Selected by: James Keith

Name: BenjiFlow

Where He’s From: North London

When He Started: Unknown

Genre: R&B/Hip-Hop

File Next To: Kadiata, Oscar #Worldpeace, Ragz Originale, Kojey Radical

Sounds Like: “I can’t define it yet. I want the world to make their interpretations of what they think it is, then I’ll say what I think in some years so that my thoughts aren’t filtered into the world’s thoughts.”

First Music That Inspired Him: “Probably something from Skateboard P or the Louis Vuitton Don himself. The way that Pharrell and Kanye approached music was more about the feeling. This was something I realised that they did, that was so amazing, and I wanted to emulate that as well in my feeling of music. They gave me the confidence that I could really do this.”

BenjiFlow originally started his professional music career as a producer, lending his gifts for piano and guitar to other artists. Although he tried his hand at MCing a few times in his childhood (“I had a MC name but I’ll leave that in the history books,” he confesses), it would be a few years before he picked up the mic and took it seriously. From his parents’ stereo, the gospel sounds of Fred Hammond and Kirk Franklin intertwined with the looser rhythms and grooves of Bob Marley and the reggae world that surrounded them in their home country of Jamaica. Meanwhile, his sister broadened his horizons even further with jazz, folk and more, soundtracking his childhood with YellowJackets, George Duke, Norah Jones, Joni Mitchell and Musiq Soulchild.

Benji’s very first musical foray was playing classical piano as a child, but when he hit his teens, he swapped the keys for the mic and decided he want to be a grime MC. Ultimately, after finding himself a stand-on for the keyboard player at church, he returned to the piano and trained himself to play by ear. He remains closely guarded about his age and backstory, but around the mid-2010s he found himself working closely alongside fellow producer Ragz Originale, rapper Oscar #Worldpeace and singer Cartae as the Mini Kingz collective, in which they fused grime, UK funky and garage.

It wasn’t until 2018 that Benji fully arrived as a solo artist with his debut smash “Deep End”, an hypnotic, groove-packed R&B-meets-rap bubbler. The first thing that hits the listener is his fluid delivery, somewhere between singing and MCing, and unrestrained style. The second is how true he stayed to the jazz and soul influences that raised him, using an entrancing looped organ sound as the backbone for his free-wheeling love song.

If you thought that “Deep End” was any sort of indication of what was in store you were both right and wrong all at the same time. The following year he returned with “Can’t Lose” and “Somebody”, both Latin-influenced but in different ways. The former marries the same R&B vocals and ties them to a stomping, club-ready beat while the latter slows things down somewhat, leaving just Benji and his Latin guitar licks to seduce and enrapture the listener.

Now, after playing his debut show at the Camden Assembly in November last year (with just three official singles to his name, it’s worth mentioning), BenjiFlow’s focus is on building something long term that can help him and his family. “I did something for my parents with some of the income I made from music,” he says. “I’m most proud of that because they’ve dedicated their life to my sisters and me, so it’s only right to bless them back. It’s an amazing feeling.”

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Posted on January 08, 2020