An Interview with Rapper Ben Gideon

Benjamin Gideon, an SFSU freshman from Marin County, recently performed an original rap at Mary Park’s Open Mic Night hosted by the M.V.P. (Music, Visual, and Performing Arts) floor. After watching the performance, I was very impressed by the level of skill Benjamin demonstrated. Later, I asked him if he was interested in being interviewed for Her Campus and we set up a time to meet and talk about his passion for music.

 

Interviewer: How did you begin rapping?

 

Ben: I started rapping in 8th grade, but I started writing Junior year. I would rap in 8th grade over Mac Millers lyrics. Then I began rapping Junior year as therapy because I was going through a lot of shit in high school. I was able to put down my feelings on paper.

 

I: Did rapping come naturally to you?

 

B: The flow came with analysis. I was recently thinking, "if I had never heard any hip hop could I create what I’m creating now?" And the answer is probably no.

 

I: Who are some of the artists and what are some of the songs that initially inspired you to begin rapping?

 

B: “Best Day Ever” by Mac Miller. Iamsu! He’s from Richmond, so it was cool to listen to someone local. Kendrick Lamar.

 

I: Who is your favorite now?

 

B: J. Cole.

 

I: The song you performed at open mic night was written by you, correct?

 

B: Yes, those were actually the verses I did get down since I’ve been here. I only have a hand full of them.

 

I: Do you write frequently?

 

B: No, this isn't a good location for me to write. I'm not comfortable writing in this environment.

 

I: What kind of environment do you need?

 

B: I need to be at home, alone, with my Dad asleep and nobody else home. And I need to be really stoned.

 

I: What do you draw from in your life to write about?

 

B: Pain. It should be therapeutic. I think people who actually get bigger are people who do it for themselves, rather than do it for other people.

 

I: Can you talk about the first time you performed?

 

B: Junior year I rapped in front of my class. It was this song I wrote about the Battle of Okinawa. It was for extra credit in my history class. Then later that year I did a poetry slam. And I did talent shows a few times.

 

I: What are your thoughts on the future? Do you plan on continuing your music career?

 

B: Yes. But not 100 percent. I think a career is a name that displays your abilities. But it’s not just one thing. That's why I am very discontent with this institutional type of living. After these five weeks, I'm taking a gap year.

 

I: What do you want to happen during this time off?

 

B: I want to become very centered with myself. I want to complete a lot of projects that I have on my mind that I have yet to get underway.

 

I: Moving into a more serious topic, as a white man how do you feel you fit into the hip hop culture which has been cultivated by black people as a defense against white oppression?

Furthermore, do you feel you have a responsibility to acknowledge this issue?

 

B: Yes, absolutely. But I can make it in the rap game. I think I'm going to use it to my advantage. Because I am a white male coming from a wealthy family, I think some of the respect might be lost. But I feel my lyrics are a lot more intellectual than the majority of the lyrics that are on the market today. Also I can develop a white fan base which is okay? It's not like I’m spitting fake shit; my shit is from the heart. So I think there should still be that level of respect. Hip hop is not for black people, it is for pain. Because African Americans have endured so much as a whole entire culture they have the right to the name of hip hop. But what they are doing is expressing their pain over an instrumental, and I’m doing the exact same thing.

 

I: And you would never try to imitate the African American experience through your lyrics?

 

B: I guess I kind of am doing that, because those are the people who have taught me to rap. So I am a product of what they have created. But no, I would never talk about guns or death or violence that I haven't endured.

 

I: Do you have any final remarks?

 

B: I aspire to be J. Cole. J. Cole is my idol, completely.

 

You can follow Ben on SoundCloud under the name 'demato.'