XXL Freshmen Roundtable Pt. 1

New to the XXL annual run of videos: a roundtable discussion. See if this piques your interest as Chance The Rapper, Vic Mensa, Kevin Gates, Isaiah Rashad and August Alsina sit down and discuss hip hop blending with R&B, large crowds, and being picked for the issue.

ICYMI: All things XXL Freshmen (Freestyles, Cyphers, more)

GWHH Interview: Jarren Benton

I was posted in Cali for the last few weeks and had the chance to link up with Jarren Benton. For those of you who don’t know him, he was recently part of XXL’s 2014 Freshmen Class alongside Chicago notables like Vic Mensa, Lil Bibby, and Chance The Rapper. Beyond the cover, Jarren Benton has been making a name for himself since 2011. His track “Skitzo” hit 1.3 million views on YouTube and earned him the respect and attention from notable rappers like 2 Chainz, Dizzy Wright, and Jon Connor. At 32 years old, Jarren Benton is doing it bigger and better with each stride. Already making himself a lending contender in the game, he continues to bring us innovative material and show us exactly why we need to know his name.


First and foremost, congrats on being part of the cover of XXL 2014’s Freshmen Class. How does it feel to be nominated?

Thank you, I appreciate it. It was dope. I honestly didn’t expect to get it or even be nominated. I just remembering going hard and telling everyone to go and vote for me if they like my stuff. And when I got it I was like “Oh shit!” People came through and got me to where I am now.

(Laughs) Damn you seem pretty shocked.

Yeah I mean I wasn’t that shocked but still a great moment for me to soak in. It was dope just meeting everyone that was part of the cover and seeing how everyone is trying to make larger moves in getting our name and music out there. Definitely very memorable.

Of course and that nomination was definitely deserved. Congrats again! But I know besides the XXL cover you’ve been pretty busy on tour with Tech N9ne. How has that been?

It’s been great. Really cool to be around people who work hard and just having a good time doing what they love. We’ve been hopping around a lot but regardless we always try to give our fans a great show. Tech N9ne is great, I’ve been learning alot and just having a great time touring and doing my thing. Not going to lie, it has been a little bit tiring but it’s whatever, I’m still enjoying myself.


Besides the tour with Tech n9ne I know you and Hopsin have been collaborating. How was working with him? Can we expect more collaborations in the future?

Hopsin?! Oh he’s the homie. Honestly he’s a weird dude and I mean that in a good way. We are both weird dudes who do weird shit when it comes to making our music. Like when we made the track “Who’s There?” we were in our own space, alone, just doing us and only came out to discuss the track or whatever once we had things settled on our own. But I do hope we link up soon, we’re both busy with our own stuff so future projects will definitely be in the works.

So you guys basically only met when it came down to finalizing the last pieces?

Yeah basically. But that’s just how we do things. We’re weird. I’m a weird dude.

Define weird though.

I’m really particular about how and where I make my music. I got a ritual down and once I start something I need to just do it on my own and just kind of be in my own head sometimes. That’s just me.

I know your album “My Grandma’s Basement” is out. What was the inspiration behind that album and title? Was this the same process as all your other tracks? 

Literally what the title is (laughs). My ass was LITERALLY in my grandma’s basement. But this album was mainly inspired about the dark period in my life when I was living in my grandma’s basement. It was a rough time and I wanted to dedicate an album where I can look back on those times and just give my fans a more intimate look at my work.

I can definitely see how that album reflects some of your tougher times. But on the lighter note…that basement though…I mean was it decked out and shit?

(Laughs) I mean it was aight. But I mean come on now, it was my grandma’s basement. Things were grim but still, there were some decent times here and there.

What makes this album so different from everything else you’ve done?

This album has less “fun” elements. When I wrote tracks like “Skitzo”, I was already going through shit but I just wanted to make something fun because I had other things going on. I was more in the mindset that I wanted to produce and have fun and just drop whatever negative was surrounding me.

Yeah and I feel like that’s where solid music comes from. It just comes when you just produce what you like rather than following the masses. Do you think this progressive way of thinking has changed or grown in the music industry?

I feel like it has definitely grown. Music definitely has gotten more diverse and we see more and more artists being more progressive. We got dudes coming up from Europe, Canada, and etc. just giving us good shit to listen to and I’m happy to see that music especially hip hop is becoming more cutting edge. To be honest it’s about time! It just goes to show that music is evolving and it’s evolving with the times. Granted we still hear the same old tracks being overplayed on the radio but when you really sit down and listen to some of the stuff being played, things are starting to sound more different. It’s coming up slowly but still a good sign that things are moving beyond us.


“2014 XXL Freshmen Cypher” Pt. 1

More entertaining than the individuals, IMO. XXL puts out its first 2014 XXL Freshman Class group cypher and this one features the lineup of Kevin Gates, Vic Mensa, August Alsina, Isaiah Rashad, and Chance The Rapper capping it off. Icing on the cake is DJ Drama scratching a lethal production from Don Cannon that acts as the backdrop for the aforementioned freshmen.

Gates was a good first emcee on it because I feel the beat matched his gritty style well. I don’t know if I could say the same for Vic to keep it real, I thought he coulda flowed better and I didn’t vibe with the fake phone call act he started off with. His lyrics had its moments though. August Alsina added a dope dimension to the cypher, singing a pseudo hook to break it up and finish the cypher completely. Isaiah Rashad was the third emcee and though solid, he didn’t stand out like the beginning of Chano’s addition to the cypher up last. Who was your favorite?