Jarren Benton Doesn’t Think He Fits In With The New Atlanta Sound
Last week, Atlanta native Jarren Benton released his brand new EP Slow Motion Vol. 1. The eight-track project honors the memory of his fallen friend and manager Jahmal “Slow Motion” Pryor and is one of Benton’s most personal projects to date.
On Slow Motion Vol. 1, Benton pairs up with the likes of labelmates Hopsin and Dizzy Wright as well as Jon Connor, ¡MAYDAY! and more, and seeks the production of familiar names such as Kato and M16. For the Funk Volume artist the EP will serve as an appetizer for possibly a full album in the future; if not, a "part two" tribute EP in honor of Slow Motion will be the result. Already receiving positive feedback from music critics and fans, the 2014 XXL Freshman's latest offering is among the top albums in the hip-hop/rap on the iTunes charts.
While in New York City last week, Jarren Benton stopped by the XXL offices to speak with us about his new EP, the Atlanta movement and his Funk Volume family. —Roger Krastz
XXL: You recently dropped the Slow Motion Vol. 1 EP. What's the difference between this project and your previous one.
Jarren Benton: Slow Motion is dedicated to my homie Slow. He passed away last year so I wanted to do an EP. I was going to make it an album and I just wanted to dedicate something to the homie. So that’s where the title comes from—Slow Motion, a.k.a Jahmal Pryor. I tone down on this album a little bit. It’s not so outlandish. It still has an aggressive tone to it, but more substance with the lyrics. I have a couple of songs where you hear some outlandish bars but for the most part it’s a lot of personal shit on this one. The way I started off the album it was going to be completely different. I was going for a more soulful type of vibe with heavy samples on the album, but you know how it is with clearing these samples. So I went back to the drawing board and said, I’m going to split it up and do two projects off of Slow Motion.
So there’s a second part to this EP?
Yeah, man. There’s a Vol. 2. I’m thinking I might make Vol. 2 an album. Maybe 10, 12 tracks on there.
The chemistry between you and producer Kato on the EP really stands out. What do you think it is that makes the chemistry work so well?
Man, it's all me. Kato don’t do shit. [Laughs] I’m going to tell you how it goes; Kato has a phenomenal ear, but Kato is only using 20 percent of his talent. Kato is a live drum player. Kato plays the fucking guitar. He plays the piano and he’s really dope, but sometimes Kato get caught up in the trends of the sounds. So when me and him sit down to do shit I still want to keep an element that is sort of similar to what’s going on today, but still doing something unique with it. When Kato and I link up I’m like Morpheus. I give him great direction, so that’s how the chemistry go. So it’s really me just guiding the student. I used to produce, so you know, just showing a nigga how to become a great producer so it’s really on me. Fuck you, Kato! [Laughs]
One of the tracks that’s been getting a lot of love from the fans off the EP is “You Don’t Know Me.” How did that track come about?
I wanted to do something different. Hemi, who is featured on the track, came up with the hook and it’s really self-explanatory. A lot of people say this and that about me. They say I’m crazy, but they really don’t know me. So I’m kind of throwing a couple of shots on the track, but not to anyone personally. It’s just a middle finger up to the people that act like they know me, but still throwing a couple of jabs on there. I even throw a jab at my pops on the track, so I’m just punching all the non-believers on there.
How have things changed for you since doing the XXL Freshmen cover last year?
It’s been cool, man. Thank you XXL for having me on the cover. I was on the road so much I’m just now getting back to seeing the effects of it and putting out music behind it. When I first got the cover I was on the road with Freddie Gibbs for, like, 78 days. I got off the road and shortly went back on the road with Dizzy Wright. And so probably around September or October was when I was able to start working back on music and I started getting a lot of love. I can't say it was life-changing, but it was an awesome look. Dope to have that on the resume. I think the Freshmen list is a great platform.
Being from the ATL, do you consider yourself a part of the new Atlanta movement that is coming out of the region?
I don’t really want to be classified in the new Atlanta because the media, or whoever I guess picked out those dudes, they didn’t come out and reach out to me. No disrespect to them dudes. They are all doing their thing, but I feel like there’s a side of Atlanta that is not being represented. Also, all those dudes have a similar sound. I saw the documentary of the new Atlanta and all those dudes are on the same kind of wave. Maybe not Raury. I think he probably was the only dude that I saw in that documentary that was kind of different, but everybody else has a similar sound, so that’s why when they say new Atlanta I equvilate that to a sound. I don’t necessarily think I fit in that sound. I think I’m a little bit more diverse and a little bit more lyrical. I consider myself the different Atlanta.
Will there be a Funk Volume compilation project in the near future?
You know what? We started working on the Funk Volume project. It wasn’t coming out how we wanted it—it was cool and a great starting point—but I think we want to go back to the drawing board. Everybody wants to finish up their solo projects. Hopsin is coming out with something new, Dizzy coming out with something new, SwizZz coming out with something new and I just dropped my shit, so I think once we get everybody's shit out then we are going to go back to the drawing board and do a Funk Volume project.
Speaking of Hopsin, you were a part of the video in which he announced that he won’t be quitting rap? When did you find out that Hop was just trolling with the fans?
Hopsin was flexing. It was a joke. We knew about it ahead of time because he called us before he did it. I think it was week prior to him posting the pic and caption on Instagram. I guess it was good promotion for his new album. I was in the video, so you saw my acting. Golden Globe type of shit, so don’t fuck with your boy. [Laughs]
How was it watching the reaction of fans after Hopsin’s so-called “retirement”?
It was fucking ridiculous. The shit that really got to me was some dude was talking about suicide. I’m like, “WTF nigga?” I’m like, nigga, if you kill yourself over a rapper then you should kill yourself over the fact that you would kill yourself for a rapper. Jump off a bridge, nigga.