Taylor Bennett has been one of the biggest pieces in the puzzle that makes up Chicago’s music community. He has been rapping and creating music for damn near a decade and has become not only one of Chicago’s best rappers, but more importantly one of the brightest business minds that the city has to offer.

The growth of his company Taylor Bennett Entertainment has been amazing to watch to say the least: he has built up a still small yet unbelievably talented roster with Bianca Shaw who has blossomed into one of the best talents that the city has to offer, as well as Zxxk who is one of the most talented producers & creatives in the game. When we look back ten years from now, these two will be far along in their careers under the guidance of Taylor & TBE.

Next week Taylor is releasing his forthcoming album The American Reject, and when I saw him tease the cover I knew I had to bring him by the Lyrical Lemonade office to pick his brain about the project, the cover and so much more. As we gear up for the project that appears to be Taylor’s biggest and most polished release to date, get in tune with everything he has been up to since the last time we spoke by reading this interview below and don’t forget to give him a follow here!

 

EM: Can you speak about the title of The American Reject and how you came up with it?

Taylor: Yes, so this is the third EP in a trilogy. The first one was Restoration of An American Idol, the second EP was Be Yourself, and the last EP is now The American Reject. The reason I named it The American Reject was because my last tape was called Be Yourself and it was all about the acceptance and the idea of understanding, knowing, and discovering who you are.

With that philosophy and while really researching it, I realized to myself that what I want to do with my music is to bring people together, and I think the best way to bring people together sometimes is to even out the playing field. I think that very often we try to use things like skin color, money, materialistic assets and others like that to say that we are better than other people, but I think that even people who have money buy these things because they feel and want to be accepted by a different class or different people.

It brought me to the overall idea that all of us are rejects and we really all don’t belong, but that’s a part of being unique, different, and standing out. I wanted to further that idea and get more people to understand that even KKK members are rejects because you can be accepted by some people and hated by others. Everyone deals with it: transsexuals, black kids, white kids, doctors, everyone.

EM: Can you touch on the cover art concept?

Taylor: The big reason for that cover was to put all these different people into a group photo and really pinpoint those who might look weird because they don’t belong to that group, but they might belong with someone else in the photo. There’s also the overall understanding and idea of trying to bring everyone together, not just through music but also through conversation we can be connected and that’s the whole idea of it.

EM: Can you speak on what inspired you to make that cover art? I know you mentioned The Beatles prior.

Taylor: Yeah a big inspiration behind this cover was the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts album cover by The Beatles. I am a huge fan of Rock n’ Roll, I am a huge fan of The Smiths, I am a huge fan of Queen and some modern and alternative bands like Death Cab For Cutie. I grew up listening to Never Shout Never, John Mayer, CocoRosie, Jimi Hendrix, Muddy Waters and some of these people are some of the best to ever do it in their generation. Little Walter too, you know that Blues music was so critical for Chicago, a huge influence for our city along with hip-hop.

EM: It’s been damn near a year since your last tape. What has changed for you since that time? Obviously, you have had a child–how has being a father changed your outlook on life and your music?

Taylor: I think having a child has changed me completely but even besides that I have also gone vegetarian and I have given up red meat & pork; I have been working out a lot more and just taking care of myself. Something that Be Yourself really did for me as a project is that it made me more comfortable with who I was and more accepting, and through that acceptance, I became more willing to change. The American Reject was definitely a big reflection of my having my son, Charlie. Being a father changed the way that I looked at life not just by the way I need to gain assets and money, but also the way I look at life period and understanding that someone is born and goes through life trying to find a purpose or make a change. Everyone is great and has the ability to be great, but it’s just about the influence that you have and the understanding that I am now that for somebody. I am their structure to grow and create a better space and environment which is the world for them to be in.

One of my favorite lines that my brother Chance said was “I guess that’s why they call it where I stay, clean up the streets so my daughter can have somewhere to play”. I think that’s a big thing that I, my brother, and my whole family have been big on: philanthropic activities and pushing the city forward. Our family and lifeline will be here so that’s important.

EM: There are eight songs on your new tape, what is your favorite song off of it?

Taylor: I think that “In My Head” is my favorite song off of it as of now. I am sure it will change because I like all of the songs. I got Mr. Hudson on this album too. His group Mr. Hudson & The Library is one of my biggest influences ever, I swear I used to sing his songs to my old girlfriend in seventh grade. He is an idol to me and he hopped on the project last-minute, but the fact he even got involved is special in itself. It’s some good shit so I really love that song. One other track on here that I love is the track Chance is featured on, because it’s about my child’s mother, my future wife, and he is speaking about his own wife so that’s a special one to me for sure. But I still think “In My Head” with Ty Dolla $ign is my favorite.

EM: What other features are on the tape?

Taylor: I got Chance The Rapper, Ty Dolla $ign, Mr. Hudson, Femdot and Bianca Shaw. Zxxk did a ton of work on the tape direction–he damn near did like 25% of the project. Supa Bwe and Serayah [are on there too]. It’s a pretty jam-packed tape with some very good features.

EM: Zxxk has been doing a ton of work with you as he is one of two current members on your TBE roster. How did you first meet?

Taylor: I met Zxxk through YouMedia years ago but he wasn’t playing guitar yet or at least I didn’t know he was. I used to see him in front of the library smoking cigs and doing bad shit we used to do as kids. As we got older my dad introduced me to Bianca, who is an amazing performer, and she had Zxxk in her band as a guitarist and I was like “This kid is so fucking dope and so fucking good but he just needs some structure.” You know that’s what my job is as the CEO & President of Taylor Bennett Ent.; to find and not just A&R kids but to also realize what they need to take them to the next level, and he is so good at everything that he does. He’s literally like the next Jimi Hendrix and you can quote me on that. He is playing Woodstock this year. he is so dope and has such a great energy & a great soul and he just turned 19!

“My favorite part about being apart of the TBE family is the live performances that we be doing and being in the studio with Taylor making music in general” – Zxxk

EM: How did you meet Bianca Shaw?

Taylor: I met Bianca through my dad who is my senior advisor, Ken Bennett. Basically, I created TBE in 2017 and didn’t sign any artist, but I created it as an LLC and label for my own music right, but over time I clearly wanted to expand my brand and sign somebody. I really didn’t know who to sign; I didn’t know who was the right person. My dad called me and kept telling me “There’s this girl named Bianca Shaw and she’s so good you got to hear her!”. One I heard Bianca I asked her if she would do background vocals for me at my show at The Metro along with her band and she was so fucking dope, I remember telling her afterward, “You are going to be huge. You have the voice, you can drum, you can sing, you can rap, you already have a great personality and smile, the people are going to love you”.

Since then we started working, and she did some exponential things out of the gate. She did this super big Superbowl campaign for Mountain Dew and Doritos, she was on the joint that me & Twista released last year, “So High”. She did Windy City Live, she has had some huge TV appearances, she just had her listening party at the Apple store & recently dropped her project. She’s out here doing her thing man”.


EM: You have some big upcoming shows, one that caught my eye was Taste of Chicago. How does it feel to be a kid from Chicago and now be headlining that historical event?

Taylor: Yeah we went to Taste of Chicago so many years of my life. My mom would take me and my brother on the red line from 79th down to State/Jackson & walk over and I remember every year I would get the same exact food every year until I got a little older. When you do something like Taste of Chicago that’s monumental you get to see everyone in the city, you get to meet people who would never have heard of you regardless and so many people experience that so it’s special.

EM: What’s your favorite show you have ever done to date?

Taylor: My favorite one was probably Lollapalooza. I didn’t even really realize until I was looking at your picture right here, but I think Lollapalooza was probably my favorite performance ever. Maybe it’s because I live in the city, I ran into so many people who stopped on the street and were like “Yo I saw you perform at Lolla!”

EM: For these songs off of the tape, can we expect any visuals for them?

Taylor: Yeah I am actually about to do another video with Strip Mall soon for the Ty Dolla $ign song, they did a great job on the video I released for “Streaming Services”. I want to do more videos with TBE’s own Head Cinematographer Griffin Olis, so I will definitely be doing more work with him. We have a bunch of treatments ready but he’s for sure doing the joint with me & Supa.

EM: I noticed just from listening to the tape that there is more soulful production / singing than I have heard from you prior. Is this something that you planned to do or did it just come naturally?

Taylor: It was definitely something that I was ready to do. Something else that came along with Be Yourself is not just being more comfortable as a person but being more comfortable as an artist. I have had songs like “Dancing in The Rain” that have showcased me singing but I don’t think I have ever been as versatile as I wanted to be out of the fear that people might not like it. I think with the title being The American Reject and the stage I am at in my life, I was like “Yo imma go for this shit” and I tried it out and got confirmation from the people around me that it sounded good.

That’s how songs like “I Miss You” and “Kids In The Sky” and “Going Outside” came to be.

EM: I’d like to know what you think about the current state of Chicago hip-hop. You have been in the community for damn near a decade now, so what do you think of what it is now and how it has grown?

Taylor: I think that it has definitely changed. We are in the golden moment in the music industry in Chicago. There are independent artists who are clearly making a lot of waves and changes, I myself am working with so many different partners (Soundcloud, Ditto, United Masters, YouTube), and I know all of these big players have their eye on the Chicago talent & have been doing campaigns. I know AT&T and United Masters just did a contest a 312 contest, shout out to Joseph Cabey; I know Soundcloud has been doing some stuff here. ComplexCon is coming to the city for the first time too, it’s exciting to see. Not to mention people like Saba and Chance and artists like that are helping push Chicago music globally.

There’s a lot of prime real estate for not only music but business too. I know you guys here at Lyrical Lemonade have been helping in the industry in Chicago, pushing independence and ownership and building from the ground up much like me and Chance. I think it’s dope that you don’t even have to look at Chicago as say Lyrical Lemonade & Taylor & Chance, you can look at the city and say Joe Fresh Goods and ComplexCon now and deep dish pizza, etc.

I think that’s a dream for someone like you who has also been around for almost a decade seeing this music industry shit can know that things are changing up in terms of opportunities artists have. Not just artists, but people moving here and realizing all these artists are here and that there’s so much room for creativity. It’s funny because I think they cut out so many different after school programs from us at CPS schools, and we made it an initiative to replace those with Open Mike, and YCA, and even the Summer Smash you guys are doing. It’s inspiring the kids of today in the city to do something even more incredible.

EM: Are their any Chicago artists that you want to work with that you haven’t got the chance to work with yet?

Taylor: I made music with Saba a few years ago called “What Kings Do” with oddCouple a long time ago, so yeah I would like to work with Saba again that’s my boy he’s going crazy I saw him the other day we were chopping it up. Smino for sure, we had a bunch of different tracks we used to work on and also Noname too we have some records we are sitting on.

EM: In the last year, who are some artists in general that caught your ear?

Taylor: DaBaby is super fire. Two people who inspired me are Lil Keed and Lilgotit but especially Lilgotit. I shouted him out on this project. Those are two people who I am glad to call friends. They are creative and talented, just watching how those two maneuver through the industry and climb the charts, I know they are going to do big things. I for sure want to do some music with them.

I also really like Jasiah, he’s super dope. Cole introduced us at SXSW I sent him a couple of joints. I would love to work with Juice, I randomly saw he DM’ed me two years ago. I am proud of what he accomplished god bless him. I also want to do some shit with the homie Yung Bans!

EM: What’s your favorite song you ever made in your career aside from this new tape?

Taylor: It’s probably “Broad Shoulders” because there’s something as an artist when you go back and look at your work from years ago. But that [song] always stood out to me. I am glad with how that came out.

EM: I have asked you this question in the past, but what advice would you give to your younger self?

Taylor: I would tell myself to keep doing what I do, keep going, and dream big. Things are not as hard as they seem, don’t believe in so much negativity, be more active, and strive for bigger & better opportunities. At the same time though everything that has happened in my life has showed me that God has put me exactly where I am supposed to be. With that said, I might just say keep doing what you’re doing and keep going. I just think it’s so interesting for Cole, and especially for you Elliot, for us to have been so young and see this business and industry from afar and say this is something that we wanted to pursue. It’s crazy to still be so young but actively killing this shit–it’s raw.

EM: You have performed on multiple late-night television shows since we last spoke, which one was your favorite? Do you get nervous for these? I would imagine it’s overwhelming.

Taylor: I have done the Jimmy Fallon show, Good Morning America, and Stephen Colbert. We did more of a Rock N’ Roll track on Jimmy Fallon last year. I for sure was nervous for that shit, Virgil had sent me this whole Off-White suit. I still did my thing on it, but at that point in time I was going through a bunch of different things. But looking back I think I kind of wanted it too bad, you know?

I think at that point with everything that was going on with me, I was like “I have to get this right”, and I did so that’s what’s up. But that’s when I realized I could get way more comfortable performing on stage.

I definitely did get more comfortable performing on Good Morning America with Bianca and Zxxk toward the end of 2018, that was a big step for me. Then To kick off 20019 on Stephen Colbert’s show felt amazing, I had just had my son and I was in a better space in my life physically and mentally. This was toward the end of creating The American Reject so it just felt good man. I had a bigger plan for not only that show but for the rest of the year and it was amazing I got to bring Zxxk, he is so crucial to how everything sounds so it was great to see him shine.

EM: You have been interviewed by Sway, Hot 97, etc. What is your favorite interview you have done so far?

Taylor: I think my favorite one was the first time I went on Sway in the morning, it’s actually not even the most recent one. It was my first interview with Sway, I remember I actually broke down on it because I was talking about black fathers being absent and how it affected people but specifically some of the people close to me. I remember at that point in time I was going through so many different things and having to grow the fuck up, having younger friends dying and getting locked up, it was such an emotional energy. I love it though, because when I went back after I had my son, it was funny because when I had my son they played clips from my first interview and I said “If I ever have a kid I am quitting rap” and I was telling them “that was before I started making money for real haha”. That’s my favorite one for sure.

EM: You are going to be on Wild N’ Out soon, Are you nervous about that? Do you have bars ready for Nick Cannon?

Taylor: It’s so funny because I have been staying busy getting this project done and flying to New York to meet with all of these different CEO’s and executives of companies and showing them the vision and all this different shit, so I haven’t really thought about [Wild N’ Out] yet. But some of the homies have been asking me what I’m going to say on their but just know I am finna heat they ass, straight up, I am going to be on some funny shit with Nick Cannon.

EM: You have acted in the past. Can we expect to see more of that soon?

Taylor: Another major thing that I have been working on in this business run is that I have been telling everyone I want to be a star. I don’t want to just be known musically. I’d love to be someone like Will Smith who is multifaceted and can do it all.

EM: Super random but I was curious, what’s your favorite album to drop this year?

Taylor: It’s gotta be Lucki’s tape Freewave 3

EM: What are you most excited about for the rest of the year?

Taylor: I am just very excited to see where this takes me. Something that’s big right now is the business [side] of music. I know I saw you at a couple panels at SXSW, and I believe that both of our camps are heavily involved in the future of the music industry and where it’s going.

I am very excited to see how much bigger of a conversation it becomes because there is so much more money out there for artists. I think there’s so much knowledge I’ve gained throughout the years from being independent.

Those kinda panels and having these conversations are going to not just educate but open conversation that I think will bring more money, influence, and acceptance not just to music but to worldwide issues that actually matter.

You can visit Taylor Bennett’s website here for more information about him + tour dates + merch!