Chicago born rapper Taylor Bennett, 18, has been repping his hometown since he dropped his mixtape “Mainstream Music” earlier this year-adding his touch to rising Chicago drill music scene. The rising star is already making a name for himself shutting down stages and selling out shows across the nation and on his freetime serving as a philanthropist with his family’s charity #SaveChicago. Taylor may be Chance the Rapper’s younger brother, but with his versatile flow, obvious infatuation with hip hop and drive to be the greatest he’s in a lyrical lane all on his own. Check out Taylor’s Artists on the Rise interview below as he dissects “Mainsteam Music;” talks the difference between he and Chance and his personal experiences with gun violence in Chicago.
You finished high school and jumped straight into the music. What made you want to pursue a career in music as oppose to heading off to college?
Well, starting around my junior year or so I began really focusing on music and dropped my first project the summer before senior year. Following that, I sold out 3 consecutive headlining shows in Chicago during my senior year at Urban Prep and made the cover of the Chicago Reader all while being a senior in high school. I originally had plans to attend Western Illinois but after Leor Galil of The Reader tagged me as one of the leaders of Chicago’s new school I felt like my time would be better spent here, working on what I do best.
Growing up in the Chi who were your musical influences?
Twista, Kanye West, Michael Jackson, and Nas.
Did your brother Chance the Rapper have an influence on your decision to become a rapper?
My brother being my brother has always influenced me, whether it has to do with music or anything else.Sure, Chance is Chance The Rapper now but we’ve always been brothers and we’ve always rapped so nothing is really that different now, the stages are just getting bigger. I have been patient with my decisions and looked at how he has gone about things because I do think he has been smart to this point but ultimately everything that I do happens because of the decisions I make along with the input of my team.
What would you say differentiates you; Taylor Bennett from Chance the Rapper?
He is more of an entertainer and I am an MC. I rap, that’s what I do well. Chance is the Michael Jackson of the family, dancing and singing while I lean more towards focusing on doing what I do best.
Let’s get into Mainstream Music, your sophomore project. What was the concept behind this?
The point of Mainstream Music was to create an entire project that never gets old. Every song on the tape has a different and unique sound, and they’re all mainstream sounds. I wanted to make a tape that was globally relative- to connect with my fans that felt what I felt at the time I created the tape. As well, there are a lot of voices from around Chicago on it: Lil Herb, Spenzo, King L. It was important to me to highlight all sides of my city because it’s viewed as so segregated. I think the project did a good job of establishing me as my own artist but I’m already working on the next one.
You have a versatile flow. On the “Intro” you give off an Eminem vibe with your speedy yet cunning delivery and punch lines. Then we get to “New Chevy” and it’s more of sing-songy flow.
Being the diverse artist I am- I can make 2 songs that will sound completely different. It all depends on the concept I’m aiming for in the song. It’s very easy for me to create a connection with my listeners because of the different sounds I’m capable of creating. I listen to music outside of hip-hop and try to bring aesthetics of other sounds, thoughts and ideas to what I do while staying firmly planted in rap music. It’s a kind of way to stay rooted yet explore.
One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Crème Brulee” feat. Lil Herb, the horns and snares are an unlikely compliment to your flow. But it works, what inclines you as an artist to take chances like that?
As a young artist surrounded by millions of rappers- you have to take chances. If for some reason you do make a mistake taking that chance then you learn from it and keep ascending- the key to being a great artist is to unlock unlimited flows because everyone has a different sensation… People are the wakes in an ocean of vibrations when the music flows. I know I have a foundation musically I can rely on so I don’t get scared when I take a chance in a rap.
You worked with Saint The Good Boy on a majority of the tracks what was that like and how did the frequent collabos come about?
Saint is the best. We work very well together, and we have a unique creation process. He always has a love for expanding himself and within collaborations we both have expanded our artistic palette. Were both doing what we love, and in the end we are just two creatives challenging and learning from one another.
I also love “Heartbreaker.” That track is mesmerizing as it features you singing and rapping. How important is it for you to have melodies on your tracks?
Melodies aren’t necessary, really. I could free style in my head and switch up the beat by the second or after 4 bars. Music is becoming almost as natural as air as i key with with on all senses, Just have to continue to be versatile and whether that means a melody, a larger drum, whatever, I’m very open to exploring new spaces musically.
Since releasing “Mainstream Music” you have been super busy, tell me about the reception.
I am very happy with the reaction that I got from the tape. It helped establish me as someone to really take note of, not only because of my name and my family. I’m only 18 years old- I’m still developing my sound, and growing as an artist. So far it’s been a beautiful organic process that consists of dedication and hard work by everyone involved. I think we got our foot in the door with MM and we’ve just continued to build from there.
You’re from Chicago and your family, specifically your dad is heavily involved in politics. How have you used your music to bring awareness to political issues like gun violence in the Chi?
My music creates a story which gives listeners an experience to relive with me, and it gives them leverage above real world situations which is evident in tracks like “Chiraq Dreamin'” or “God’s Children”. Chance and I have been big supporters of the #SaveChicago campaign. Earlier this year we helped call for peace around Labor Day and were able to go 42 hours without a shooting which is pretty unprecedented around here. I did a show last month as well as a benefit for local non profit Kids Off The Block which we raised enough money to help them re-open their facilities. Chicago is a political town, but right now I’m just trying to help out however I can.
How do you feel about the Chi-Raq labels? Have you lost any friends to gun violence?
I have lost friends to gun violence, and I believe without the drill movement then the world would not know how dangerous and violent Chicago is. This is real life for us. As far as the word “Chiraq” I think it’s used mainly by those that don’t live here either as a marketing ploy or to make some sort of point. Sure, we have our problems, but calling the city “Chiraq” isn’t going to solve any of them.
You’re a vital rising star among Chicago’s new scene of rappers, which is sure to play a significant role in hip hop. What would you like your legacy to be?
When it’s all said and done I want to be able to have had made enough of an impact with my music to be able to make a real difference in the world. Music is great but it is also a vessel and I want to continue making tracks that people can vibe with while also being able to tell stories for those who are unable to.
You released a new track, “Hatin” in August, it featured you with a staccato flow, but pretty much made it clear how u felt about naysayers. Are you feeling more “hate” now that your career is taking off?
There has and always will be haters around me, but I don’t let them get in the way of my success. Whenever we see anyone on Twitter or what not who seems to have an issue with me we always follow them and actually talk to them, see what’s up. That usually defuses the issue pretty quick.
You are already selling out shows across the nation, so what’s next for Taylor?
More music and more shows! My fall U.S. tour dates drop next week.
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