Interview: Handpicked by Waka Flocka, Meet Brick Squad’s Newest Signee, Ben G
World, meet Waka Flocka Flame’s newest protege.
His name is Ben G, and he’s now an official addition to the Brick Squad roster. His music marries boom-bap hip-hop with upbeat dance music, and according to Waka, Ben is “the reason [he] started doing more EDM.” Ben even executively produced Waka’s EDM-infused album, Turn Up God, in its entirety.
The two have also rapped side by side on a handful of tracks, including Ben G’s “Heart of a Lion,” which offers an impassioned declaration of the optimistic rhymslayer’s purposeful ambition.
Though his music is what allows them to create and tour together, it’s his “unbelievable, cinematic story” that secured him a spot on the team, according to the Brick Squad ringleader. Growing up in a group home and having a frictional relationship with the law, Ben’s rocky childhood is what allows him the strength to do what he loves: perform in front of crowds around the world, spreading optimism and preaching positivity.
Now, Ben G rocks side-by-side with the Brick Squad boys. When I asked Waka how he plans to take Ben G’s career to new heights, he told me, “Honestly, he’s one of my best friends. I want to make him bigger than me. That’s the goal.”
The two are currently on a nationwide tour while Ben puts the finishing touches on his forthcoming EP, Spanish Moss and Collard Greens.
How did you link up with Waka and Brick Squad?
Me and Waka have been friends for a few years now, and we have a real organic, brother-like relationship. Since he had his business structure in place with 36 Brickhouse and was ready to take on and push artists, it made sense that he’d take me on since we were already really good friends. But I’ve been repping Brick Squad and I’ve been around all of them for the past three years, so it wasn’t like he found me online or something. He was just like, ‘Come over here and let’s make it happen.’
How did you meet if you were living in South Carolina and he was in Atlanta?
My friends who I was working with were booking me a bunch of college shows, and I ended up opening for him at Ole Miss. I rocked that show, and people were telling Waka that he needed to watch me. After the show I went backstage, and Waka was like, “Do not leave here tonight. I wanna talk to you after the show.” He invited me to his house the next week, and we really hit it off.
How’s your relationship now?
Our music is so different, but somehow we mesh really well together. Especially working together in the studio and everything, the chemistry is on point. Having someone like that on your side is awesome, especially since Waka’s one of the most respected gangster rappers to ever come out. He has respect from the streets, but also from the EDM world and the college world. When you go to a show, it’s like a melting pot. That’s the same kind of fanbase I want to have, so I think it makes sense.
Do you guys help each other grow? How has he affected your career since he signed you?
He always says that I’m the one who introduced him to EDM. The thing I learned the most from him was that, even though we put on a different show—I feel like Waka’s like a punk-rock star, and mine’s a little more funky and groovy—I learned how to put on a really energetic performance.
What was the hip-hop scene like back in SC?
There was none. I may be wrong about this, but besides like Hootie and the Blowfish, I may be the biggest thing to come out of South Carolina. As far as someone to take over the colleges and expand out of the state, take on major tours and get a major cosign, and do all the things that I’ve done, nobody really has. I think that’s why the whole state is behind me.
Did anything from your upbringing push you into writing and producing music?
I grew up in a mixed neighborhood with a lot of kids coming from rough situations. And any time you’re in an environment like that, hip-hop is usually what everybody’s listening to. From an early age that’s what my friends and I were listening to with our boom boxes at the park and stuff. I lived in a group home from when I was 11 until age 16, and when I was there I really became interested in music. We would come home and watch Rap City every day after school. Me being a writer and having a knack for words, it attracted me to start writing music.
B-FAM stands for Be Forever About Music. It’s kind of like my Brick Squad. It’s me and my boys, but it also includes the fans and the movement. The reason I say that is because rappers especially, but all musicians really, put themselves on a pedestal where they level themselves above the fans. Some do it more than others, of course, but a lot of them like to brag about what they have and what you don’t. I don’t want to be like that! I want to Be Forever About Music, because that’s why I started this and that’s how I’m going to finish doing this. It’s not about the money, the cars, the clothes, the women; it’s about the music.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on an EP called Spanish Moss and Collard Greens. It embodies a humble southern kid with big dreams and aspirations, and it’s all produced by Super Mario. Everybody I’ve sent it to really sees the growth and feels that I’ve arrived now.
I knew the kind of rapper I wanted to be regarded as, and the more I did it, and listened to my competition, the more I realized where I needed improvement. I realized that if this is the kind of artist I want to be, I need the be the best of the best.
What kind of message are you hoping to spread with your music?
I did a show in Raleigh, and during the show I said something about growing up in a group home, and that nothing I went through in my past determines my future. I’m going to go hard everyday, even if I have to go harder than everyone else. At the meet and greet after the show, this girl came up to me, and I hugged her and asked her what was wrong. She was 16 years old, and had been in foster care since she was a child. She said, “I never knew what my purpose in life was, and I’d always felt like I was hopeless. Tonight, seeing you on that stage, and knowing that you came from what I live in now, and that you made it to there, that lets me know I can do what I want to do in life.” It was amazing.
When it’s all said and done, I want black, white, brown, old, young, male, female, everyone to come to my show because I want my music to touch all different types of demographics and symbolize everyone getting together and having a good time.
My mom passed away when I was 22. When I went through my mom’s stuff at her house after she’d passed, I found a journal. Inside it, there were letters she was writing to me while I was in jail. I was there for 8 months when I was 16, and my mom didn’t talk to me the whole time. But she had kept a journal where she’d written letters for me but never sent them. One of the ones she sent me—and I keep a picture of it as the background of my phone—says, “Write your music. Follow your own tune. Just make sure it’s your own song. Fly baby bird. Love, Mom.” I look at that everyday and beat it into my head. I think that she instilled it in me to spread love, be nice to people, and be respectful. We came from a lot of ups and downs in my childhood and in our family, but she would still never do anything negative to another human. In her honor, I think music is a platform for me to be able to touch people and have influence. I want to, for example, do a tour, stop at all the Boys and Girls clubs and talk to the kids, and tell them that I know what they’re going through and they can be anything they want to be in their lives. If I can affect .001% of the world positively, then I’m good.
Image: Ben G