In a smoke-filled dressing room, Spillage Village artist Benji. sat among friends and bandmates as they prepared for their performance at Vinyl at Center Stage for the You Are Here Festival, powered by Lotus Rosery, Spillage Village, and Since the 80s. Benji. opened up with lead journalist of Lotus Rosery, Amariyah Callender, on his debut project with Spillage Village, his artistry, and the impact of working with local creatives to make things such as this showcase happen.
Written By Amariyah Callender
Lotus Rosery: How has your artistry impacted you?
Benji.: “It’s absolutely changed my life. From the first moment I decided to actually pursue it, I dropped out of college, quit some jobs, got fired from some jobs, and decided to go full time to see what happens.”
Since then, Benji. has joined forces with Spillage Village as a producer, singer, and rapper, teaming up with some of Atlanta’s most talented names in the music industry.
With a recent performance at AfroPunk Atlanta, he had a lot to say about how performing in his new home changed his point of view. “It was technically my first show in Atlanta, being from Pittsburgh, he told Lotus Rosery on AfroPunk Atlanta. “Me and my DJ talk about it all the time, from when we’re doing shows locally in Pittsburgh to every opportunity we’ve gotten, like, we don’t expect nothin’ just because our name is on there. We were prepared for no one to give a shit about us at all, but then we saw what happens. We focus on our performance and people start to trickle over and trickle over and trickle over, and next thing you know, we have a crowd. People who are on the main stage are looking at us and watching on the boards. We’re just like, we really made the right choice. It feels really good.”
LR: What inspired Smile, You’re Alive?
Benji.: “Over time, I had a version of it that was out that I released myself in 2018. Now, I look at it as, like, the sketchpad. I was 24 when I first put it out, and I’m 28 now. I see a lot of my old music, whether I put it out or it’s still on my hard drive, as something to improve on.”
LR: Throughout the project, you include voice clips from a speech. Who is this by and why did you choose to include it?
Benji.: “His name is Sadhguru, my American ass is probably pronouncing it wrong, but the clip came from this video I found on YouTube at a time that was pretty dark. I was on my way to do some things that I’m glad that I didn’t do, and when I got back to my house, I was on YouTube and saw this video. I remember the length of time [for the clip] being three minutes and sixteen seconds, and March 16th is my birthday, so 3:16. I knew at that point that anytime I see that number that it means something, either “I’m on course” or “you need to get yourself back on course,” so, it’s something I need to pay attention to. I saw it and was immediately intrigued, so I watched it and the first thing I heard was, “What is the most important thing in your life right now? That you’re alive.” That’s why you hear it at the very beginning of the album, those are the first things you hear because it was the first thing that I heard. He went on to explain it, like, there are so many people that don’t have the luxury of life, right? We take [life] for granted all the time. No matter what you’re going through, just check the time. A broken clock is right twice a day. If you’re able to see that thing tick, if you’re able to breathe, if you’re able to stop for a second and realize you’re alive and breathing without ailments, you’re alive and have a chance to make this shit better. If it’s not worse, you still get a chance to experience the good. Once I watched that video, that’s when I started working on the album.”
Before his performance, he was asked about how he felt. “This is the first time in a long time that I’ve ever been calm before a show,” Benji. expressed. “Show days are very anxious, but for good reason. Today, I was kind of looking for something to be worried about, in a way. I was like, y’know, this is actually pretty nice not having to worry about anything. I feel comfortable with what me and the band have rehearsed. I’m really excited to actually try and do it.”
Benji. Performing at You Are Here Fest - Shot by Asia Rowe
Benji. went on to exude an electrifying performance with support from his band. With bass guitar in hand, he performed live versions of tracks from “Smile, You’re Alive!,” including “Rain,” “Black Satin,” and “Elevate”.
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