You Must Learn
Interview with Benny Diction. Photograph: Benny Diction & Able8 at Holdin’ Court June 2012, From the Holdin’ Court Archive.
First off, tell us who you are, where you’re from and what you do.
I’m Benny Diction, a MC/musician from the UK. I was born in Nottingham and spent various periods of my childhood in South Wales, Northants and Derbyshire before moving to Liverpool at the age of 18. I now reside in London. I make music of a hip hop nature and rap both on my own and as part of The Punning Clan. I’m also a teacher.
What can you tell us about growing up and being in to Hip-Hop, Liverpool and your move to London. How much have these cities in particular helped shape you as a rapper?
Growing up, I was always into writing stories, poems, comics and the like as well as playing musical instruments. I got into writing raps because it was the best way to combine my 2 interests: music and words. When I really got into writing rhymes I was living in a rural area where there were very few Hip-Hop heads. I got a few of my friends interested and before long I was jamming with another MC (my best friend D-Fine), guys on drums, bass, sampler and a breaker. D-Fine and Tom, the breaker, are still active now.
When I moved to Liverpool to study I immediately immersed myself in the scene there. I met DJ Sketchy Bwoy and MC Fuse (later Oscillate) and got involved with promoting monthly night Sunday Service, which ran for 5 years. We put on Souls of Mischief, Broke-n-English, Aspects, Kamanchi Sly, Foreign Beggars. The Punning Clan formed in 2005/06 when I became good friends with Ro Jista, Louis Cypher, Tony Skank and DJ Rasp. I’ve got mad love for Liverpool and I established a lot of long-lasting bonds there. It’s always love, can’t wait til I’m back there again!
After a year of living in London I started to really explore the scene down here and I’ve grown to love it. Obviously there’s the guys putting on big-name, high-profile acts and DJs from the States and such but scratch the surface and there’s all kinds of nights going on which reflect the diversity of the city. Fat Gold Chain, London’s Lyricist Lounge, the Elite Leagues, Showtime and Lyrically Challenged are all regular, attitude-free events where the emphasis is on participation rather than spectating. As a result, the open mic ciphers that go down at these events are often very dynamic, and the range of performers is as varied as the inhabitants of the city itself. The spoken word scene is pretty healthy too.
What can you tell us about special guest Able8? He’s over from Melbourne right?
He is indeed. When my girl and I went traveling last year we stopped in Melbourne for a couple of weeks and, obviously, being a hip-hop head, I had to investigate the local scene while I was there. So I went to a night called Lyricist Lounge (now returned to its original name of ‘Street Poetics’), stepped up to do the open mic and came back the following week to do a full solo set. Able and his partner-in-rhyme Manix were doing a set the same night. We got talking and it turned out he was coming to London the following week.
We recorded two tunes while I was in Melbourne – ‘Lost It’ with Manix and ‘Popularity Contest’ with Beit Nun – and stayed in touch, exchanging beats and vocals by email. We then thought it made sense to do an album. He was back in the UK again so we decided to get a joint set together, myself on vocals and Abes manipulating his beats on the fly using Ableton.
If there are people out there who are reaching for the back catalogue, what should they be looking for and where should they start?
Last year’s “Excuse Me” EP, which is on Bandcamp for free download. My debut album “Hard Graft, Arts & Crafts and Hearty Laughs”, which I dropped in January, also available on Bandcamp with a few remaining hard copies. Look out for the video for “Beer Goggles”, a tune off that album. In terms of guest spots you can catch me on:
The Broken Door - 52
Dick Limerick Academy – Return of the Fly, Merseycide
BloodLeech – Eat Defeat
Mista P – The Unheard EP
Ro Jista – Demonstration EP
Uncomfortable Beats Vol. 1
LeeN – Mixtape Demo Ting 2
Beatbox Joker – Paradox Mind
Think that covers it.
What is your involvement in the Hip-Hop night Fat Gold Chain? Who has performed?
I am part of the 7-strong Fat Gold Chain promotion team. I am also co-host alongside head honcho Solocypher, the guy who established FGC in its original Brum incarnation. We have a nice arrangement where the responsibility of hosting mainly lies with whoever is least intoxicated haha. In the two years it’s been running in London Town we’ve had all manner of acts perform, including Homeboy Sandman, Cappo, Mystro, 4i2i, Granville Sessions, El Crisis & Thunder, HLI, Croydon Council, The Book Thieves and Too Many T’s. Thanks to all the acts that came through and rocked it. Look out for the ‘Rap vs Poetry’ event with Hammer & Tongue on August 17th.
What are you working on and who are you working with?
I recently finished a collaboration EP with LeeN and Oxford-based producer Drive Error entitled “Word Power Play”. That should be out early Autumn. Able8 and I are well into our joint project, tentatively titled “A to B”. Slowly but surely new Punning Clan material is coming together but in the meantime we’ve decided to release the previously shelved “Pun n Dusted” EP we recorded 5-ish years ago. In the next few months you should be able to find me on tunes with Oliver Sudden, Legoman, Mnsr Frites from Granville, J-Skol, Jae Genius and Gadget as well.
What/who are you listening to at the moment?
Rap-wise I’ve been loving a lot of stuff coming out of NY recently. Homeboy Sandman, Action Bronson, Meyhem Lauren, Das Racist, BBAS. Anything involving Roc Marciano is generally a winner. El-P, Aesop Rock, Nas and Extra P all came back with superb albums. Beyond rap Tokimonsta, Caribou, Radiohead, Too Many Vultures, the ‘Rome’ album have all had regular spins. Any dub, psychedelia and 80s jazz funk tends to get rinsed too.
You recently did a collaboration with our friends over at JustGot, how did that come about and what was the idea behind it?
I’ve got untold levels of love and respect for the dudes at JustGot. When I dropped the ‘Excuse Me’ EP last year they were very supportive of it, as they were with the ‘Beer Goggles’ tune/video and the stuff I’ve been on since. They asked me to record a verse for a JustGot mix DJ Ivan6 was doing and I chose to do it on DOOM’s ‘Arrow Root’ instrum. They’ve since decided to an entire project featuring UK rhymers on DOOM beats. Which should be beast.
Finally, Any shout outs?
The Punning Clan and all the Merseyside fam; Solocypher, RP-1 and all Fat Gold Chain crew; LeeN, NLT Productions and the Elite Leagues; 1st Blood Family and all the Notts heads; Oliver Sudden & Croydon Council; Purpose, Phonix and the Showtime squad; Sai and LLL; Sam at Hammer & Tongue; Able8, Drive Error and all the beatmakers who send me dope instrumentals; D-Fine, Joker, Awe-Sum and all the PA heads; Luke and Dan at JustGot and of course Holdin’ Court.
West-midlands heads..catch Benny Diction performing at Suki10c Dj Destruction 2012 Launch Party (part ii). 21 Bordesley Street, Digbeth, Birmingham. Thursday 2nd August.