Benji Wild isn’t your average MC. Combining a potent mixture of the rawness of the street with polished, well cut beats that delve into Grime, Hip Hop, rock and a whole lot more, his newly found solo career is expected to get heads turning.
Benji was born and raised in Wales, a small country in the UK that has often lived in the shadow of England in everything from politics, sport, culture and most definitely music. This hasn’t quivered young Benji’s passion for his art and as part of the acclaimed Astroid Boys, he’s helped put Wales and in particular Splott on the map.
The Source caught up with Benji to talk about the elitism of British music, songwriting, the impact of prison on an artist’s career and more.
TheSource.com: Explain a bit about yourself for our US audience?
My name is Benji Wild. I’m 26 years of age and I’m an MC/rapper from Cardiff, UK. I’ve been writing and recording music since I was around 10 years of age as well as touring continuously around the UK and Europe with my band Astroid Boys since 2010.
Hailing from Splott in Cardiff, Wales how do you feel your social environment impacted on your art?
Splott and Tremorfa are good neighbourhoods in many ways. Growing up, I felt a real sense of community and I’m grateful for the youth centres and organisations that made the effort to keep us busy and give us direction. I come from a good family but I was always getting into trouble when I was out of the house. I grew up in a low-income area with a high level of unemployment and crime; it doesn’t take much to figure out how that goes. I have a perspective and I feel it’s part of my duty to channel that through my music and other creations.
As I go through lessons and chapters of my life it’s like therapy for me to put them into my music. The flow, the lyrics, the beats and the visuals all have to reflect the reality that I see, the mechanism that I use to understand and the inevitable manifestation of vision and progress. I’m hoping that will set a good example for the people I can reach.
You rose to fame as part of the acclaimed Astroid Boys wherein you described the band’s ethos as ‘A base for kids that ain’t rich to stage dive and act wild, it is what it is, wig out to radical music.’ Do you feel this is the case for most mainstream British music as an elitist clique?
I agree in a lot of ways. Grime and Hip Hop in the UK is a platform for many people. With Astroid Boys, we have a foot in the rock world and a foot in the Hip Hop world. We have been infusing sounds and genres to create music for the kids to lose their shit. I get to meet a lot of people from a lot of different backgrounds, I take the time to speak to them and learn things. Some people really do have a lot of stress and pressure in their lives but everybody deals with things in their own way. Some people like to kick off and go crazy at a gig and some people like to sit and listen and take in the vibe.
For me, it’s important to cater to as many people as possible. As long as people are listening to what I’m sharing then I’ll keep sharing.
If you had to name the single most important influence on your work, who would it be and why?
This a tough question so I’m bending the rules a little. I’m inspired by my team, not just the boys in the band but the people I work with daily like management, videographers, other musicians that I hang out with and all the other people around me who strive to be at the top of their game. This inspires me to maintain a particular standard. I won’t slack in front of those guys when I see how hard they are working and I know the same works for them. We keep each other feeling uplifted and positive and in return we get results. That inspires me. Work hard, stay positive and get results.
Your new single “Watch and Learn” perfectly captures the murky, dystopian aspect of suburban Britain. Talk us through the writing and production process and what you wanted to convey in the track?
I had Lewis Cullen set up a studio at my house to work on some demos for the EP. We wanted to create songs that set an atmosphere and pace and after walking around in the rain for an hour to find some food, on a pretty grey day, we sat at the house and started putting bits of the track together. I kept the flow simple on the first verse and the hook while at the same time maintaining the level of content and getting a little cheeky with it. The second verse was originally going to have the same laid back flow but I decided to switch it up and write something a little different. I wanted to show a specific perspective on British life in that song and video I think we managed to really get it right.
Did your time in prison give you an alternative perspective on life and change the way you create and perceive music?
Absolutely! Any person that goes through a life event as drastic as that will have a new perspective. I’ve grown in a number of ways and I used my time in prison to study and practice my art. Prison gave me a chance to step away from a busy lifestyle and look at my life objectively. I learned a lot about myself and had time to prepare for my new life. I knew what I had to do when I got out because I had already done it thousands of times in my mind and now I’m here doing it for real. I’m never going to put myself in a place like that again but I made the most of a bad situation and I feel that it was actually a beneficial part of my life.
What are your plans for the future and any messages for The Source?
I’m enjoying life right now. I wake up when I want, I make music when I want and I get to party on weekdays. I’m doing all the things I’ve ever wanted to do. I plan to keep recording music and playing shows, I have a lot that I want to bring to the game but I’m patient now. I’ve been home for just over one year and already I’ve got a serious amount of work done and I’m well prepared for the coming months. I’m just having fun and getting stuff done.