I stumbled upon Oswin Benjamin‘s┬ámusic on SoundCloud a few┬ámonths ago, and was genuinely disappointed that I didn’t do so earlier. How could I be missing out on such good music? The message-filled verses, the double entendres, the imagery?
About a week ago I met with Oswin Benjamin, church singer turned rapper,┬áin Madison Square Park for an interview to ensure that less people miss out on Oswin’s organic humbleness and verbal wizardry.
Check out our conversation below.
P: In one of your freestyles, you spit the line ÔÇ£Treat my pen like a gymnast flipping these metaphors.ÔÇØ ThatÔÇÖs exactly what you do you flip metaphors and create vivid images. What is it like writing a song for you?
┬áO: You mean the process? ItÔÇÖs weird, itÔÇÖs really sporadic, it comes outta nowhere like I could see this guy walking in a black shirt and a gecko on his shirt and thatÔÇÖll spark a line. ItÔÇÖs not a concrete way to like start stuff, cause creativity could come from anywhere, it could be in the train, it could be looking at nature, it comes from anywhere. Just even like sitting next to somebody on the train and having a conversation that spark a whole song.
P: Staying on the subject of freestyles, one freestyle in a school cafeteria made you start taking this rap thing seriously. When you freestyle now is at much as rush as that time? WhatÔÇÖs going through your mind?
┬áO: ItÔÇÖs a lot different now. I feel like itÔÇÖs a lot more pressure now cause I know that, I see the increase in the numbers for the listeners so now, when I write, it shouldnÔÇÖt be any pressure, but it is, cause now I canÔÇÖt just I gotta really really sit down and think about lines I want to write and really try to bring different lines together and make everything cohesive. So I feel like itÔÇÖs more a pressure now than it is a love.
P: ┬áWhat is your definition of soulful and purposeful music?
O: I feel like soulful music can be broken down into different parts. It could be sound wise and it could be feeling wise. I feel like for me I characterize soulful music as genuine music that comes from the artist, and I feel like itÔÇÖs soulful cause it comes from me. And I feel like itÔÇÖs purposeful because..itÔÇÖs purposeful in a sense that I know what I want to say, and I know how I want to say it, and I know the response that I want from it. I donÔÇÖt want it music strictly for people shaking they ass in the club or my whole purpose is for people to know that IÔÇÖm an human being at the end of the day. And what I struggle with, trying to be the righteous guy and being the ratchet guy, you know what IÔÇÖm saying. My purpose is just to push that message of humanity of being a human being, and itÔÇÖs ok for you to have moments where youÔÇÖre you know what IÔÇÖm saying.
P: Is there anything you wouldnÔÇÖt speak about in your music? And if so, why?
O: Absolutely not. I talk about everything from relationships with, family, my parents, my girlfriend, STDs, whatever, you know what IÔÇÖm saying. Anything that I go through, everything that I experience, I write about it. ThatÔÇÖs like my way of escape, thatÔÇÖs my way to vent so I write about everything, thereÔÇÖs no subject thatÔÇÖs not touched.
┬áP: In your track ÔÇ£MiracleÔÇØ you say the line ÔÇ£Protect me from my enemies, especially the ones befriending me.ÔÇØ Before you referenced howÔÇÖs thereÔÇÖs more listeners and youÔÇÖre gaining more of a fan base, now that like slowly coming up more and more are you realizing that some of the people around you arenÔÇÖt as genuine as you thought they were or is your squad solid?
O: Nah, I keep a really small circle like extremely small and the people that IÔÇÖve been with, they been with me for the past 6 years, and whoever comes along the way now, like through conversation and through just interaction you could tell whoÔÇÖs genuine and who not. You could tell whoÔÇÖs trying to get something out of it. But for the most the people I keep around me theyÔÇÖve been the same since the beginning. My manager has been doing this with me from the beginning and he hasnÔÇÖt changed up. You know people around me havenÔÇÖt changed up.
P: In your track track ÔÇ£The Soul Pt. 2ÔÇØ you say the line, ÔÇ£The real me is so ugly would you still love me?ÔÇØ Does that line come from a place of personal vulnerability or from things youÔÇÖve observed around you?
O: I feel like that came from things IÔÇÖm observed of myself. That line specifically, it was for a relationship I was in, and it was just like I was battling between being monogamous or talking to these other girls. But itÔÇÖs just like if I were to expose that side to my partner at the time just like, ÔÇ£Would you respect the fact that IÔÇÖm being real with you or would you not?ÔÇØ So that was an internal conflict that I was having with myself in that line specifically. It was just like, ÔÇ£Yo I know the real me, but you donÔÇÖt, you put me on a pedestal to be this guy, and I donÔÇÖt know if I could be that guy, but if I show you who I really am is the love gonna remain the same?ÔÇØ
P: I understand that you’re from a lot of places: Brooklyn, Newburgh, the Bronx, Yonkers. How do all of those places influence your music? And does one place influence your music more than the other?
┬áO: Yes, theyÔÇÖre all like really different. Newburgh was really suburban so I was around a lotta, when I was upstate in Newburgh I was around my thoughts a lot I didnÔÇÖt a lot of things. When I moved down the city, when I moved to the Bronx thatÔÇÖs when I started really living life and interacting with different people, and I started seeing life for what it really was outside of my imagination. So I feel like theyÔÇÖve all contributed to the music just in different ways. Like I was able to be in a place of solitude and really focus whatÔÇÖs going on within myself when I was upstate. When I move out here I really able to zone in on everything thatÔÇÖs going on from homeless people, to people asking for money on the train, to the pretty girls with the low self-esteem, the everything. I was able to see that first hand, and I was able to write about that a lot more vividly than I would if I was upstate cause I didnÔÇÖt have that interaction with anybody.
P: I understand that your forthcoming project is named Protect Your Soul can you tell me a little bit about that?
O: Alright, the whole basis of the project itÔÇÖs, back in the Plato and Socrates days they would have conversations and they would talk a lot about the Bronze soul, the silver soul, and the gold soul. The bronze soul is pretty much the majority of society, the people that really donÔÇÖt have that common knowledge of the right and the wrong. The silver soul would be the people who are kind of more enlightened. And then the gold soul would be people like the kings and queens. And Protect Your Soul is pretty much my journey throughout the bronze soul, the silver soul, and the gold soul. And you hear it in the music too. Like in the beginning itÔÇÖs me being ratchet, human Oswin, and as the project progresses itÔÇÖs me coming to the consciousness that the things that I felt were important are really not important. And the things that are important are the things that people donÔÇÖt normally pay attention too. But through it all itÔÇÖs still that thing of humanity where even as IÔÇÖm approaching this gold soul persona, IÔÇÖm still conflicted with wanting to be a bronze soul because itÔÇÖs so fun to indulge in those things. So itÔÇÖs a journey.
┬áP: You kind of touch upon it in your track ÔÇ£Hadassah,ÔÇØ but what are you trying to protect your soul from?
┬áO: That’s a good question. ItÔÇÖs a lot. Ultimately I want to protect my soul from pride, from evil. I want to be able to not be swayed or make decisions based on how I feel but off of what I know is right, you know what IÔÇÖm saying. I want to protect my soul ultimately from the self that IÔÇÖm battling with, you know what I mean. So thereÔÇÖs this place where I want to be, and itÔÇÖs the place where IÔÇÖm at, so itÔÇÖs the conflict. I want to protect my soul from the place that IÔÇÖm at, but I need to go through the things now for me to get a place where I can protect my soul from the place that IÔÇÖm at. If that makes any sense.
┬áOther interesting things about Oswin Benjamin:
Check out more of Oswin’s tracks here!
Follow Oswin Benjamin on Twitter here!
Follow Peneliope on Twitter here!┬á
Image via Oswin Benjamin.