(AllHipHop Features) Oswin Benjamin is the next up. Far from a rookie, the Brooklyn-born rapper has grinded for quite some time, but now has found a lane in which traffic moves at his speed.
This includes crossing paths with Kendrick Lamar, being friends with the likes of Royce Da 5' 9" and doing songs with Styles P of The Lox. With the release of his debut, Godfrey, he's moving quickly into a space of high regard. And being managed by Sway Calloway and Kelly Kinkaid, he's got great guides to get him through this "fog," as he puts in.
Get to know, Oswin Benjamin.
AllHipHop: We go back a few years, man. So, first of all, I want you to tell the infamous story of Kendrick Lamar.
Oswin Benjamin: 2012. I remember Kendrick Lamar just dropped, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, and he had an open forum Q&A/ listen at the Apple store in Soho. In Soho. This was before the locks. I had a 'fro. I was there. My man hit me. He said, "Yo, you got to pull up. Kendrick Lamar. You got to rap for him." I said, "I'm a rap for Kendrick." He say, "Yo, we going to find a way. We going to make it happen."
So I remember, I went. He did his thing. He was talking. He was like, "If there's any questions," I was the first hand to go up. Dude gave me the mic. He was like, "What's your question?" Or Chuck was like, "What's your question?" And I was just like, "Yo, you mind if I give you a 16?" Chuck was like, "That's not really a question." I was like, "But it is, though. I asked if I could give him a 16." And Kendrick was just like, "Yeah, do your thing." So I rapped. It was more than a 16. And then like I got hyped. The joint came out, Apple Music or whatever the case is. I think it was Apple music. Yeah, it came out on Apple music, and they cut my whole verse out.
AllHipHop: Yeah, man. Did you dirty.
Oswin Benjamin: Cut the whole ... and I told all my friends like, "Yo, I rapped with Kendrick. It's going to be on the Apple music joint." Joint came out, everybody's like, "Oz, you lied. We was looking for it. It wasn't there." So, that was my first time ever. It's crazy how everything comes back around. I'm here sitting ... That's crazy.
AllHipHop: Yeah. You just dropped your debut album this year.
Oswin Benjamin: Godfrey.
AllHipHop: Godfrey. I got the physical album. I'm so happy. So, let's talk about the album a little bit, and then we're going to get into some other things.
Oswin Benjamin: Let's do it.
AllHipHop: So, I listened to the album a couple times. You are doing some things here. It's a lot of versatility on the album.Before we get into the Hip-Hop part, you sing.
Oswin Benjamin: I've been singing my whole life, bro. Grew up in a church and I mean like, grew up in it. Seven days out of the week, we was in church eight.
Oswin Benjamin: You know what I mean? And you know, singing on Sunday mornings for the main service. You know what I mean? My mom was singing for the service too. My father played a guitar. That was our thing. I never thought I was going to rap, bro. I thought I was going to be Kirk Franklin or Donnie McClurkin or somebody. I had a terrible ear for melodies, and I was really into poetry, so I would mimic people and make fun of people a lot coming up. So, the rap thing?
AllHipHop: Yeah, yeah. Now since you said it, I was going to get into that too. But I didn't realize the spirituality until the album too. I was like, wait, hold up. And I was like, is he a gospel rapper? Like I was like low key, like wait, okay, wait. He cursed. So not quite one. Talk about your spirituality and how you weave that in and out on Godfrey.
Oswin Benjamin: So, the thing with the spirituality, I got that a lot from my mother and my father. It's moreso with the music, my thing was if I got a ... It didn't start off like that, by the way. I just wanted to prove to people I was nice. You know what I mean? So when I would rap, it'll be to prove that. Yo, I got to show everybody I'm nice. When I saw that people started to listen, it was just like, all right cool. Now I got the ears of people. I got to say something, and my mom would impart that too. Like, all right, cool if you're going to do this. She wasn't with it at first. She heard the niggas and stuff like that in the beginning, and she wasn't with nothing. You know what I mean?
So, what ended up happening was, she was like, "If you're going to use this, I'm not with it. But if you're going to use your voice, people are listening. Say something."
Oswin Benjamin: So the spirituality, it was always ... I never wanted to come off as a gospel rapper or Christian rapper, because I'm not. I'm an artist that loves God and that's also a human being.
AllHipHop: So, let me ask you a couple questions.
Oswin Benjamin: Talk to me. Nice.
AllHipHop: Are you a thug?
Oswin Benjamin: No. No.
AllHipHop: Did you sell drugs?
Oswin Benjamin: For a little bit.
AllHipHop: Okay. Okay. For a little bit.
Oswin Benjamin: For a little bit.
AllHipHop: I won't ask what.
Oswin Benjamin: Yeah, no, it's all good. Very, very short window. It's not my thing.
AllHipHop: Okay. Okay. And you were born in Brooklyn, but raised upstate?
Oswin Benjamin: Newburgh, yes. 845.
AllHipHop: This climate ... So, I'm not a complainer. I find good Hip-Hop wherever I go for sure. But I've been taking really special time out to listen to artists that don't kill too many people, that don't sell mad weed, and that just talk about regular stuff. You know what I'm saying?
Oswin Benjamin: Just real life stuff.
AllHipHop: You need a space for that, and I think you capture that.
Oswin Benjamin: I appreciate that.
AllHipHop: But how does it work for you, surviving in this environment?
Oswin Benjamin: I think surviving is an interesting word. I think I'm existing more so than surviving. I feel like where I'm at, it's a slow grind, but I'm not looking for the next hit that's going to pop. I'm leaving breadcrumbs for my legacy. So, everything that I'm doing, you'll be able to look back 10 years and say, "He's always been on this. He's always been doing this. There's a place in time for certain things. I'm going to be honest with you, I'm a huge Blackstar fan. Huge. Mos Def, Yasiin Bey, Talib Kweli. I'm a fan. But if I'm going to a club, I don't want to hear that in there. You know what I mean?
And it's like, these people that's progressing and shout out to all of the little ni##as that's progressing right now, shout out to them, but they exist in a space, and it's appreciated. You know what I mean? And I know where I would go to find things that are edifying to my mind and my spirit. I know where to find that. And it's there.
AllHipHop: You work with Sway and Kelly Kinkaid?
Oswin Benjamin: Yes.
AllHipHop: The legends. The one-two punch, the body blow and the headshot.
Oswin Benjamin: Yeah. Mike Tyson.
AllHipHop: Yeah, definitely. How is it working with them?
Oswin Benjamin: Honestly, it's been amazing. It's been eye-opening and it's been a learning experience. For people to believe what you're doing to the point where they want to invest in you, not just time, but time, money and connections. It takes a lot to do that. I know for me, as an artist, you get ... not ungrateful, but you get eager, because you've been doing what you've been doing for so long.
So you figure like, yo, I just want this to happen. I want that to happen. And you have people that's been in the game that's holding your hand through this fog that you ain't never been through before. So, they've been super patient with me and my journey, and they've been able to help me navigate through certain situations, and they've opened doors for me that I don't think I'd have been able to open on my own. Some of the illest people I looked up to in hip hop, we're friends now. You know what I mean? Like Lupe is the homie now, Robert Glasper, that's the homie, Chris Dave, that's the homie. Because they've opened up their network to me, I'm able to have conversations with legends. I'm appreciative, first and foremost.
AllHipHop: Do you ever get anxious where you want to conform or where you're like, let me just do this popular type of style to perhaps open the market up a little bit?
Oswin Benjamin: I've tried it. I've tried it, just to see. Because one thing I never want to be is a one-trick pony. I feel like content is content, and the only thing that changes is the music that's around it.
Oswin Benjamin: I could talk about whatever, but the only thing that's changing as time is coming up is just the instrumentation. There's been times I tried it and it was terrible. I done recorded things that's going to stay in a hard drive forever, just trying different things out, trying different styles. But I've never been pressed to put that out into the world, only because I'm going to be mad as hell if I put out some trash and it pop, and then that's the song that I got to perform for the rest of my life.
AllHipHop: Who do you want to work with? You seem to have a pretty good ... a lot of opportunities ahead. Who would you like to get on a track?
Oswin Benjamin: Kells and Anderson Paak, for sure. I'd like to get that done. Speaking this in into the air...Andre 3000 would be great.
AllHipHop: That's a big-
Oswin Benjamin: Kendrick, for sure.
AllHipHop: Yeah. Of course. You got to get Kendrick.
Oswin Benjamin: Chance the rapper, Pharrell. Rick Rubin.
AllHipHop: Speaking of Rick Rubin, you were in his house or something? What was that about? Because you know, I follow you on social media.
Oswin Benjamin: Yeah. Okay. Bro. It was a life-changing experience. Shout out to Chris Dave for that. I got the call and he was just like, "Yo, I'm working on an album, and if you could be in LA between a certain amount of days, I'd love for you to be a part of this."
And I was just like, "All right, cool." I was like, "Where's it going to be?" Just send me the information. He was like, "Yeah, we're going to be in Rick Rubin's spot." I was like, "No, he's bugging." So I went, and this is an exclusive, right?
Oswin Benjamin: Let me tell you what happened, dog.
AllHipHop: Okay. Tell me. Tell me.
Oswin Benjamin: This one is crazy. So I went there. I had about $48 dollars to my name. To get to the spot I was staying at to Rick Rubin's spot, the Uber was $40 cash. I'm talking to my girl on the phone and I'm just like, "Yo, something is telling me that I need to go there tonight." Because I got the call, and Chris was like, "Yo, you could come tonight or come tomorrow." And I was like, "I'm out here to work, so let's get the work done."
I'm on the phone with my girl and I'm just like, yo, the Uber's $40 cash. I don't know how many days I'm going to be up there, but something's telling me I got to go tonight."
Oswin Benjamin: And she's just like, "Yo, but how you going to figure everything else out? How are you going to eat?" I was like, "It don't matter. I'll drink water. It don't matter, but I need to be there. I need to beat there. I feel it." So bro, I waited a little bit. It went from $48 dollars to 64. I was just like, damn, nah, I'm a wait for that to come now." So then, I spent the $40 cash. I went over there. I'm there. Whole bunch of musicians. I look at the estate I'm looking at the Bob Dylan tour bus.
I'm just like, yo, I saw all of this before, so I'm bugging out. I'm tripping. So Chris Dave was just like, "Yo, look at these records. You think you could get them done? It's cool." There was so much discipline that took place in that time. I went to the tour bus. There wasn't no service on the tour bus. So he was just like, "Yo, you want the WiFi?" I was like, "No, I'm good, because I don't even want to be distracted to go check Instagram or whatever." I was like, "Let me knock these joints out." So I'm knocking them out. I'm getting OD hungry, and I'm just like, nigga, this is Shangri La. Ain't no Wendy's around here. So I'm like, "Damn, all right, cool.
I'm seeing everybody drink bourbon. Not the smartest thing. So I was just like, I'm going to drink bourbon. I'll hold it down. I'm going to go to the kitchen, get some bourbon so I won't be as hungry.
Oswin Benjamin: Dog. I go from the tour bus to the kitchen and I see a dude in a blue hoodie just sitting there chilling. I'm just like, "Yo, this dude look wild familiar. I get the bourbon. The dude took his hoodie off. Nigga, Kendrick Lamar is in the kitchen. Bro.
AllHipHop: Get out.
Oswin Benjamin: Kendrick is in the kitchen, just chilling. Now mind you, the same thing with you. I've been speaking, like trying to manifest things into the air for a while. I ran into Kendrick three times prior to this and wasn't able to really chop it up with him. Once I was at the BET awards. I saw him again 2012 for your joint, and then I think he did something at Best Buy when God Kid, M.A.A.D. City dropped. I'm just around for all these times. I'm just like, yo, I got to chop it up with him.
And I remember specifically at the BET awards, I was talking to Kelly and Sway, and I was just like, "Yo, I'm mad I didn't get a chance to see Kendrick." He was right next to me, bro, and I didn't even know it was him.
Oswin Benjamin: And Kelly and Sway was like, it's good that you didn't meet him (initially), and you'll meet them on a level where it's a respect amongst peers and it's not a ... "I'm a huge fan." So, the fact that I met him at Rick Rubin's crib, it was crazy. Finally got a chance to chop it up with him, and then the interns take care of the food for the whole time I was up there. So, I ate the best that I've eaten in three days off for eight dollars and just faith. It was crazy. Dope experience, bro. I cried up there. I was walking around there with my socks wiling. I was bugging out, but it was a dope experience.
AllHipHop: That's amazing, man. That's really amazing.
Oswin Benjamin: That's God.