Week in Pop: ETA, Kristen Barredo, Micah E. Wood

Post Author: Sjimon Gompers

Ben Ramazani

Introducing Ben Ramazani; photographed by Daddy.

Get to know NYC’s rising artist Ben Ramazani as the artist shares a listen to the ambitious & bold breakout album POPSTAR. The emcee, dancer, singer, producer, poet, polymath operates on a vernacular that is honest, raw & real that fashions an array of talents to create an epic opus that is all according to his own design. Displaying a parade of talents & disciplines on the new full-length—Ben Ramazani (sibling of fellow local creative character Daddy) makes a regal bid to become the next king of New York through an exhibition of ambition & unrelenting inspirations.
Ben puts the pop in POPSTAR as Ramazani brings the big game to back up the talk with the concrete park court hooping intro “The Preview”. The self-appointed ‘Benji the GOAT’ starts the party with a sampler platter of what he’s capable of, dunking on the haters & naysayers while segueing into the title track “Popstar” that is full of big bass & brass with plenty of word play that mixes Michael Jordan allusions to metaphors about crushing it on the mic. Switching to a between the sheets sort of serenity on “Climate Change”; Ben observes the evolutions & changes between two romantically involved people in a ballad of endearment. The moods & styles switch from spoken bars to sung verses as heard on the concern-quelling cut “Don’t U Worry”, right before switching the vibe back to some sort of throwback-backpacking jam on the confessional & conversational “I’m Sorry” that revolves around the arguments & charged exchanges that occur even in the best of bonds.
The tempo is kicked up on the chill lounge shoulder-shaker “Oh Na Na” that is a call to all wallflowers to get upon that dance floor, as Ben offers a further look at his more gentle pop side on the cool-crooning break-up anthem “Who?” about people moving into new & different life directions. The “BBOAT (Interlude)” is a toast to the baddest out there in the game, keeping the rhythm & blues rolling with a host of heart & honesty on “Open Love Letter”, right before Benji wraps it all up on the boisterous & bombastic “Girls With Ambition” that celebrates the almighty power of the baddest women in our lives in a brass-toned banger to get the entire ballroom bouncing & bumping.

Also peep the world premiere for Ben Ramazani’s visual for opener “The Preview” directed by his bro Daddy that makes for a Ramazani Bros. production. Watch as Benji the GOAT asserts his status as the greatest of all time that casts aside gibberish flows & phonies while delivering a dance that mimics iconic heroes of the track, court & field (of whom are paid tribute in verse). With a flashy gold parka & red hoodie—Ben brings his bars to visceral life with swift moves to match the prosodic textures & tempos of his delivery while kicking it waterside. The slaps & styles are brought vibrantly into the visual frame as Ben brings something fresh, new & creative to the conventions of the hip hop game.

Ben Ramazani presented us with the following reflective manifesto introduction to POPSTAR and a whole lot more:

My name is Ben Ramazani. I am rapper, poet, singer, dancer, songwriter, music producer and mixing engineer. Music has been my guide throughout my entire life. I have been dancing and singing since I was five and I started rapping and writing songs when I was 10. I taught myself how to play the piano when I was 15 after I discovered that I could play the saxophone by ear when I was in my high school marching band. I studied sound engineering after high school when I was 19. I am a jack of all trades when it comes to music. Sometimes it helps to be good at many things and sometimes it hurts my creativity when I’m wearing so many hats all at once, especially when I strive for perfection. The only thing that made people respect me in my life is my personality and my passion for my music. Art saved my life. It is all I know how to do best.
I recently self-released my first album titled POPSTAR. It is a compilation of all my different styles as a singer and rapper and it demonstrates my versatility as a music producer and songwriter. In every song I reveal different sides of who I am; my confidence, my desires, my heartaches, my sexuality, my honesty and my fun-goofy side. I don’t hide my identity when I create my art. I expose every corner of my soul in my lyrics. Every drop of ink comes from the chamber of my heart. I have entertained people for 20 years of my life and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. It took me a while to create POPSTAR because I was constantly pushing myself to out-do myself every time I created a new song. I was never satisfied with the thousands of demos that I recorded from 2014 up until the beginning of 2018. I got tired of being a covert artist—as my friend David would call me. My New Year’s resolution was to release my work and share my gift with the world and get rid of my anxiety and lack of self-belief that I developed from depression. Life as an adult started to get crucial for me and I had to take action to direct my life into the right direction. I called my album POPSTAR because I’m not ashamed to be a technical rapper and a singer—without autotune—who can make pop songs. Most technical rappers aren’t considered as pop stars because they don’t play it safe or keep PG-13. My greatest inspirations are Michael Jackson, John Mayer, 2Pac and Eminem. That’s the main reason why my my songs don’t sound completely alike.

Exclusive knowledge & insights courtesy of Ben Ramazani; photographed by Daddy.

“The Preview” was created on April 3, 2017. It all began with my production playing around with the bell melody and the bass. I then added drums and lyrics. I wrote a short verse, but the perfectionist inside of me wasn’t satisfied. So, I turned the page over re-wrote my verse from scratch. I tried to rhyme the whole entire verse with friendzone. A lot of the times when I deal with writer’s block is because I always challenge myself to create rhymes that have never been created before. I never want to rhyme the same words together so I challenge myself to create new rhymes by using multisyllabic rhymes until my brain cannot function anymore, until I can’t think anymore, until my emotions get numb and I feel like giving up rapping. Most times I hurt myself when I create because I always want to do my best and outshine everything I have previously recorded or released. But I have learned that it is not always the best or healthiest approach towards self-expression. Striving towards perfection can kill you or drive you crazy. When I wrote the first verse of “The Preview” I had originally planned to end the song after the first verse, Like Tiger Woods, I’m not the guy you want to swing on. That is originally why we had called the song “The Preview”. In October 2017 I performed “The Preview” at my Brother’s Youth FM album release party and we got a great reaction from the crowd. Everything that I write usually comes true. When I said I’m the black guy white girls want to bring home, which the audience at the Youth FM album party responded to positively, that didn’t happen in reality until the month before the album release party, but it was written in April. The lyric in the song was based off of dancing at parties with white girls, because black girls that I liked were into white guys, or white girls, or were just being stuck up and rude towards me when I loved them more than the people they fell in love with. After my performance, a black girl who I didn’t know walked up to me and asked me if I was bragging about getting with white women and I told her no, I’m just rapping about my life and the fact that I don’t have any luck with black girls and that white girls show interest in me. I’m humble and talented, and “The Preview” is me being super arrogant and super talented. I got fed of being treated poorly by people with big egos and bigger insecurities than their egos show. I got tired of the world taking a dump on me. So I fought back with all my creative strength. I took the Versace-flow to the next level. I declared my position. The song was incomplete and my Dad kept nagging my brother and I every month to finish and we kept giving him excuses as to why it was perfect, but in reality I had no intentions on completing it or releasing it. I didn’t believe that I could outdo the first verse, because it was fire. I also ran out of inspiration and things to say. But in January 2018—9 months later—I drove down to Manhattan from the Bronx to meet up with my brother and an artist that he was photographing and I saw buses outside Irving Plaza and I passed by Chipotle that’s right around the corner from the venue and I overheard a man who I thought looked like a homeless man saying Eminem tickets, 600 dollars! And my brother’s friend confirmed to me that Eminem is performing tonight. I had no idea that he was in the city and he’s my favorite rhymer of all time. I then promised myself that If I see him I will rap my ass off FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE! And guess what? I saw him in the street and a few days later I wrote the second verse for “The Preview” at 10pm & finished writing at 11pm then recorded it in my brother’s closet. And that’s the story of that song. We shot the video for “The Preview” at the Pier because that’s my favorite place in this city. It’s the place that I go to to drown my doubts. It’s the place that calmed me down when I was friendless. It’s the place where I helped a vomiting drunk woman and her sober friend, I left the Pier to get them water. The sober friend was sexy, and she ended up taking my number and texting me the next day calling me a Humanitarian.

Ben Ramazani’s POPSTAR is available now everywhere.