The birth of a crystalline talent: the first influences of the American and French Rap classics
It’s the year 1997 in Libreville, the capital of Gabon in Africa. Benjamin Epps was born a few months before, yet the passion for hip hop seemed to be already there. The suitcases of his brother, who has returned from his frequent trips to France, are full of CDs, magazines and cassettes of French rap.
Mainly the golden age ones, cornerstone of the future evolution of the genre. In a decidedly fertile climate, Benjamin discovers the great classics: La Cliqua, Time Bomb, Supreme NTM, eventually becoming passionate about American rap, the main inspiration of his entire career both in terms of style and quotes.
The constant participation in freestyle events with the two brothers, combined with the visceral passion for Hip hop culture, favor the ideal context for the birth of the first projects: the acute voice and technical skills are only the most evident characteristics of a genuine path, based not only on aesthetics as an end in itself. The self-made approach, likely in J Cole, structured in the early years and remained a trademark of the rapper, who worked often producing his own songs independently.
From the first projects to his new rap name: Benjamin Epps
Before becoming Benjamin Epps in effect, the young rapper from Gabon released an album and a mixtape, often not known by new audiences, which only tripled within a year. O.E.T.L.B (We are the best) is the first official project released in 2013 together with Syanur under the name of Kesstate, his first actual rap name. The project, extremely varied and experimental, did not have the expected success but, at the same time, it allowed the young talent to frame and develop in the best way what will be the final result of a refined sound, the son of a melting pot made up of different styles.
The various influences from the States combined with the African roots music make the idea, in this regard, of what Benjamin’s future path will be. Noir and Paris n’est pas si loin are the titles of the two subsequent projects under the name of Benjamin Franklin, released respectively in 2017 and 2018. Precisely the last two before the definitive name change.
“Le Futur”: the first Griselda influences
His inspiration from the U.S. became more concrete, as evidenced by the first EP released in December 2020, Le Futur: a project inspired by the new evolution of the bap boom carried out by the Griselda collective. In this sense, Benjamin Epps combines his personal experiences with the hardcore style typical of WestSide Gunn, compared to his because of the similar tone of voice.
The flexible approach, due to the years of apprenticeship in the underground, emerges without filters and compromises: from the soulful samples of Le pips or Tard le soir to the dark atmosphere of the much talked about Kennedy in 2005. An eloquent demonstration of how much a classic sound, albeit updated , may be attractive to the general public, as it was in America, thanks to Benny the Butcher and his companions, also among the French underground.
Good news, the best rapper in France is black.
Bad news, the best rapper in France is me
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“Fantôme avec chauffeur”: the role of underdog is no longer enough
2021 marked his definitive explosion, thus not disappointing the expectations created after Le Futur. Seven unreleased tracks are part of the album Fantôme avec chauffeur, created together with the producer Le Chroniqueur sale. In this case, an evolution from the previous project is highlighted, with sounds inspired by the new strand of the classic boom bap and lyrics that exude self-celebration, the need to impose themselves and obviously many references to the American school, as demonstrated in the first track of the record, Notorious.
In times often musically unidirectional, Benjamin Epps has managed to attract a large slice of a disillusioned and disoriented rap audience, due to weekly releases that are increasingly contaminated and uniformed with the Spotify’s monthly top charts and trends.
“Vous Êtes Pas Contents? Triplé!”: il nuovo EP che anticipa l’album
In the new EP recently released, Benjamin Epps confirms his undisputed skills at the microphone, updating his sound, proposing some more experimental songs, than the ones he had accustomed us to in the previous projects. Through increasingly varied flows, an abundance of egotrips and bars, Vous Êtes Pas Contents? Triplé! reserved us some bangers fully appreciated only by true fans of the rap genre at 360 degrees. One of these is contained in the first extract of the disc, Ce Que Le Pips Demande: the beat of the song, sampled by 24k magic by Bruno Mars, brings the listeners in the typical Los Angeles atmosphere of 90s G funk, giving greater completeness and usability to the project . Furthermore, for lovers of the New York sound, there is also a Jadakiss collaboration in the Drillmatic song.
From the quotes of absolute giants such as Jay Z and 50 Cent to the contemporary style of Westside Gunn, Benjamin Epps represents the bridge between the old and the new, in a multicultural France that is increasingly the absolute center of avant-garde stylistic innovations.
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