Taylor Bennett is a multi genre musician from Chicago, he has this ability to squeeze hip-hop lyrics into pop songs, but he also refuses to use samples, and enjoys using real instruments for it all. He has a clothing line, pushes for mental health, and has released work with his brother Chance The Rapper, his new work will be featured as he plays the West Hollywood Pride festival this weekend. BE THERE. He is an eloquent speaker, and very thoughtful in his answers.
Jeremy Hinks: Thanks for your time, I know you have a lot going on with the new release “Coming of Age” and at the same time as a clothing release? What I got from the music is that you aren’t trying to tie yourself down to a specific type of music. Though, we do know your brother is Chance The Rapper.
Taylor Bennett: Yeah, growing up, I listened to all kinds of music, like “The Smiths”, Queen, The Beatles, The Carpenters, Bowie, and then of course Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, and Michael Jackson. I’m in Chicago the “Blues” city.
JH: Well, yeah, Chicago, you have all that fantastic industrial and metal too.
TB: My first shout out to this amazing venue, “Reggie’s Rock Club” which housed some of the first metal and punk shows, that was where my first rap show was. The history of music in Chicago runs deep. So for me, I don’t have a label or a contract. So I have complete creative control. Every artist has this responsibility to push perspectives forward, to change not just the narrative of their own, but the whole world. What I wanted to do was to start to bring positivity, not just to the hip hop community but to the world. So there are a lot of great people I got to work with on this project, from Matt and Kim to the Plain White T’s to Mr. Hudson.
JH: I was going to say you do keep good company, I say, it felt like you were having fun, like a goofy vibe on the sound.
TB: I’ll give you that yes if you are going to make music that makes people dance, and make people move, let’s make it feel good, not just going to the beach, but to work out too. Let’s let people feel positive through the music.
JH: Well, I was listening to it, and I heard who you were working with, and it was a “less intense” vibe, sounds like you were having a good time. I like the “Prelude” on the album sounded like it was going in one direction, then as soon as you went into “Kickback” it had a good switchover, but I would not have thought it was the same guy. Different instruments, and a lot of dope references.
TB: Kickback is one of my favorites, it is about mental health, though, yes lots of references to dope smoke. It’s talking about the idea of “Kickback” it’s a cultural thing in Chicago, it’s like a tone-down setting, not like a full volume club experience. I think it was more of an opportunity for us to talk to each other and converse. Kickbacks are housing this conversation, it’s about freeing your mind, and that perspective of “let’s talk about it”. It’s often in hip-hop that if it’s a song that moves fast, we’re not going to be able to have conversations on them. That’s why I wanted the switchover from the intro to kickback.
JH: Ok, so, in your song “Good Guy”, I love the line “How dumb are you to play by THEIR rules”, you are pointing out that people have laid these rules down, and you are limiting yourself on them, you have more you want for that person?
TB: Good guy is about cultural institutions. It talks about 4 walls and a TV is the institute, mass media watching too much TV, something it comes back to is independent thought. I always want my fans to question, and ask themselves “How do I get into the best situation for US”. It’s centered around a girl, you get the fast car, the chick, whatever, .. those things you think you need and engage with, might not work out.
JH: Your song “Don’t Wait for Me” was a throwback, that was taking me back to Marvin Gaye, I don’t hear a lot of current hip-hop pulling out those classic sounds, there was some Curtis Mayfield too right?
JH: The line “The stars won’t wait up, what about dreams and happiness”. Your songs are very compact, what was that “Don’t wait up” about.
TB: Yeah, that was about some of us spending that extra hour at the bar, waiting for someone. That’s about when you are heartbroken, and the line “Lovin the boys” is cause that is where they are all hanging out, and that is the last call before my mother’s hug. The overall for that song is that there are so many different times, you try to chase that person and find this love, and you end up wasting your time. Don’t wait up, ’cause what you are waiting for isn’t going to pan out. When I say “The stars won’t wait up”, it’s about the movies, and it’s not going to turn out for us as it does in the movies.
JH: Broad Shoulders, the one you did with your brother, “Teach what you learn, speak what you’ve heard” then “I’ve been too quick with that advice…. Who forced the hand to make the clone, who stands in line to take the throne.?” There was a wisdom in that song that was very old. Killer lines, what was the work you and your brother were doing there?
TB: That was the first song that my brother Chance and I ever did together. It’s one of my favorites, it’s the only kind of song that two family members could create. I did that one when I was 18, and I have to say, there have been so many “Families” brothers, parents, and kids, you name it, all said that they shared these moments with that record. It is to speak to growth, the idea of continuing to learn. The day you think that you know it all, then you have lost.
JH: Thus the line “WE only know what we know until we know better”.
TB: I wrote the first verse and the hook, I set the tone for the first verse then he did the next one. You never know when you are cutting a record, and you never know what is going to stick.
JH: Yeah, it sounds like you are definitely his brother, but you are still making your own sound there. Like your song “Easy Outside” Freddie Mercury versus Marvin Gaye. I have interviewed Marvin Gaye’s cousin Donnie. Donnie is an intense gay black man from Atlanta, and he called out a lot of people in our conversation. But, I have a friend who has a radio show in DC, he is black and Bisexual, and he said that the music industry is always looking to find a place for him. He described it as being the guy, never invited to the party, but when we show up, no one knows how to talk to us.
TB: When I openly came out in 2017, I had an advantage, I was 21, so I didn’t have to go to school, I was stable, and the only thing I thought could change was my career. So when I did come out, there was so much acceptance, it was like no one really bothers to recognize me the way I am. The hip-hop community accepts me, and I still have a great career, that’s kind of an unheard-of thing, but someone needs to be the first I guess. Maybe people at party settings, I don’t know people talking to me. I would say that I have been privy to a couple of people who question bisexuality as if it’s even a thing, but, hey I’m here.
JH: Well, “Easy Outside” was a hip-hop lyric structure put into a pop song, that sounded like Neon Trees.
TB: OH MAN, I LOVE THOSE GUYS…
JH: So Freddy Mercury versus Marvin Gaye, that is a “Good Time” song, roll down the window and play it loud while we drive.
TB: See, Freddie is one of the greatest performers of all time, I even tried that microphone stand move on Kelly Clarkson the other day.
JH: Well, if you’re gonna try Freddie live? Is that what we can expect to see at the WEHO Pride?
TB: Oh man, there are certain moments for artists, so yeah we are putting together a crazy good show.
JH: I hope you get plenty of fanfare from that one. Real quick about “Be Yourself” the clothing line.
TB: We have a collection we released, for mental and physical health, we got crewnecks, hoodies, t-shirts, we got everything you need there. We have been able to gift a lot of this from Champion to college students. That is a shout-out to Champion and Haynes for their support.
JH: Your song “Come Alive” fave song on the record, I’ve been listening to it a lot, “Takes one to know one, I have a lot more fun outside”, you can sing pop songs with rap lyrics. That is the best song on the album, since I’m the one writing this piece, I’M RIGHT.
TB: Yeah, that was all live instrumentation, no sampling, we were able to use instruments and use technology to put in some warps, come alive is all about embracing the summer, and positive vibes.
JH: Yeah, best line, “I’ve been making too much money to let go”, lyrically it’s pretty loaded. So, I’m lucky to get to ask you. SO, we just finished the Loveloud festival, you know why we do it here in Utah, what would your message be to the young gay kid who is afraid and in the closet?
TB: I had a conversation with one of my fans at a show, telling me that she was bisexual and wanted advice on coming out. I’ll just say it, when you come out in the community, some people lose so much, but I also believe that all members when you come out, you lose something, whether its friends or your house, whatever. I told her that what you gain for yourself, the respect you gain, there is no a price you can put on that.
JH: Wow Taylor, thank you so much for the wisdom.
Go see him performing at West Hollywood Pride this weekend.