Interview with Bingeninja, new track “Bars Closed” featured on Benny the butchers “Cutting up with benny vol. 2” mixtape
Toronto’s BingeNinja is known for pushing boundaries and being a genreless band, keeping fans on their toes by putting out new songs in different musical directions with each release. BingeNinja just released his first hip-hop track, and if I hadn’t just told you that, there’s no way you would have guessed it was the first. BingeNinja put his all into this track, knowing that it was about to be released on one his favourite rappers mixtapes, and it shows. Click below to hear the track, and keep scrolling to read a great interview with BingeNinja, where he talks about how the release came to be, what’s behind the track, his influences, thoughts on the rap game in 2020, the power of keeping moving forward, what’s coming next and more!
Although your songs have always broken genre norms, your new track “Bars Closed” is a departure in a new direction from BingeNinja’s past releases. What pushed your decision to write a hip hop track?
BN: I’ve been rapping since I was 15 years old. Freestyling, joining cyphers, battling friends and later battling strangers at bars, venues and even in alleyways. That being said, I was always weary of releasing a hip hop project because of how it may be perceived. I’m not from the street, I don’t sell drugs or bust guns, but my delivery and cadence is very grimey and aggressive so I was always a little worried about the public questioning my “Authenticity” being a white kid from Toronto who spits like a street rapper. Moving forward, while being locked away during quarantine and not being able to create using my normal means I came across an artist submission put forth by one of my favourite rappers Benny The Butcher. I had been so stagnant for so long that I chose to take the writing seriously, not thinking anything would come from it, but because in my circle I’m mainly known as a freestyler I wanted to prove that I had a strong pen. I sent Benny a very passionate verse, and to my amazement he DM’d me back saying he wanted me to be a part of the second volume of his mixtape series “Cutting up with Benny”. At that point shit got real. I needed to team up with my homey Adverb, who is a prolific hip hop DJ in the city, and we both agreed the whole situation was a good look for us. At that point Adverb was digging in the crates to construct the right beat and I started attacking the notepad on a mission. After a week of hard work we got together at Adverb’s home studio, smoked something and cooked all night. We knew we had something special after that session, so I got the track mixed and mastered by another insane Toronto talent Rob Shortill.
What was the inspiration behind the lyrics to “Bars Closed”
BN: I went into writing with the notion that this may be the only document of my rapping ability, so I knew I had to go all out in terms of showcasing my lyrical quality, wordplay, cadence, aggression and wit. I’m a huge battle rap fan (King of the Dot, RBE, URL) so I knew I wanted three separate verses, each with a completely different cadence and flow. That way I could be creative in how I presented my story, and treat the three verses like three rounds where I could construct schemes in one round, heavy lyrical wordplay in another, storytelling etc. In the end I threw caution to the wind and let the cadence and flow for each verse happen naturally. My main focus was on the bars, and telling my story through wordplay and lyricism. Benny The Butcher and his team (Conway the Machine, Westside Gunn) have been leaders in bringing back creativity and lyricism back to hip hop, so they were a direct inspiration. If this was gonna be the legit shot I had always waited for, and Benny was willing to include me in something he attached his name to, then I was going to exude everything I loved about hip hop in both the writing and delivery. I’m excited for the release of the track on Aug.14th for purchase/download from our bandcamp site because it will include the lyrics. There’s so much going on in terms of double entendres, schemes, word flips and metaphors that I know the real hip hop heads need to go through it a few times to fully understand the picture I painted. In terms of Adverb, I’ve known him since junior high. He was the one who showed me J Dilla, DJ Premier and all the classic underground boom bap shit, so he would shoot me snippets of different beats he cooked up and I would send him back notes. By the time we linked up at his place he had 3 beats, one of which would end up being “Bars Closed”. When he showed me that I put the joint down and told him to turn on the mic.
What can you tell us about Benny The Butcher and this mixtape series?
BN: I learned about Benny when I started seeing him and Conway The Machine doing freestyles on Shade45 and Sway in the morning. I was absolutely fucking blown away. The only rappers that had got me excited over the last 10 years were battle rappers, because they are the ones whose main focus is on the pen (Bars, Lyrics, Schemes, Metaphors, Similes). Not to drag mainstream rappers nowadays, but nothing I heard from hip hop on the radio had any lyrical substance. These dudes were rapping on the beat like battle rappers, and it was grimey, aggressive and SUPER lyrical. Plus, as I looked into them more I found out that they were signing deals with Eminem (Shady records) and Jay-Z (Roc Nation), which in my opinion are pretty decent co-signs. Benny’s from Buffalo, so there wasn’t a whole lot of interest in artists from his area (much like Toronto before Drake). To get noticed he would jump on unsigned artist mixtapes presented by known rappers. With Buffalo being so close to Toronto, I thought it was cool that he asked me to jump on a mixtape, much like he would have done when he was coming up, and that it would be heard by the same types of hip hop fans in the same areas. Honestly, without him DM’ing me, the song would never have happened. So I’m forever grateful to Benny in so many ways he’ll never know.
In the song you mention you’re bored of the mumble rap, what are your thoughts on today’s hip hop scene?
BN: I’m bored of the mumble rap hahaha. Honestly though, there’s room for everything when it comes to music. It would be extremely hypocritical of me to say otherwise when we are a group that is constantly creating releases that are wildly different from one another and span multiple genres. It’s just for me, when it comes to hip hop, you gotta have bars. If you ask anyone who listens to hip hop they will agree that in the last 10 years there’s been a severe lack of artistry and lyricism when it comes to popular mainstream rappers. However, as I mentioned battle rap has been a source of that pure, underground lyrical poetry, which I truly feel has inspired a new wave of aspiring rappers who wanna put the focus back on the bars, and Benny and Griselda are leading that charge. My better explanation would be to listen to “Bars Closed”
Who are a few of your biggest hip hop influences?
Hollow tha Don, Pat Stay, Big Pun, The Clipse, Wu-Tang, Lil’ Wayne, Late 90’s Roc-a-fella, Jay Z, Biggie, Mos Def, Drizzy, Griselda, Eminem, the guy in Chicago who caught me slippin on 8 rum and cokes and smoked my ass in a battle.
What have you been up to during the Quarantine? And how has it affected you as an artist?
BN: It took a month and a half before I could come to terms with the fact that I was depressed. I’ve been writing, jamming, recording and performing consistently since I was 16, and really hadn’t taken a good hard look at just how important those things were in my life. When everything shut down, that’s exactly what I did. Although I had an infinite amount of time to write, I had none of my usual forms of inspiration available to me, and that took a devastating toll on my creativity. I’m lucky enough to have an extremely tight group of friends, so when I was allowed to start seeing them one at a time I had intense personal conversations about music, art, inspiration, love, friendship and depression. My friends saved me in a lot of ways, because they helped me understand what was important to me, and that in turn helped me prioritize my music and what I needed to do to clarify my focus and stay positive that I would find inspiration if I was open to possibilities outside of my comfort zone. Then two HUGE things happened. Benny DM’d me saying he wanted me on his mixtape, and that weekend I watched Daylyts battle rap performance on URL’s NOME X. It was one of the most powerful battle rap performances I have ever seen, and a lightning bolt of inspiration and confidence shot through me. By the time I had recorded “Bars Closed” I got an email from my man The First Seed saying he had just got the masters back for our new joint record together “Selfish Gestures”. They’re fire. The next day our producer messaged me saying a band had dropped out of a session and wanted us to come in and record new full band material, and all of a sudden the wheels were turning at full speed. Although the process was painful, my creativity and productivity are back to 100%.
In a precovid world, you played a lot of live shows. What are a few Toronto bars you can’t wait to get playing at again once this all blows over?
BN: That’s a good question as it will be interesting to see what venues have survived. Nothing has been hit harder than the performance/entertainment industry throughout COVID, and that’s not just venues it’s promoters, bar staff, tour managers, the list goes on. We’ve always been happy to play anywhere that will have us, but at this point I’d perform underwater. I live in Parkdale, Toronto and our local T.O. Lounge that usually throws open mic’s, karaoke and lets us put together events is starting to have people inside so I’m hopeful it won’t be too long before we can get some performers, DJ’s and friends to all get together and share music again.
Can fans expect more songs of this style for future BingeNinja releases?
BN: Going into this opportunity I figured that would be it. Upon the mixtapes release both Adverbs and my DM’s have been blowing up with praise from artists, promoters and fans. Based on how good that feels along with the vibe Adverb and I create together, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that you’ll be hearing from us again.
What’s coming next for BingeNinja?
BN: My second joint record with The First Seed “Selfish Gestures” is complete. We’re in the process of putting together the artwork, filming video and waiting to see what happens with venues so that we can plan a tour for an appropriate release. Going in the studio with the full band next week to record new material. We out here!