Oswin Benjamin is a 23-year-old emcee who uses his advanced rap skills to address the triumphs and tribulations of life. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Newburgh, New York, Oswin combines his experiences living in the urban jungle and an artsy upstate town as a catalyst for introspective tales about spirituality, the price of fame, and being young, black, & gifted in America.
DZI: The Voice interviewed the October 2012 winner of the premiere unsigned showcase Faces In The Crowd. Discover more about Oswin Benjamin in our latest exclusive Q&A.
Yohance Kyles: When did you discover your voice as an artist?
Oswin Benjamin: I actually just discovered my voice and my sound as an artist about a month or two ago. Up until this point I’ve just been trying to figure out what works best for me, and I finally found my niche.
YK: You were born in Brooklyn, raised in upstate New York, and lived in Harlem and The Bronx. How has the culture of each area influenced you musically?
OB: That’s a great question. I feel like after moving to the city, I have been way more exposed to Hip Hop. Being that I’m constantly around it I find it easier to adapt. There’s so much going on in New York City both positive and negative so seeing everything right from my window is like limitless material to write about. As far as living upstate, it wasn’t to urban so I had to leave it up to my imagination to create the scenarios that I now see on a daily basis.
YK: Can you explain what Society Music is?
OB: Society Music is more like a family then anything else. I call them all my brothers and vice versa. The team consists of Tyler Busher (producer), Miguel Baez (photographer), Jovan Bernard (graphic designer), Craig (financial advisor), Chris Maxwell (event coordinator/advisor), and Melquan King (security). We all have an understanding that our purpose in the world is greater than just ourselves so with the gifts that God has given us we plan on not only changing society, but the world.
YK: How has winning the Faces In The Crowd showcase affected your career?
OB: The Faces In The Crowd showcase has been a great help. I’ve been meeting a lot of connections and most importantly, I’ve been having the opportunity to be heard by more people in more venues mainly because of the Faces in the Crowd Showcase. Shutouts to Reality, Chalant, Genesis, Lotta, and the F.I.T.C. family for giving me that opportunity and believing in the movement.
YK: You rhyme over several classic beats. How do you pick the tracks you choose to use?
OB: Honestly up until this point, it’s been a weird process. I wasn’t really used to writing to beats, most of the songs that I have done are written thoughts that I’ve compiled over the years and when certain beats would come on I would see which one fit best. But I can honestly say that the most authentic songs have been the ones where I heard the beat and took time to feel it out and speak my heart the right way on. I feel like as cliché as it may sound the beat chooses me. If I feel an emotional connection with it, then I will write to it. Well lately that’s how it has been.
YK: There are a lot of indie artists that are making big strides in the industry right now without major label help. Are you interested in eventually signing with a major or are you content with staying independent?
OB: I would love to stay independent. I feel like that way I don’t have to conform to what a label wants or be bound by a contract telling me to make music I don’t feel. The worst thing to me as an artist would be to hear someone tell me to make what they feel would sell and not what’s truly from my heart and soul.
YK: Jay-Z famously said he had to “dumb down” his lyrics to achieve stardom. Would you ever consider changing your lyrical style in order to reach a larger audience?
OB: As of now, no. I wouldn’t want to dumb down and risk saying exactly how I feel to appeal to more people. The music that I make means so much to me, and I feel like the people that relate will gravitate to it and the people that don’t, that’s just a part of being an artist, coming to terms with the fact that not everyone will understand or “feel you”. All I can do is be me and pray to God that the people accept that.
YK: You reference spirituality and religion a lot in your music. What’s your opinion of Kanye West’s rumored Yeezus title for his new album?
OB: I mean to each his own. Kanye is a brilliant artist and I don’t feel anyway about it. It’s controversial, and controversy grabs attention. I think it’s a brilliant marketing scheme. I wouldn’t do it though.
YK: You sample Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz ) on your song “Forever 21” and use his image on the cover art for “The Light”. Do you feel a connection to Malcolm?
OB: I feel more of a connection to what he stood for. He was a very powerful man willing to die for what he believed in. That I respect and feel connected to.
YK: You’re also a singer. Have you ever considered recording an R&B or Gospel album?
OB: I did once. More gospel than R&B though.
YK: Besides you own music, what were the last three albums you listened to?
OB: Kendrick Lamar’s good kid M.A.A.D city. Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap. Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt.
YK: Nets or Knicks? Jets or Giants? Yankees or Mets?
OB: Knicks. Giants. Yankees.
YK: What’s next for Oswin Benjamin?
OB: Well September 14, 2013 I’m releasing my debut mixtape Choir Boy. I will be performing at different venues all summer long in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Harlem. For now I’m just going to keep working and praying to God to show me the next moves to make with my music and with my team.
For more info about Oswin Benjamin click it
To connect with Oswin follow him @OswinBmusic
Check out Oswin’s video for “Represent” and footage of him performing at the Faces In The Crowd showcase: