When a hip-hop newcomer lands the coveted XXL Freshmen Class cover, the pressure’s usually on, but Decatur, Georgia rapper Jarren Benton wasn’t affected by industry pressure to deliver greatness.
Instead, the Funk Volume emcee focused on touring and developing a solid business plan with underground hip-hop veteran Tech N9ne and delivering a memorable body of work.
We got the chance to chat with Jarren on Slow Motion’s release day and the no-holds-barred artist gave us a very candid interview about his qualms with hip-hop, touring with Tech N9ne, and various music outlets exploiting Atlanta’s hip-hop scene.
Jarren also discussed what his life would be like if hip-hop didn’t work out for him, and the importance of family. Inspired by his late manager/friend Jahmal “Slow Motion” Pryor, who died in 2013, Jarren dedicated Slow Motion Vol. 1 to his late friend. Jarren’s also gearing up to hit the road to promote Volume 1, and finish recording the EP’s follow-up – Volume 2.
Check out our exclusive interview with Jarren below.
GlobalGrind: Now that Slow Motion is finally out, how do you feel?
Jarren Benton: It’s a relief in a sense. When you’re working on music you only know it’s good to yourself. I trust my ears. You just never know how everyone else is going to perceive the project. Being that it’s out and it’s getting a lot of good looks, I feel so relieved. So happy. So proud.
How much pressure have you been feeling since you were part of XXL’s Freshmen Class?
I don’t necessarily feel pressure as far as quality or ability. I put pressure on myself everyday to progress and challenge myself musically. The only pressure I felt was getting the material out. When I landed the cover my homie had passed away, so I was dealing with that and I was on the road with Tech N9ne and Freddie Gibbs. I was on the road for a minute. Got off the road and then got back on the road with Dizzy Wright. I was on the road for damn near half of the year. I felt pressure putting out something, but I didn’t want to rush and put shit out and it be bad.
How did it feel being out on the road with Tech N9ne? He’s a money-making machine.
Tech N9ne is that nigga. It was dope. I got to see how they move. One of the keys to success is to be very organized. I noticed Strange Music and Tech N9ne are organized to the “t.” Nobody is unprofessional. You got to run the music like a business. You got to be organized. You got to be on time. You got to know what you’re doing day-to-day. A lot of rappers adopt the rap mentality. Never being on time. Not being organized, but if you really want to be successful, you have to be organized and be professional.
How is it being signed to Hopsin’s label? He’s kind of all over the place, especially recently when he trolled everyone saying he was moving to Australia.
[Laughs] That was ridiculous. It’s the coolest shit ever. There’s no micromanaging. I feel like that’s the best way to manage artists. He might add in some advice. We’re really the bosses of our career. They let us take control of our own destiny. That’s a great place to be.
I’ve been in situations where n*ggas micromanage every fucking thing you do. Like, how are you a professional at what I do when you don’t do music? I get it, people think they know formulas, but the way music and the culture is going, there’s really no set formula. I think you should just be true to who you are. So that in a nutshell is, it’s fucking great.
How do you feel about all the new artists coming out of Atlanta?
I respect what everybody else is doing. I don’t necessarily fit in the category of the Noisey documentary, but uhhh…
Speaking of the Noisey documentaries, some of that stuff looks like future Federal Government evidence.
Wasn’t that the dumbest shit ever?
I was wondering who approved some of these scenes? The hip-hop police have to be all over this.
That’s how I took it. I sent out a tweet like, ‘thank you Noisey for not exploiting Atlanta.’ The one they did in Chicago was more like, ‘let’s get to the root of the problem,’ but the shit they did in Atlanta, I respect it, because I know a lot of niggas like that, but it’s so coonish. It was portrayed in one stereotypical fucking view of Atlanta. Everyone thinks like, ‘oh, look at the houses and there’s niggas in there cooking crack. And everyone looks like they’re damn near homeless with guns.’ And we just go to strip clubs every fucking day. Such a one-track view, and that’s the shit that pisses me off. If you want to do some shit on Atlanta, show that side as well, but also show the other side of n*ggas who aren’t like that; people who are totally engaged in progressing the culture. I thought we moved past this.
I know a lot of n*ggas in the streets and when a camera comes around, everyone is getting the hell out of dodge. Even when I’m doing a music video, some n*ggas don’t want to be on camera. Do not show drugs on camera. Do not show guns on camera. It’s like…I don’t know, n*ggas are fucking retarded (laughs).
What’s your relationship with No I.D.?
No I.D. had interest in signing me to Def Jam at one point, him and Don Cannon. Maybe 2011 or 2012, No I.D. flew me out to L.A. and he was pulling for me, but I don’t know what happened. The meeting went so well. Everyone was so fucking excited, and I’m usually the dude who doesn’t get my hopes up. I was like, ‘holy shit, this is really about to happen,’ but next thing you know, the phone calls stopped.
Have you spoken to him since then?
No. It was weird as fuck. I was in a movie theater, and I left the fucking movie to talk to No I.D. for like an hour. In hindsight, everything happened for a reason and I think I made a better decision going with Funk Volume.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
I used to be an exterminator and then I was also a dental assistant.
You were a dental assistant?
Yeah, ain’t that shit crazy? I definitely would be doing something straight and narrow, definitely nothing illegal. I’m done with those days. I got kids and shit now.
If you had to choose between a dental assistant or an exterminator, what would you be?
Honestly, I would’ve gone back to school and try to become a dentist. Their jobs are so chill, and they make a lot of fucking money.
What’s one thing that irritates you the most about the current state of hip-hop?
It’s that n*ggas are scared to be who they really are. Where n*ggas don’t live in their truth. They feel like they got to be extra hip-hop and extra tough. Be you. If you’re a lame, be a lame. Stop with the bullshit. That’s what irritates me. The fucking image n*ggas put on to sell records.
But then you also have n*ggas who really aren’t that weird, who try to put on that front, but when you converse with them, and you ask them about art or various genres, they don’t know fucking shit about weird shit.
What else do you have planned for 2015?
Starting next week, I’m going back in the lab to start on Volume 2 of Slow Motion. Then I’m going to hit the road.
PHOTO CREDIT: Funk Volume