(AllHipHop Features) Two decades ago, Atlanta representative Christopher Bridges made the formal transition from Hot 97.5 host Chris Lova Lova to Hip Hop artist Ludacris. A Grammy-winning, platinum selling career followed. Twenty years later another popular star from the station (now known as WHTA Hot 107.9) is tapping back into his own rap talent with the intent on becoming a force to be reckoned with as a recording artist.
[ALSO READ: PREMIERE: Atlanta Rapper Phonic Embraces The Trill Wavy Sound On New Album ‘Thoughts Of Whatever’ (AUDIO)]
As a member of 107.9’s The Durtty Boyz, ET Carter is one of the most recognizable voices in the ATL. Millions of ears tune in to listen to ET and his partner J-Nick deliver the hits and interview the biggest names in the business. In the near future, ET hopes to reach an even wider audience of listeners as he reintroduces himself as the performer Benefit.
“When you become known in the entertainment industry, by nature, people see you in one light. It’s like watching a singer or a rapper become an actor. People say, ‘Why are they acting?’ Until you notice that they’re good,” explains Benefit on why he changed his stage name.
Don’t be fooled. This move into making music is not Benefit attempting to emulate the numerous rappers that have emerged from Atlanta over the years. The Santa Ana, California native has been writing verses way before he stepped into the WHTA offices.
There are even songs featuring the spitter formerly known as Sandman floating around the internet. One of those records from yesteryear is “Shopaholics” with Nicki Minaj, Gucci Mane, and Bobby Valentino.
Way before he was trading bars with Nicki and Gucci, ET was discovering the sounds of Sade, Anita Baker, Whitney Houston, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd. As a child in Southern California, Carter's mother - an Opera and R&B singer - familiarized him with a wide range of genres, but it was his older brother exposed him to Hip Hop.
ET went on to embrace all aspects of the culture. He practiced his emcee skills, and he honed his b-boy abilities. However, the environment of SoCal was putting the young entertainer into situations that could have halted his progress. So Carter borrowed $80 from a woman he was seeing and took a four-day Greyhound bus ride to the capital of Georgia.
“I had no choice. I couldn’t get away from banging at that time. I was really caught up in it. My older sister said, ‘You need to come to Atlanta,’” ET tells AllHipHop.com. "I could rap and dance, so I was teaching choreography. One day I was in the club, and a lady from Hot 107.9 tried to hit on me - I won’t say her name. She said, ‘Oh, you’re too young, but you can come intern at the station.”
The new A-town transplant spent countless hours at the company, even sleeping in the building. Eventually, he worked his way up to become both the on-air talent and producer for 107.9’s top rated nightly 6-10 slot.
Benefit is now tapping into his West Coast roots and his experiences in the Atlanta music scene for his upcoming debut EP Skater Chic. The title is a representation of the fusion of different styles.
“I come from California where you can go surfing and snowboarding within a day. I grew up on a skateboard, but I keep it chic though,” says Benefit. “It’s combining - for lack of better words - cheap and great. [laughs] I might have some Levi's on with a pair of $1000 McQueen shoes.”
The idea of melding two distinct tones continues with the production for Skater Chic. G-Funk aficionado Rhythm D and Trap pioneer Zaytoven are expected to be the only beat makers to offer tracks for the project.
“Rhythm D is from the old school. He’s from that Dr. Dre era where he’s going to bring the best out of that person,” states Benefit. “Zaytoven will probably always be around. He has a sound that everybody has copied or took something from out of the south. Whatever producer’s popping right now, believe me, they stole something from Zaytoven.”
The maestro behind tunes by Gucci, Usher, Young Jeezy, Migos, and many more returns the praise. Zaytoven adds, “ET is like a brother, so working with him is always cool. We just vibe, create, and hope that the people like what we cook up.”
Thanks to the fact he played a major role in breaking so many "New Atlanta” artists such as K Camp and Young Thug, ET has a phone full of contacts he can call on to assist with his musical efforts. For example, Skater Chic will feature an appearance from one of the hottest rappers in the A at the moment. Benefit reveals Sy Ari Da Kid of the SlumLords crew contributed to a song called “No Games.”
"ET is family. He can call me for anything and I got him. Hard work respects hard work,” declares Sy Ari.
Back when Chris Lova Lova first disclosed he was reinventing himself as Ludacris, there were plenty of critics ready to pounce on the idea of someone that made their name playing songs on the radio trying to release their own singles. There is no doubt the ET-to-Benefit evolution will come with naysayers as well, but Carter is not concerned with the cynics.
“I’m here for the people that deal with me, that like my music. I’m not really trying to make you a fan,” asserts Benefit. “My music will speak for itself. I’ve been doing this.”
Many of the radio personality's followers are happy to be along for the ride. In January, ET officially announced on the air he was the person recording as Benefit. The disclosure came along with him borrowing a tactic from Nipsey Hussle and Ryan Leslie by giving out his personal phone number. ET immediately received thousands of texts and calls from supporters.
The 404-238-7716 number is still available for anyone that wants to contact Benefit. He often replies to the messages which completely surprises fans not expecting to hear back from The Durtty Boy.
With Skater Chic arriving in late April via Empire Distribution and a performance at the SXSW Festival coming up this month, ET Carter is on pace to present Benefit as the next possible musician to break out of the A. "The Benefit Of ET” is a brand that the entertainment world may not be able to avoid, and the “My Main” crooner is hands on with all aspects of the campaign.
“I’m a benefit to this game. As an artist, I can rap, sing, or whatever you need me to do. The marketing scheme for Skater Chic is my brainchild,” says Benefit. “I’m not sitting here going, ‘Hey, I’m dope. You should give me a game plan.’ That’s my head doing that. I think I can help a lot of other people too.”
Listen to Benefit’s “My Main” below.