Maxwell Benson gears up for Dawn of a New Day [Interview]
Los Angeles, CA – Originally published August 4, 2013 – Winnipeg-raised producer, Maxwell Benson, is getting ready to drop his Dawn of a New Day EP on Aug. 11. The album features Benson’s simplistic signature production, with rhymes provided by MCs Sadat X, Wordsworth, Trin, and more. The album drop date also happens to be the anniversary of another historical “dawn of a new day”— Kool Herc’s legendary 1973 hip-hop party in the Bronx.
Though Benson grew up in Winnipeg, he left Canada to pursue his career in Los Angeles. But he isn’t partial to Canadian or American music. He has a general appreciation for solid production, regardless of whether it’s from Canada or the United States. “I spent eight months, a lot of money and [many] sleepless nights trying to make the best possible product I could,” said Benson. “I’m not looking for the limelight.”
HipHopCanada caught up with Benson to chat about the upcoming album, Benson’s love for Yeezus, and the lesser-known fifth element of hip-hop. Peep the album preview, and check out our interview after the jump.
“I don’t really care about the whole Canada-versus-USA hip-hop scene’s dialogue and who reps it, and who doesn’t.” – Maxwell Benson
Maxwell Benson: Q&A
Interview conducted by Sarah Sussman for HipHopCanada
HipHopCanada: Tell us about the moment you fell in love with hip-hop.
Maxwell Benson: It was 1988 I was on a road trip with my mom. [She] was hell-bent on making sure that I knew the outdoors, as most Canadians do. She was torturing me with all her favorite music at the time. We stopped for gas in the middle nowhere. I walked into the gas station, determined to fix the music situation. There were no CDs [and] no MP3s. All you had was this metal stand that rotated and had all the cassette tapes padlocked in. I started spinning it around and saw the cover of Run DMC’s Tougher Than Leather. I somehow managed to convince my mom to buy it for me. I put the tape in and heard the crowd noise [and] then the intro, “We heard. Say what?” off the track “Run’s House.”That made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Then the beat kick in and I was hooked.
HipHopCanada: So you’re just about to drop Dawn of a New Day. What was the catalyst for putting the album together?
Maxwell Benson: I have a deep appreciation for hip-hop culture. And when I say that, I mean all five elements of hip-hop. I know what you’re thinking here—what is the fifth element of hip-hop? Here is my definition of the elements: emceeing, turntablism, breaking, graffiti and the fifth element, which most people don’t know, [is] entrepreneurship. A recent example of this fifth element on a larger scale, and how it influences the whole business world, is the creative moves Jay-Z made in how [he sold his] art through Samsung. These moves happen on smaller scales at every album, mixtape release party or hip-hop show all around the world. So when you ask me what the catalyst for this project was, I would have to say it was to make my contribution to protecting what I had been given from the culture. Right now I think we’re stuck in a little bit of a sonic rut on the mainstream side.
HipHopCanada: And how did you decide who you wanted to collaborate with?
Maxwell Benson: The collaborators were approached because I was, first and foremost, a fan of their work. I had approached maybe 13 MCs. The eight [who are featured] on the EP are the ones that got back to me right away. I want to give Sadat X and his camp an extra special thanks, here. They have gone above-and-beyond the call of duty in helping me with this project. Sadat has one of the dopest voices in the industry.
HipHopCanada: No doubt. So how does the Winnipeg hip-hop scene you grew up on compare to the American scene that you’re currently immersed in?
Maxwell Benson: I don’t really care about the whole Canada-versus-USA hip-hop scene’s dialogue and who reps it, and who doesn’t. Back in the late 1970s when you went to a hip-hop party and heard an Afrika Bambaataa DJ set, he would include everything: rock, soul, electro and even kids’ music. People got down to it. Look at all the flack Kanye is getting from supposed “true hip-hop heads,” saying that his album Yeezus is not true hip-hop. I guarantee those same fools that say that will be vibing out to whatever records come out in the next couple years by producers that have been extremely influenced by that album. [Yeezus] is sonically one of the most important albums in this day and age of hip-hop. It’s so far advanced [that] it’s going to take people five years to catch up to it.
HipHopCanada: Wow. That’s a lot of love for Kanye. I feel like solid production often gets under-appreciated. What do you think?
Maxwell Benson: The definition of a solid production— to me— is taking as little as you need, sonically, to get the vibe you’re after. I come from the mindset that less is more. I get a lot of feedback from people in the industry that my style is so simple. But it takes a lot of talent to put very few elements in a production and make it work. I don’t get mad at people about this. I just chalk it up to naivety. I guarantee those same people would not have the balls to put out music that is as simplistic as mine.
HipHopCanada: Word. So you featured the female rapper, Trin, on the track “Summer Luv.” What do you love most about femcees?
Maxwell Benson: What is not to love about women, in the first place? Come on. I feel that without women, men would still be in a cave somewhere trying to light a fire by banging rocks together. Most male MCs and producers get into the game for two reasons: money or women. The exception to this is the MC or producer that has some self-awareness and is doing his art for reasons that are beyond his own self-interest. This project wouldn’t be complete without a female MC. I have this feeling that in the next couple of years you’re going to see a lot of really dope woman producers and MCs emerge from their cocoons and take over the game. Prime example: Look at 16-year-old WondaGurl from T Dot getting the look she did on Jay-Z’s album. I think this may just be the tip of the iceberg.
HipHopCanada: Defenitely. It’s no longer just a man’s game. So you’re not big on the social media and shameless self-promotion, are you?
Maxwell Benson: You have no idea how much flack I get for not being on Twitter, Instagram and all that. I tried it for two days but my art suffered. I got nothing done. Have you ever taken the time to lift your head up when you’re on a bus or subway or even walking down the street to notice how most people don’t pay attention to what’s going on in their surrounding environment anymore? Their heads are looking down at their phones— using social media. We may have a Twitter and Instagram anonymous program in the future. Kind of like Alcoholics Anonymous. Some people are hooked on that stuff like it was crack cocaine.
HipHopCanada: So what are some of the biggest mistakes that producers are making these days?
Maxwell Benson: Chasing, and not preparing to receive. I was at a producers conference in Atlanta last weekend and I swear I heard the same beat 100 times from producers that came from all around the world. This is because a lot of these producers are chasing that next placement, or trying to win the next remix competition or beat battle. They feel [that] in order to win, they have to sound like the current sound that is out there. I prepare to receive. This EP is a prime example of that. When you get that respect of people in the industry, [it] launches things to the next level and things start happening. One thing I can guarantee you: I will never make the same beat twice.
HipHopCanada: Way to keep it fresh. Do you have any last words for the HipHopCanada community?
Maxwell Benson: In the words of Bob and Doug Mackenzie, “Good day, eh.”
Photography courtesy of Helio PR
Interview conducted by Sarah Sussman for HipHopCanada
iTunes: Maxwell Benson