The artists who have made the greatest impact and have maintained their longevity over the past decade in music have been those who have not been afraid to completely be themselves one hundred percent. From Jay Z and Kanye, to Cudi and Drake, the people who have been confident in their identity and who they are as people, regardless of how some may have judged them at first, have captured the hearts and ears of their listeners. In the internet-age where everyone is so quick to jump on trends (see autotune or the “Versace” flow), being true to yourself seems to be the best possible thing an artist can do to stand out, and relate to listeners. Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with an artist who has the rare trait of being completely comfortable in his own skin and his place in music. His name is Oswin Benjamin.
Oswin Benjamin (Oz, as his friends call him) is a rapper, singer, songwriter, and artist out of New York who is looking to change people’s lives through his music. After speaking with him for over an hour about life, music, philosophy, his story, the soul, and everything in between, I can say with confidence that he will be making an impact in a lot of lives with his words and through his music. Considering how comfortable he is with himself and how genuine he is within his music, Oz will be able to capture the ears of the masses sooner than later. That is exactly what drew me to him. Due to the honesty in his music, you can relate to his vulnerability, even if your story is not exactly the same. Not to mention, this kid’s got bars. This interview is a great introduction to who he is as a person and musician if you are unfamiliar. If you have heard his music and are already a fan, then hopefully you will get a better look into his soul. Here is part 1 of my interview with Oz:
RESPECT.: What’s going on in your day-to-day life right now?
OB: Right now there’s a lot going on. I’m just trying to find inspiration. My unemployment is about to run out in a couple of weeks, and I am not trying to go back to a 9-5. So, I’m just trying to figure out how to make bread off of this music. Or even just to get to a place where the notoriety is elevating.
RESPECT.: Your music is really personal. Was that a conscious decision? Do you find inspiration in your everyday life?
OB: It’s difficult for me to write outside of what either I have been through or what somebody that I know has been through. I don’t have any songs about pulling up in a Ferrari or spending a thousand dollars at a strip club because I don’t do that. I can’t touch on those things because I have never lived it. People have different ways of letting off their steam; some people smoke, some people play basketball. Me? I write about them. That’s my way of coping. When something happens, I write about it.
RESPECT.: Was it always writing raps that was your outlet to express yourself and cope or was there another outlet when you were younger?
OB: Rap happened recently. It used to be basketball. I’ve been singing my whole life though. I grew up in a church. From the age of five, I was singing in church. Everyone thought I was going to be a gospel singer, but it wasn’t until college that I started taking rap seriously.
[RESPECT. Note: We talked a little bit about his beginnings in the church and he told me that music had always been a part of his family. Everyone thought he was going to be a gospel singer when he was younger, and he even formed a gospel group with his brother at that time. Recently, he started using his vocal chords again to sing over some of his tracks. He said that it just happened one day in the shower. He started singing and it sounded good, so he called his brother and told him “I think I can sing!” Next I asked him about some of his song lyrics.]
RESPECT.: On your song “Never Settle,” you mention your mom telling you to “never despise a humble beginning.” How important is the process for you? Have you always appreciated the journey and the struggle or were you more focused on the destination?
OB: I’m a fan of the struggle. I feel like that’s what makes you, and it puts you in a position where you have no choice, but to learn about yourself. I’ve been through a lot, and if it wasn’t for the struggle, then I wouldn’t be able to appreciate where I’m at. The process is cool because it’s an amazing thing to witness the accolades change and how you grow. That’s where most of my motivation comes from. I wouldn’t even be an artist if it weren’t for the struggle. I sort of welcome it now, because when shit goes wrong, it’s like, okay I’ve got another song.
RESPECT.: I think that people are so quick to dismiss the struggle when things are going wrong and tell themselves, “Ah, maybe this will never happen. Maybe it’s not supposed to happen for me,” but I think that it’s all just a part of the journey…Once you start to embrace, and accept it, that’s when you start to see things in a new light.
OB: Yeah man, it’s all perspective. Me and my manager Tyler have been homeless before and we have had to sleep in the studio for days or find somebody’s couch to sleep on. Not take any showers or anything; not brush our teeth or nothing. We’ve been through all of that and as time progressed, we have learned how to see things for what it is. You only get as far as your mind allows you to get. So, if you focus on the negative and always look at things in a negative light, then you’re always gonna be that dude. Okay, so I lost a crib, but now I don’t have to worry about paying this bill and I can create. I can see the world for what it is. I am learning how to see the blessings in everything as opposed to how horrible life is because I don’t want to be that negative dude.
RESPECT.: Yeah, I can tell from your music that you’re a positive dude. After going through all of that, do you feel blessed to even be breathing? And even more blessed for thousands of people to be hearing your music? Do you appreciate everything a lot more now because of it?
OB: It’s weird to sit back and look at it ’cause I’m not even supposed to be here. So, every blessing that comes, I know that it is not because of me. I put the work in, but I pray before I do anything. I pray before anytime I hit the stage. It’s God. I tell him, “I just want people to see you through the music, cause I’m nothing but a man with a bunch of gifts that you gave me. So, if they can’t see you through it, then what am I doing it for?” I’m at a place where I recognize that it’s not just talent, it’s not just hard work. If God don’t want certain doors to open for you, then no matter how hard you try to walk through that door, if it’s just not meant for you, then it’s not going to open. I’m blessed for all opportunities. Because I know that it’s just not me, it’s something bigger than me.
We continued to talk about God, spirituality, his recent appearance on Sway in the Morning, and how he hopes to impact the world with his words. Part two of this interview will be up tomorrow right here on RESPECT. Magazine.
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