Benzino Speaks On Recent Arrest, "CAEZAR" Mixtape Featuring Waka Flocka Flame
Exclusive: The Made Men leader tells DX about working with J. Prince, his reaction to Mobb Deep's resurgence and the success of "Hip-Hop Weekly."
Benzino always lands on his feet. No matter what the situation is with the rapper/entrepreneur, he manages to persevere. Since his 2005 departure from The Source magazine (he was co-owner beside David Mays), Benzino has been busying himself with other ventures. He started Hip-Hop Weekly, reuniting with Mays the following year in 2006, and is preparing to drop his first batch of music since The Antidote in 2007. The Boston native is working on a mixtape, CAEZAR, due for release in less than a month. He says that he’s also created an entirely new sound for Hip Hop on his upcoming LP, VEGAS MUSIC, complete with live band instrumentation and vocalists.
Still, even with his hectic work schedule, trouble seems to find Benzino. On July 8th, he was arrested in Miami Beach and charged with driving erratically. The police are also saying that there was a firearm in the vehicle that shoots rifle rounds. It’s just another hurdle for Benzino to cross but he’s definitely not the type to get easily discouraged. DX had the opportunity to talk to the made man about the CEAZAR project, his goals, and why he’d be open to collaborating with Havoc despite bad meeting evil.
HipHopDX: What happened with you down there in Miami last week?
Benzino: I mean, the case is still open so I can’t say too much but I’m definitely getting exonerated. Charges will be dismissed and I’ll be exonerated.
DX: Can you speak on what you’ve been doing business-wise?
Benzino: Right now, we’re still doing Hip-Hop Weekly, me and my partner David Mays.
DX: Hip Hop Weekly’s been present for a while now, and pretty consistent…
Benzino: After the situation with me and Dave [founding and subsequently leaving] The Source, we just thought it was only right that we put out another magazine. The whole format of Hip-Hop Weekly, coming out every two weeks was just something we couldn’t resist, the name was available and the rest is history. We’re in our sixth year, we won a couple of awards, we’re doing pretty good.
Benzino: I’ve been working on an album, and a mixtape called, CAEZAR – that one should be coming out in about a month or two. We’re still mixing a few songs down here in Miami. I’m working with my son and daughter on a few projects.
DX: I know your son started rapping years ago, but I hadn’t heard about your daughter…
Benzino: Yeah, Coli’s 14, she’s doing more stuff; you can check some videos out on my YouTube channel. All my kids grew up in the studio, so it was only natural with her watching [her brother] Ray Ray that she’d pick up a pen. She writes all her own stuff too, most everything.
DX: So are you sticking with the home team, Hangmen 3 for production on CAEZAR?
Benzino: Yup. Hangmen 3 production. Stevie J, Mario Winans, Midas Gold Rush, and a couple local artists out of Miami. I’ve worked with Arizona Slim. I have a studio down here so the guys, as far as the producers, whoever’s in-house or around the studio, is pretty much who I use. I like working with anybody, you know? I just love doing music.
DX: Have you been out doing shows pretty consistently?
Benzino: I just did a show the other night and once I drop the album I’ll probably start promoting it, doing some more shows.
DX: Any features on CAEZAR that you can speak on?
DX: It’s been quite some time since you dropped something new, are you nervous or apprehensive at all about how it’ll be received?
Benzino: Nah, not at all. I’ve been working on this for the last couple of years, so it’s gonna be my first mixtape out in a while… Actually, I probably should’ve been put it out but you know, you’re always writing new songs, you’re always mixing, so I’m probably about two songs away, after I mix them, it’ll be done.
DX: What’s the criterion when choosing who to work with?
Benzino: It just has to be a vibe, the type of song or the timing. Someone may be in Miami at the time or I may be where they are, so it really is timing. I don’t like to send stuff out and have to wait and wait for the collabo to get on it, so it’s pretty much who’s around at the time.
DX: What’s the vibe of CAEZAR turning out to be?
Benzino: The whole vibe of this music is progression and stepping up as far as music and lyrics go. I’ve been working on this for a while, so it’s all about stepping up my lyrics, beats, everything… Everything’s about progress and I feel like this is the best music I’ve done in a long time.
DX: Have you heard about the legal issues between Rap-A-Lot and Pimp C’s wife [Chinara Butler]? I know, back in the day, your group, Almighty RSO [Roxbury Street Organization] had that joint venture with Rap-A-Lot, what was your experience like with the label?
Benzino: J Prince is like a brother, so when we were on Rap-A-Lot [Records], it was nothing but love, you know what I’m saying? And he’s like one of the pioneers in distribution as far as Hip Hop goes. So you know, times change and I can’t speak for nobody else but it was all love with J Prince.
DX: Around that same time, you let it be known in interviews that you were a pretty big fan of that gritty New York style of Rap: Nas, Mobb Deep… Have you spoken to Havoc or Prodigy since he came home?
Benzino: Nope. I haven’t talked to them in a while but I pretty much listen to everything now anyway: south, west coast. I’ve lived in L.A., I’m living in Miami so I’ve pretty much soaked in, wherever I’ve been production wise. Myself, Jeff and JB, we make up the Hangmen 3, so it’s a lot easier for me pick and make beats. This album’s pretty tight off of that right there.
DX: You weren’t only a fan of Mobb Deep, but you’ve worked with Havoc on a couple tracks before, about 20 years ago. If the situation allowed it, would you be willing to put some work in with Havoc behind the boards?
Benzino: Of course! Yeah, yeah. If I was in New York and Hav was around or whatever, oh of course, definitely… [Havoc] is one the premier Hip Hop producers and he has been for a long time.