Benjamin J. Harris Jr. (born March 1st, 1987) known by his stage name Benzo, is an American hip hop recording artist from South Bend, Indiana. Benzo grew up on the west side of South Bend, where he attended school before dropping out and later getting his GED. After obtaining his GED in 2006, he started rapping and recording music. He never made a mixtape but collaborated with other local artist. At the end of 2007, he and his friends put out a song called “Do the Mac Walk” which turned out to be a big hit towards the younger crowd. In 2009, he started to focus on a solo mixtape and began recording his music. Towards the end of the year Benzo ran into some trouble and was arrested on a murder charge and never finished the mixtape. He ended up receiving six years on a lesser charge of reckless homicide. With nothing but time on his hands he started writing. He was released in August 2012 on good behavior, only serving three years. When released he hit the studio and began recording his mixtape “The Other Side of The Story”. Within months he shot a music video for his hit single “South Bend Indiana” and it went viral. Gaining over 20,000 views overnight, news reporters were calling Benzo wanting interviews. The song was a big hit with the Notre Dame students of South Bend, who later invited him to perform at a party on campus. Benzo later came out with a video for his songs “ My Dreads “ and “Go Ham ft. Vedo the Singer",who made it to the live top 12 on the TV show “ The Voice “ . Benzo has opened up for artist such as Pleasure P, Juvenile, and Bone Crusher. He had a successful album release party selling hundreds of copies of his mixtapes. Benzo continues to push his mix tape and looks to gain more fans in other cities and states. He is hoping his mixtape will fall into the right hands. He continues to work on more songs and shows.
Benjamin J. Harris Jr. (born March 1st, 1987) known by his stage name Benzo, is an American hip hop recording artist from South Bend, Indiana. Benzo grew up on the west side of south bend, the younger crowd. In 2009, he started to focus on a solo mixtape and began recording his music. Towards the end of the year Benzo ran into some trouble and was arrested on a murder charge and never finished the mixtape. He ended up receiving six years on a lesser charge of reckless homicide. With nothing but time on his hands he started writing.
Benzo later came out with a video for his songs “ My Dreads “ and “ Go Ham “ ft. Vedo the Singer, who made it to the live top 12 on the TV show “ The Voice “ . Benzo has opened up for artist such as Pleasure P, Juvenile, and Bone Crusher. He had a successful album release party selling hundreds of copies of his mixtapes. Benzo continues to push his mix tape and looks to gain more fans in other cities and states. He is hoping his mixtape will fall into the right hands. He continues to work on more songs and shows.
Who is Benzo, and where are you from?
Benzo is the realest...cool, calm, confident dude from South Bend, Indiana!
How did you discover your musical talent?
I always loved rhyming and writing poetry when I was in grade school. Then I turned it into writing songs. My first time recording one of my songs was on my little cousin Barbie Doll toy tape player…haha. I knew I was good when my friends heard the tape and was reciting the songs then I hooked up with another little cousin who was recording and making CDs and from there we started taking it seriously!
Who has been your greatest inspirations musically and why?
Probably Jeezy & Future. I seen the way they started off selling CDs out their trunk and took over their city and the streets. I made a hot mixtape and did the same thing. I look up to Jay Z & Birdman on that business side but Drake is my favorite rapper!
What do you feel you offer the music industry that we don't already have in other performers?
I can't really say I bring something that no performer in the industry has but I can say I bring something that everybody have bottled on one. My music can be all over. I can write a cold slow song, a cold gutta song, or if I wanted to a cold rock and roll song… lol.
Have you encountered any problems in getting to this point in your career?
I always encounter problems on my road to success one of my biggest problems was catching a murder case in the middle of working on my first solo mixtape. Luckily, I was blessed to go to trial get a hung jury and receiving a lesser charge of reckless homicide, which I got 6 years do half. There were rumors I snitched, which were started by haters mad I made it through my situation but all people have to do is look the case up read the whole thing and that will tell you how everything went down. I’m not running or hiding from the situation, I want it to get out there and FREE Q-Bird!
What do you want people get from your music?
I just want people to feel my pain and struggle. I try to record songs that everyone can relate to as much as possible and everything I rap about is real, you will never hear in my music me talking about something I don't have or been through!
When can we expect some new music from you?
I'm working on songs for my next mixtape right now. I can't give a drop date yet...still focused on flooding the streets with my first mixtape "The Other Side of the Story". I already took over my city with it and only been free from being incarcerated for a little over 10 months.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
One of my YouTube videos went viral overnight. It had over 20,000 views overnight, which landed me a spot on the local news and I was only home from prison less the 2 months at the time. The song called "South Bend, Indiana" look it up on YouTube, it has over 74,000 views right now would of been more but they set the video private due to a bunch of controversy in the city!
If you could collaborate with one artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Would respectfully have to say Lil Wayne. If you have a song with Wayne you know you doing big business and you know you that then dude then…lol.
One track of yours that you think defines you and why?
That's hard because all my songs on my CD really define me from the deep songs to the slow songs but if I had to choose I say the first song on my cd which is the intro it talk about my case and what I been through. It’s called “Til Da World Blow”.
Last but not least, HYPE wants to know...What's your CRAZIEST "Where they do that at?!" moment...
You cuffed the flipper? Where they do that at? lol
A viral video that has thousands of South Bend residents talking is about the city itself.
It's a music video on YouTube called "South Bend, Indiana" that talks about growing up and living in the city.
Since it was posted by local rapper Benzo da Realest Nov. 17, it's gotten nearly 30,000 hits -- many overnight.
"I almost broke down in tears, I ain't going to lie," he said. "I couldn't believe it myself. I was happy."
Benzo is a lifelong South Bend resident who says he loves his city, despite some negative experiences growing up.
"We came up from a rough lifestyle and I'm sure a lot of kids can relate to that," Benzo said. "We trying to show not all of South Bend is good, not all is bad, but we've got both."
But, city leaders say the music video shows a slanted view of the city, only highlighting the bad.
Many of the lyrics make reference to violence and corruption in the city, with phrases like, "You disrespect my city, you might become a target," or "These cops so shady, they want to lock and chain me."
"Obviously, everybody's perception of the same thing is always going to be different because we all see things differently," said South Bend Police Resource Officer Antwon Jones. "Are there bad people in every field? Yeah there are. But, I also think there's a lot of great, great officers in the city."
The video also references shootings, drugs and gangs -- all issues South Bend has, but is working on.
"Not to sugarcoat, I know there's real issues in our community, but I think there's real issues in any city" said Jeff Rea, President and CEO of the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce. "But, it's how we react that matters. What are we willing to do to change the tide? We can all sit back and wait for someone to save us from ourselves, or we all can roll up our sleeves to try and improve this."
Benzo agrees the city needs some improving -- that was one of his goals in making the video.
He wants people to talk about issues the city is facing and work to change them.
"We want some help down in the intercity where we were born and raised," he said. "We want someone to step in and try to help out."
Still, city leaders say they were disappointed when they saw the video and the way the city was portrayed.
Common Council member Derek Dieter told NewsCenter 16 over the phone, "There is a segment of the population that is part of that lifestyle, but I don't think that's the entire picture of South Bend. It's sad they've chosen this opportunity to convey what they think is right."