Q&A With Bay Area’s Rising Hip Hop Artists Benni J & O-Naje


Hey Benni J x O-Naje! Please tell us how many years have you guys been making music together? Where are you guys from? Most importantly, how did you guys meet?
We recorded our first track together “Get it right” in 2019.
We’re from the Bay Area, Ca. The East Bay to be exact, Benni’s from Oakland, I’ve lived all around the Bay.
Benni was a barber at a shop in West Oakland named “Uppercuts”. I used to go there and I met him. I later found out he rapped and we remained cool planned to collaborate.
What separates you guys from all the other up and coming MC’s and groups? And will this duo being long-term?
I think what separates us is our ability to speak our truth through music, our transparency. We don’t compromise our sentiments and feelings, it’s real, it’s who we are as evolving human beings. The fact that it sounds good is just a bonus or add on. We both have something to say that is universal to all and because it’s genuine many different types of people can relate.
It’s a high possibility Benni and I will collaborate again, as long as it’s organic as “Soul Rap Psychology” was, it felt like a divine connection, guided by something higher, we were just the vessels to bring it to light.

You guys are extremely original and really put out a modern Boom Bap and edgy sound and style!!! Please tell us how you guys describe your sound?
I describe our flow as SoulRap which is sorta a mixture of rap, harmonies, and melodies. The production is mid-tempo, heavy bass, laced with strings and chords. The beat grabs you physically, makes you move, the lyrics grab your mind.
How are you guys coping with this whole Covid 19 situation? Has it delayed any new music production by any chance?
The COVID 19 has been a challenge in that it cut off the spaces to meet and share with groups, which is a huge part of a performing artist. Performing live is a very energizing and liberating outlet for me, coping without that has taught me to express in other ways digitally. Writing, recording, and releasing music has not so much been affected because it’s all done digitally so I’ve had a chance to really improve my production capabilities. This is the first full album I mixed.
Tell us about your Hip Hop and/or music influences?
My Hip Hop influences begin with rappers who came out in the ’80s, artists like LL Cool J, Kool Moe Dee, Run DMC. It then transitioned to more local, West Coast artists around the Bay like Spice 1, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg. I went off to college at Grambling State University in Louisiana and my roommate, a rapper from San Diego and Phiff dogs protégé before he passed “St Cyr” introduced me to artists like The Roots, Mos Def and Common. This had a powerful influence on my lyrics becoming more conscious and introspective. I then got really deep into 70’s soul artists like Curtis Mayfield, Maze, and Teddy Pendergrass. This inspired me to experiment with more singing and melodies. Currently, I’m all over the place but Gil Scott Heron has been on repeat lately.
Please breakdown the creative process of your guys latest album “SoulRap Psychology”. And tell us a little about the album cover concept!
I knew I wanted to explore the psychology side more so I added the samples from the Documentary. I wanted the listener to feel like they were being guided through a session with our songs.
Many of the songs were already written or recorded, with songs like “Grooving” and “Live Infinite” Benni already had verses and I felt like I would be a good fit so I added my flavor.
The album cover was all Benni’s idea.
Your honest opinion, out of all the songs on the project, which is the one song you guys feel stands out the most!?
I really like “Tap In”. To me, it highlights all the elements of what I do as a musician. The beat is heavy and emotion grabbing, the tone is calm but has strength and the soul is strong. The message I feel couldn’t be more relevant to people feeling alone and isolated at this time. It’s a reminder that we’re never alone, there’s always a higher power walking with us.
We have to ask, with all this social discourse and revolt, protesting and rioting, exposed police brutality toward blacks and BLM, how do you guys feel about this? We would love your guy’s perspective on the climate we are living in right now?
It’s interesting that people are acting like this is something new. This has been going for numerous generations. Nevertheless, I believe the protesters are doing a good job of keeping the heat on so that the broader society will begin to change its views on Blackness to a more positive one.
I believe the way to change the conditions is to continually address the root of the issues, the “Whys” not necessarily the “ What’s”, the causes not the symptoms. “All People Unite”!!

If it came down to 1 ALBUM only, what underground Hip Hop album would you guys consider THE BEST OF ALL TIME!!!???……One 1 album you can choose.
“Soul Rap Psychology”
Here it is! Our most popular question! What is your definition of “underground hip hop”?
I’m not sure you can put a narrow label on music or art in general. I believe the beauty of music is that it doesn’t fit into any one category. My definition of music I like moves you and raises your consciousness on all levels, I believe “SoulRap Psychology”
Does just that.
Tap in.
Where can people find you on the web? Drop all the vital links.
Journey with me.
Spotify: http://bit.ly/O-NajeSpotify
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OnajeIntheflow
Subscribe: http://bit.ly/JourneyWithMeChannel
Instagram: https://bit.ly/OnajeIG
#Rymesthatelevate


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