music. As a producer, he says that, "It's seldom to meet someone and know you're going to work with them right away." The importance of establishing a good relationship between artist and producer cannot be overlooked, he emphasized. The new way of doing music is about owning everything yourself, from the song to the company that produces it. Cassette's label currently has three artists singed to it: Tara Ellis, Andy Grammer and Quest. By doing this he can focus on each one individually and make sure they are given the amount of time they need to rise to fame.

In the midst of his work, Cassette places a large weight on giving back to the community. He often holds community events at his house, during which "kids come over... learn virtues, then write music about it." Every Sunday at the Baha'i Center on 5755 Rodeo Road in Los Angeles, he hosts an "open mic" for which poets and artists of any background are welcome to speak and perform. "You gotta give to get," says Cassette.

Cassette strongly believes that, "everybody has a blueprint." "Even the homeless guy strung out on the street... he might not be fulfilling it, but it's in there." And Cassette feels that music is his blueprint: "Even if I couldn't make any more money off my music, which I hope is not the case," he adds with a smile, "it's cool, the world still may get something out of what I do so I would keep doing it."

In reference to contemporary youth, Cassette explained that "the biggest problem our generation has right now is being lost." He said this is one of the reasons why, "the [Barack] Obama thing is so phenomenal." Since Obama is so relatable, he explained, it makes us all feel like we have a little bit more control. "That's what most people are lacking in their lives: control." For Cassette, taking ownership of his life was not easy; though his dedication to music rather than college disappointed his family, he remained steadfast in his chosen path. With the interview wrapping up, Cassette returned to what he does best, his fingers hitting the keys of his keyboard as he was off again, making beautiful music and inspiring lyrics. Information and samples of Cassette's music can be found on both Facebook and MySpace, until his new album's release next year.
© Copyright 2008 Corsair - Corsair Newspaper


Discography

ARTIST

The Invisible Man Full length LP - One Recordings 2010
Watch Your Back - Fast and Furious Movie and Soundtrack
Be On Time - 2 Fast 2 Furious Movie
Burning - The Perfect Score Movie
Ballad Of Benny - The OC Television Show (Fox)
Rebel Rising - Entourage Television Show (HBO)
Lala Song - Nip Tuck Televison Show (FX)
Original music - FX Network Movie campaign
Wake Up - Justice League Video Game
Bogey Boys theme song - Warner Bros. Television
Fastlane, Money, - Hawthorne (TNT Network)
Transition music - Enoturage Television Show (HBO, current season)
Original Music - Protege sneaker commercial

PRODUCER / SONGWRITER

DMX - Cradle to the Grave Soundtrack - Sony Music
EVE - Here I Am (to be released) -Geffen Records
SHAKIRA - Animal City (B side/remix) - Sony Records
RY CUMMING - (to be released) - Jive Records
COMMON FEATURING WIL I AM- I Want You (remix) - Geffen Records
THE PROCUSSIONS full length LP - Rawkus/Sony Records
GHOSTFACE KILLAH - Milk 'Em - Def Jam Records
PACIFIC DIVISION - (to be released) Universal Records
DOUG E FRESH - Dollars (to be released)
WILLIE NELSON - Working Man's Hero' (to be released)
KODI HILL - (to be released) Jive Records
THE TWINZ - (to be released)
GIRLZ GIRLZ GIRLZ - (to be released) Wil I Am/Interscope Records
TARA ELLIS - Full length LP - Crimson World Music
ANDY GRAMMER Full length LP - Crimson World Music
QUEST- EP - Crimson World Music
PIGEON JOHN - Summertime BBQ Quannum Records
ROSELYN SANCHEZ- LP Sony Music
TIMBALAND - Indian Flute Remix- Interscope Records
KELIS - Kelis Was Here Jive Records
LAX BOYZ - Several songs, full length LP - One Recordings
KUMASI - Party Like A Rich Girl - Black Wall Street Music
DAVID JORDAN - Jeaolousy - Mercury Records
SWEET 88 - Several songs, full length LP - Independent
MAMS TAYLOR ft SNOOP DOGG Girl Gotta Girlfriend - Fontana/Universal
MAMS TAYLOR - Full length LP featuring T-PAIN, FAT JOE, GAME, LIL KIM,
E-40, PAPA ROACH, and ROBBIE WILLIAMS - Fontana/Universal
ESMEE DENTERS - Tennman/Interscope

Photos

Bio

Benny Cassette is a true enigma. A burning satellite, spinning an intricate web of controlled chaos, who loves to free style and create music people can get lost in. Both a trendsetter and a visionary, Cassette boldly challenges the status quo with his own distinctive Club/Rock hybrid genre, mashing up Hip Hop, Soul, Rock and Pop into the perfect sonic escape. He's a rock star creating his own movement, continuously pushing the envelope and championing the underdog, where the truth, heart and soul of the matter resides.

"There's too much stuff coming out of the factory and not enough stuff coming out of the laboratory."

Along with his diverse upbringing, personal stories of growing up in LA, and the soul searching in between, something totally refreshing in sound and message has been formed.

In fact, Dr. Dre, Eve, DMX, Timbaland and Mos Def have already taken note of the multi-talented songwriter/producer, whose eclectic musical taste and inventive style has led to collaborations with Eve, Will I Am, Shakira and emerging artist Tara Ellis, among others.

"To me, good music is good music. I came up in the LA hip hop scene listening to NWA and the Beastie Boys. On top of that, I grew up in a Latino neighborhood where I heard Salsa, Ranchero and Oldies. At home, dad listened to jazz, and at school kids either played rap at lunchtime, or rock after school."

He's a hip hop artist with alternative influences; a true iconoclast who understands that the right combination of people, create the right kind of magic. Case in point: For Cassette's anthem "Working Man's Hero", a tale of everyday life in America from his forthcoming debut album The Invisible Man, he put together country legend Willie Nelson with hip hop heavyweight Mos Def. Brilliant, you say?! Yet most people thought he was crazy. To Cassette, however, it was a no brainer,

"To me they represent the working man in their respective genres more than anyone," he says, adding "my mentality is to do whatever I have to do to get my point across, whether I'm rapping, singing, playing guitar or the piano."

Speaking the truth, giving hope and making good, honest music underscores Cassette's musical journey and artistic evolution. He wrote all of the tracks on The Invisible Man, a collection of 12 fresh, vibrant tracks slated for release early next year (2010) and also produced most of them.

"The album is the story of a kid who grew up in L.A., right in the backyard of the entertainment industry, but never really knew what was going on in that area," he says. "I went unnoticed for a long time, but now I'm telling my story through my music and challenging the status quo of what music is and where it's at right now."

Although Cassette loves the first single off The Invisible Man, entitled "DJ (Play My Shit)," which is quickly catching on in the clubs, he admits that the fun, ultra-kinetic "White Limousine" is his favorite track on the album. "I like the energy it brings and I like the idea of escape," he admits. "A lot of my music and themes are about transcending reality. I captured the idea of jumping into the White Limousine and having the ultimate party."

The Invisible Man also showcases his honest, lyrical depth. From dealing with gold-diggers in "All She Wants," to love-and-pain in "Heartbroken," Cassette skillfully guides the listener on a visual and emotional road trip. On "World Is A Ghetto," featuring Eve, he goes even deeper. He discusses the environment where he grew up, the eastside of Los Angeles, in a fertile gang and crime infested neighborhood known as Echo Park.

These combined elements make Cassette the truly unique, artistic entity that he is. He is indeed a product of his environment, and his experiences are most definitely the roadmap marking his soul. He's a standout artist, an innovator, and a supreme originator. "I want to take listeners somewhere completely different," he says. "I want to make them forget about everything else that's going on around them so that when they come back to reality, they're like Man that was crazy. I want them to feel like that all the time."

The Benny Cassette movement is here. Get Ready.