Rappers such as Common, Kanye West and Lupe Faisco has given the rap community conscious rap over hot tracks and tight lyrics. Rap music has changed since these rappers released their music. New artists such as Chief Keef and Lil Durk changed the the type of rap that Chicago was once known to produce. These rapper’s straight forward lyrics with violent content and some would say reckless images has the industry thinking that this is the only kind of music that Chicago can release.
There are some rappers that like to keep their music about good content, metaphors tight beats. We were ear hustling and came across Chicago rapper Pennjamin Bannekar who fits that mold. He was part of a group called “Project Fr3sh” who had success all over the country and was making a name for themselves. Over time Pennjamin decided to drop his solo album “HeatBeat” which lead MTV to add his single “illWrite” into their daily video rotation.. Pennjamin Bannekar transforms himself to new music styles while still giving us the old hip hop that seems to be lacking in today’s music. He talks to Earhustle411 about his musical influences, Chicago and his upcoming project.
We know that you was raised in Chicago, can you share with our readers what part of Chicago you are from and how did growing up in Chicago influenced your music?
I kinda feel like a nomad honestly. I consider Chicago home but I lived in 5 different states growing up. Along the way, I lived in Hammond, IN, the south suburbs of Chicago, Wisconsin and I ultimately graduated high school in Ohio. I even spent some time in Atlanta recently but, with all that said, Chicago is my home.
Music is all around us and it can influence us in many ways, who were some of your musical influences and why?
When I was growing up, I always wanted to be the next Michael Jackson so that was my primary musical influence. I was fortunate enough to attend the Bad Tour back in ’88 as a young tyke. As I got older, I gravitated towards OutKast (mainly Andre 3000), Goodie Mob, Biggie, Jay-Z and Kanye West. I think early Kanye West molded the foundation for who I am as an artist today.
Epiphany can come from anywhere and at anytime; what was the moment when you realized that you had to be rapper?
I always liked putting words together and it had kind of been a hobby for me since about the 7th grade. Fate would have me meet Omen when I got to college and he started to school me on some different techniques and I kind of got good at being a rapper. I don’t think it actually dawned on me until ’07 that being a rapper was what I wanted to do.
A journey can lead down many paths, how would you explain your musical journey so far?
Incomplete. For various reasons I don’t feel as though my musical journey has been nourished enough. I felt like HeartBeat had so much more to offer but the budget didn’t allow me to capitalize on that like I wanted to. In addition, my hiatus from the solo scene the last 2 years didn’t help either. So “INCOMPLETE” would certainly be the word that I would use to describe my journey.
After doing some research, we found that you were part of the group called “Project: Fr3sh”; what was it like being in a group and why did you decide to become a solo artist?
To date, being a part of PF3 was the highlight of my music career. Yeah, I’ve done some things solo wise but the PF3 experience was truly noteworthy. I learned so much about recording, performing, and songwriting from being in the group with Byrd and Mac that it’s really immeasurable on how much of an effect that has on me as a solo artist. Being a solo artist was the next progression for me after Mac and Byrd focused their talents on producing. Fortunately, we were able to record some new PF3 music last year and they will be lending their producing talents to my upcoming project.
It seems like more and more rappers are being introduced to us, as of 2014 who would you rate as your top five rappers?
Let me say that Andre 3000 is my all-time favorite first and foremost. As far as 2014, I don’t think I could name a top 5 with it being so MANY rappers out now. I can say that I listen to J. Cole, Drake, Kendrick, and Jay-Z routinely.
In May of 2011, you released your first album HeartBeat, your first single “ILLwrite” received national attention and the video was in rotation on MTV. What is the story behind ILLwrite and its video?
The song was named ILLwrite because I thought I wrote some ill stuff in that particular song lol. On the chorus I was kind of asking the listeners a rhetorical question, “this is ill, right?” Ultimately, it became a play on those two phrases, being an ill writer or writing ill rhymes and asking if it’s ill. The video somehow came together to be what it was.
My manager Nate, the director Mike Handler and I brainstormed this kind of old time gangster being surveilled by an undercover cop theme. When we actually shot it, the story didn’t come together like we visualized but it had more of a early days of Roc-A-Fella feel to it, so we kind of just went with that.
In your opinion, what is the most difficult part of being in the entertainment business?
Hands down I would say it’s the politics.
Over the past several years Chicago has been nationally recognized for violence, gangs and corruption. The phrase “Chi-Raq” is being used to describe the violence in Chicago. How do you feel about Chicago being called Chi-Raq and what can we do to make positive changes in the city?
It’s sad. And I hate to be cliché, but it really is just that. Young kids dying over senselessness is never something that should be celebrated. On top of that, we have a generation of artists from here that are glorifying these acts. To each his own, but touching on that subject as often as they do, really uncovers a deeper issue within our city’s society and it’s not pretty.
Who would be your dream team be (dead or alive) to make an album with and why?
Michael Jackson, Biggie, Andre 3000 and the Dream. I am a fan of each artist and I think they are the greatest at what they do and getting a chance to work with them would only improve my artistry.
If you woke up tomorrow and you were told this is it for you, you can no longer use your voice; how would you use your voice at that last defining moment to make a change in the world?
That’s a really tough question. I think I would probably tell my family and friends that I love them because I KNOW I don’t tell them enough currently.
We are brought into this world to grow and leave our legacy for others. What is the biggest impact in your life that you want to be remembered for?
I feel like the music that I am creating will be here forever. When I say forever, I mean it in a sense that anybody who wants to know who Pennjamin Bannekar was as an artist will be able to hear it, if they choose to do so.
Away from the mic, I’m really a laidback light hearted guy. If I can make someone laugh at something silly that I do (most recently it’s my auto tune singing), or bring a smile to a friends’ face when they are having a bad day, then that’s what I want to do. I think that kind of stuff leaves an everlasting memory on people.
When can we expect you to drop some new material and where can your fans find you to connect?
Tentatively, Long Live Bannekar has a spring release date. We will probably push it back because I really want this project to be GREAT and me and my team don’t feel it’s at that level yet. I will continue releasing singles in the meantime to build the anticipation.
Check Out Pennjamin Bannekar’s Lastest Video “illWrite Too“