There is just something about the suburbs of the Big Apple that breeds class emcees. I’m sure you have a few names floating around your head as you process this, but one that might not be there is Ben Beal. I caught up with him to discuss his self-described ‘lo-fi hip hop to do ketamine to’, sample selection and coming from a musical family.
At 21 you have a staggering number of projects under your belt, has music always been the obvious option?
Ben: My whole family has a musical ability of some kind. My dad is a piano player and vocalist, and I was exposed to music at a young age. It was inevitable I’d be a musician, but I never thought it would be a serious career. I still am not that serious about it; it’s always only been therapeutic for me.
The beats range from airy, dreamy kind of sounds to much harder hitting snares, how would you say the music you grew up on has influenced your sound?
Ben: Any beat sent to me must sound like it came straight from an Adult Swim or Toonami commercial. Every beat I use gives me the same feeling I used to have watching cartoons, eating cereal in my living room. There’s something about lo-fi music that is so nostalgic, and the first thing I look for when I hear a beat is that nostalgic feeling.
Bluebird has a lovely guitar riff to start it off, is this a sample or played in, if a sample how did you stumble across it?
Ben: I found that sample scrolling through Twitter. The original sample is from the incredibly talented Miumiu GuitarGirl. I swear I shed a tear the first time I heard her playing the guitar and sing. She was hitting standards like ‘Bluebird’, and ‘I Fall in Love Too Easily’ and making them sound incredible. And an insanely talented artist named Hudi produced the track. He killed it for sure.
When it comes to working with artists, is it a case of approaching people you listen to, or do they reach out to you?
Ben: It depends. There are some artists I found that I’ve been blown away by and will reach out to to see if we can get something going, but I’ve gotten sluggish recently. I feel like J is the ideal producer for me, so I don’t need to venture too far for beats. In terms of features, I hate giving features, but will always give one to a homie if they have something I can hear myself on.
And finally, if you could work with one artist dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Ben: That’s such a hard question, damn. Mac Miller, one hundred per cent, that man so inspired me, and I learned a lot from watching his career grow. The reason I think we’d sound so good together is that we are both such volatile artists. Everything I heard from him, I fully understood. I never questioned his genius.