The rise and rise of HAAi
When you only have one track to your name and everyone’s talking about you, you know you’ve got something special. This is the position of North London’s rising multi-instrumentalist BenjiFlow (who we recently named as one of the most exciting artists for 2019) and his debut track, ‘Deep End’. Benji is no newcomer to the music industry, though, having spent time as a producer for UK artists such as Avelino, Sipprell, Wretch 32 and more. But now is his time in the spotlight, and, with so much hype behind his first track alone – it’s looking like his star is firmly on the rise. We caught up with Benji to find out more about his plans for what is clearly going to be a breakout year.
You’ve had an impressive reception for ‘Deep End’ – can you talk us through your musical journey leading up to it?
I’m glad it’s been received so well, honestly I am humbled. That track came around in a very organic way. Myself and Ragz [Originale] were playing Mario Kart and eating KFC when we just decided to pull out the computer and make a song, not much thought went into it. We never plan to make music, it always creates pressures, so we just make music when we feel and we don’t think about the process too much. We made that song in one night, we went back on forth on each instrument and everything we played in first, worked. I woke up the next day, phoned Ragz and said, “Ayyy this track is hard,” and that was it!
You first started playing piano aged seven, did the sort of music you played at that age inform what you make now?
I started playing classical piano first, then stopped when I was a teenager because I wanted to be a MC. I picked it up by ear later when the keyboardist at my church didn’t turn up so my dad told me to play, without my knowing how to play by ear, ha! Personally I think being able to play a choice of instruments has helped my production. Through playing multiple instruments I have been influenced by different genres. For example, when I wanted brush up on my groove, I listened to a lot of D’Angelo, Pino Pallidino was the king of pocket groove. Guitar time was John Mayer, so on and so forth.
You entered the industry initially as a producer – who have been your favourite people to work with, and what makes for a good working relationship between artist/producer?
I was a producer that never really got to work with everybody I wanted to. I didn’t get to work with that many people so it was tough. I think the best working relationships come first with the producer understand their role in making sure you get the best out the artist, from there everything should own out. Also great listening skills, ha! You almost become a therapist!
What motivated you to step out behind the mixing desk and start releasing as a soloist?
It was always in me to be an artist, I was always making music for myself but never taking it seriously. I was always trying to produce but never really made anything that connected as much as music I made for myself has. So it was very natural!
One nice thing about your Boiler Room set is how much your friends are hyping you up. Is your friends’ support important to you?
My friends are a big part of my journey, I literally make music for my friends. As for Boiler Room, a quarter of the room were friends, the others were people who loved the song and came down when I put out the invitation on Instagram and Twitter! Very organic energy!
You’re part of collective Mini Kingz with Ragz, Oscar #Worldpeace and more – and you’ve described yourselves jointly as “pretty nerdy” – is it nice to be able to work with likeminded individuals?
It’s great, because in our world, we are not boxed in, judged or stereotyped. We are all from North London, all grew around areas that was very heavy territory wars, it was tough. So being around that, surviving day to day and finding peace through different genres of music just organically placed us together!
Finally, what have you got planned for 2019?
More great music, creating more great moments and having fun with it all!