Pennjamin Bannekar – ILLwriteR Interview
It does not take much skill set or genius marketing these days for an artist to acquire fame and prestige. Post a nude picture on social media or record music lacking depth and substance and the artist literally becomes part of hip-hop’s Walking Dead. Get it? “I do not think we have to be as talented as in the past. With technology like Auto Tune, any artist can sound good,” states the Chicago artist with much potential equipped with image and branding to maximize artistic success.
He is Pennjamin Bannekar, the LL Cool J of Chicago music without the Kangol hat, gold chains, and muscles. Not to confuse him for a sucker. His artistry is to be taken seriously. He creates music for the fellas and has a huge female fanbase that are head over heels for him. Perhaps it is his suave charismatic nature, babyface appeal, commanding stage presence, microphone control with soul, and a unique stage name that rivals the competitive artistic pool.
“I was always known as Penn when I started rapping. I was later given the stage name Pennjamin Bannekar; a name I scorned when I was part of the [Chicago hip-hop trio] Project: Fr3sh,” uttered the artist. Benjamin Banneker was an African American author, mathematician, and astronomer. “I got creative by changing the spelling of the famous African American historical figure’s name to make it more suitable and appropriate to [my artistry],” highlighted Pennjamin Bannekar. He is a huge history buff and, “Wanted to pay reverence to Benjamin Banneker.”
Besides his interesting stage name, Pennjamin Bannekar’s moniker adlib makes him distinguished. Jadakiss is known for his raspy voice and baby laugh and Diddy is known for his “take that” marque on records. For Pennjamin, it is his signature catchphrase, “Hey, Well Alright!” He adds, “The inspiration came from J. Cole’s Friday Night Lights. I would hear Cole adlib “Hey!” I liked it!” He does not know where “Well Alright” derived. “The words seemed to organically fit together. I have been running with it since.”
Besides a creative stage name and adlib comes an inimitable album title. “The album is simplistically titled 1/11 because it dropped on my birthday,” said an enthusiastic Pennjamin. For the album to be titled as such and to be released on his born day must be of great significance. “The numbers 1/11 have meaning behind it. They imply whatever I focus on will eventually come true.” He adds, “Things in my life tend to manifest whether positive or negative. I can sometimes be my own obstacle.” The title of the album is a, “Constant reminder to remain positive during chaotic times.”
Pennjamin Bannekar, just like any artist, needed to perfect his work in order for it to be properly delivered on a special occasion like this. “I worked on it for nearly two years. It was only right to push the date to January.” He goes in detail about the recording process of 1/11. “I used an old I-phone to play the music and hum melodies when recording this album. Once I got the melody to [precision], I went to the studio to expound on it some more.” If the song is seamless, “I write and record to it and come to Chicago producer J. Hill’s studio for mixing.” If the song is not to his liking, “I leave it as is or it gets [discarded].” Forty songs were recorded and only eight appear on 1/11. “It is all about feeling, praise, and how people responded that determined which songs made the final cut,” explains Pennjamin Bannekar.
The album is unlike the rest of his discography. “My debut solo album Heartbeat was released after Project: Fr3sh went their separate ways [to pursue other interests]. I was trying to prove myself and to the world I can rap and be able to stand on my own as an artist.” His [sophomore] album Paper Plane Pilots is his Kanye West’s 808’s & Heartbreak. “It was therapeutic for me to record this album as I was getting over a serious relationship that did not work out.” With 1/11, “I wanted to make music for people to vibe out to and feel good.”
Pennjamin Bannekar does not necessarily deem himself as a hip-hop artist. “I rap but I am more into making [illustrious] music ranging from singing to rapping not only for myself but for other artists.” He elucidates, “Other artists may be skillful in the art of rap and that is great.” He is not in competition with anyone but him. “I am trying to be the best me- Pennjamin Bannekar. There will be artists that want to emulate my style of rap just like many try to impersonate Future and his melodic style of music.”
In the end, he wants to be remembered for his contributions in music. “When the public hear of Chicago, I want for them to compare me to the greats like Kanye West.” Long live Pennjamin Bannekar!
Pennjamin Bannekar continues his interview with journalist Hector De La Rosa as he discusses each song concept on his latest offering 1/11.
This is the first song on the album and the last song I recorded. It is considered the Birthday theme song. If a celebrity like Diddy throws me a party, I would tell him to play this song as I make my grand entrance to the place where the party is held.
This song contains a sample from The Notorious BIG’s classic “Juicy” Here, I started to sing to the melody for no particular reason. The song’s concept descends from a Saturday night experience at Dave & Busters with a good friend of mine. We kicked it, played video games, and had great conversation. Next day, I made a song based on this experience. Though, I wrote the song as if I were on a date night with a woman.
Don’t Say That
I got creative with this record spitting a hot sixteen on the mic after hearing the production to this song. The song showcases my lyrical [agility] at best. I used to listen to a team of people tell me whether or not to address a certain issue on a particular song. Either the song was too real or sensitive for listeners. In this case, I decided to block what everyone had to say and perfected a blazing record.
Money Drop featuring D2G
This is the baller’s anthem for individuals who get direct deposit on payday and not having to deal with adulting or paying bills. The feeling of having money left over in the bank account is a great feeling. The money left over can be used on shopping sprees to buy Nikes.
I recorded this song a year ago. It is my Kanye West “Jesus Walks” type of record that touches on those who believe in God and are spiritual. Though, do not necessarily attend church. I happened to be one of those individuals. People make excuses not to attend church service, perhaps being too long or it takes away their time from watching Sunday NFL Football. This is my interpretation.
-Hector De La Rosa