In late 2018, to celebrate his signing to iconic Los Angeles record label Stones Throw Records, Benny Sings released his cover of Drake’s “Passionfruit”, further establishing the pop artist’s unique ability to draw an ever-broader audience into his world. Now, under different circumstances, the writer/producer/singer further reveals personal insights with an earned optimism and necessary confidence. For Patta’s first collaboration with Benny Sings, he deliberates on everything from memory to the end of a long-awaited search. The resulting T-shirts reveal a peculiar mix between nostalgia and an age yet to come.
Benny, congratulations on signing to Stones Throw Records. How important is a label to you in 2019?
Benny Sings: Well, it isn’t important unless it’s Stones Throw—they really have a name and a face in a particular corner of music that is all Hip Hop inspired. I guess it became clear how many doors have opened since being on the label. They have such a huge influence.
.. on how you were perceived?
Benny Sings: In terms of the quality, you listen to the album in a totally different way and take it more seriously. This makes things more fluid, people are telling me this is my best album to date. And when I was making the album, I wasn’t sure about that. As far as Stones Throw goes, their label had a significant impact on me; plus you see how people want to work with you.
You recently spoke about the writing on City Pop, calling the process “the beginning of something new.” How is the City Pop album different from the others?
Benny Sings: I think I would say it’s freer. I was very insecure for a certain amount of time. Because there was a trend where music was very dark, basically. And my music is very light and fluffy, so I was searching for my kind of style. But with City Pop, it’s fundamentally different: I got more confident of what I had to offer. This album stopped my search.
We’ve known each other for a long time, can you speak about the connection between Patta and Benny Sings?
Benny Sings: I think the connection was made in 2003 when I moved to Amsterdam and my first album ‘Champagne People’ was released. There were these Rednose Distrikt nights where we used to hang: Steven de Peven, Aardvarck, Patta, Piet Parra, and we got to know each other. We used to all hang out, it was a fun time. Parra even designed tour T-Shirts for Benny Sings in 2005, but they were never made because of budget. Since then, I’ve stopped partying, so we didn’t see each other that much but we always maintained a warm connection.
And then I saw the shoot with the Patta and Nike collab, ”Publicity. Publicity. Wohoooow!” and I was like, “I need to have this in my ‘Passionfruit’ video.” I ordered it and Gee made sure it arrived in time, the video came out and that suit was a very important part of the video. So then the connection was easy to make. We needed merchandise for City Pop, and Patta was already in proximity. I was in the right place at the right time.
For people that don’t know, what is your connection to Hip Hop? How can we hear it in the music?
Benny Sings: My teen years were very much influenced by Hip Hop. I was a skater in the mid-nineties, from 16 to 21 or so, and that was really a formative time for me. Because that’s where I’m from. And you can still hear that in the music, on the kicks, snares, and bass. It’s not like modern Hip Hop, it doesn’t have anything to do with trap beats, it’s really like the turn of the century stuff. De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest.. and I think you can hear that in my music.
Can you describe how the T-shirt designs for the Patta collaboration came to be?
Benny Sings: When you think about Benny Sings, you think about light stuff, light colours, “fluffy stuff”. But with this album, I wanted the merch to shine on the Hip Hop side of Benny Sings; the fact that there’s this street side to me. Which is inaudible for people other than the people that know me and know where I come from. I wanted to shine a light on that and make it more Hip Hop in a way. That’s how the t-shirt with the letters on it came about. And the other t-shirt is a blown up detail from the City Pop album artwork, which was awesome to me.