The truth is, rap scene in our country is roaring high lately; so many underground rappers try their luck in stealing the center stage. One of them is Ben Utomo. Born in the USA and brought to Indonesia straight-away, Ben moved back to America during middle school. Los Angeles became his dwelling as Ben spent his high school days there. Nevertheless, hiphop influence creept into him and grew within himself. After his recent album in early 2017, this 27-year-old rapper is now working on the next album, scheduled to be released by this year. Short while ago, he also released a fun collabo with other rappers in the scene. Let’s dig it more, shall we?
Tell us more about your recent works with five other rappers in ‘Run Da Game’ and your single, ‘Destiny’!
“Truth to be told, the collab song was made out of the blue. We just sort of hung out together in one friend’s place who was also a producer, and we talked about this and that and we just eventually recorded everything on the spot. We wrote it and recorded it at all once together. And we were like filming the music video through his camera and that was it. It was like a fun project because we had no plan at all to make such a song and video (laugh). We made something out of it. And for my single, Destiny, I didn’t really know if it was a single or a mixtape track. I made the song and released it for free. I don’t even know if it’s gonna be in the album or not. I put it for free so everyone can enjoy it.”
So then, how’s your first encounter into rap music?
“When I was a kid, I mostly listen to rock song, like Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park. When Linkin Park started to have rap lyrics on their songs, it led me to listen to Eminem. He was the first rapper who I listened to. I was 12 years old back then. Then as I get older, I started to listen to other rappers from the 80s and 90s. So I was like backtracking hiphop music. And in the beginning, I did it for fun. When I hung-out with my friends, we started to listen to rap song. I grew up and spent my high school in LA. It really was for fun but eventually we felt the vibe. We began to write the lyrics and melodies and the beat. After awhile, people started to realize and recognize my work, like they said I had this potential in rapping and they told me to do it for real. After I graduated and moved here, I was determined to continue my music. And I think I can make money from it. But in my early days, I uploaded my music in MySpace, and I got contacted by Saykoji in 2007. I was like 17 at that time. After then, I got connected with him (Saykoji) and made my first track with him.”
What did you put in your music? Do you have a specific theme for your music?
“I don’t have anything specific though. Sometimes I wrote it out of fun, or probably out of a love story, or basically how I felt at the moment. It depends on my mood at the time. Everytime I made a track, I need to feel the music first, then write the lyrics. I always make the music first rather than the lyrics.”
Who’s your biggest inspiration? Any names in your mind that lead your pursue in this rapping path?
“A lot, actually. Lil’ Wayne, Kanye West, Eminem, even to J Cole and Drake, I don’t know I just dont have one specific name as my biggest influence. I also listen to whole lot of people so I have many inspirations to write a good song. And thus, from there, I can divide my own music and my own character.”
When you first decided to be a rapper, how’s your family reaction over your decision?
“They always leave it to me as long as I finished my school. They want me to do what I want to do. They didn’t mind it at all when I did my music back in college, because I graduated just fine. They supported me though. The funny thing is, I took marketing major back then, it wasn’t something related to music at all.”
What do you think about rap scene in the country?
“It’s getting better, because it grew a lot these past years. Rap scene might be the bomb in the 90s, but it got buried again because music evolved from years to years. And lately, in this millennials era, it started to go back listening to hiphop. Even hiphop artist in Jakarta grew up a lot. And thanks to Rich Chigga, even Younglex, who spread the hiphop viruses in our country. They triggered the whole hiphop scene to be better and broader.”
Your hope for rap scene for next years?
“The progress has been stagnant for a long time, but it grew so fast in the last two years. Other rappers are mostly independent, or they’re bounded in one label which is good to broaden their creativity; but then we can get a lot of fans and listeners, even without a label. Like we never put our songs in radio or something, but we gained a lot of fans from our gigs only. And social media really help a lot. That’s how we got big, and it leads us to be invited and performed in some gigs.”
If you can say a word about how people misjudge rap music as ‘bad’ influence and all, what would you say about it?
“Truthfully, hiphop is just as same as the other music, we talk about the same concern and problem, such as love and the latest world issue. So it’s all depend on the artist, what kind of theme that they wanna talk about in their music. Even legendary rapper like 2Pac often talked about his mom and family matters, so hiphop is talking about anything, not only about one thing. We can be serious though, talking about problem in black community like what Nash did in his songs, or even just a simple song which raises our passion and spirit, yeah, songs like that. That’s why I like hiphop, it can be applied in every situation in life. If you want to party, or you’re being happy, angry or down, you can find it all in hiphop.”
How do you see yourself and your music in the next five years?
“I just want to keep creating and consistent about my music. I will work more on songs everytime so people will always provided by my music. Because making music has always been my passion and I always want to create them. And if i’m consistent enough with my music, people will look at it in a positive way.”
Writer: Adhinda Latifa
Photographer: Vicky Melly
Videographer: Iqbal Syafei
Stylist: Hilarius Matthew
Hairdo&MUA: Nadia Renata
Digital Imaging: Dela Naufalia