And Then There’s Taylor Bennett

Last month Chicago rapper Taylor Bennett released his single Broad Shoulders, featuring a first time collaboration with fellow Chicagoan and (slightly) older brother, Chance the Rapper. For some of you, it may have been your first taste of Taylor Bennett — was he jumping on his brothers wave? Nope. Last week, Taylor released his third project, by the same title; a varied and exciting ten track, sample free project.

There’s no avoiding that Taylor Bennett is the younger brother of one of the most popular and exciting MC’s at the moment. The pair’s first song together was their nostalgic, heartwarming track Broad Shoulders. The familial likeness stands out so clear, the pair sonically sound similar. The brothers go back to back reflecting on growing up, and most importantly supporting one another. When Taylor speaks about Chance, his respect and adoration is clear: ‘He’s a great artist. He has been working so long and hard, it’s great — I’m only still starting my journey too — so I know I’ve got a lot of time for people to realise that there’s Taylor Bennett and there’s Chance the Rapper.”

In the latest move in his musical journey, Taylor created an entirely sample-free album. An album without samples in hip-hop is virtually unheard of, it’s no light work. It shows you that Taylor is switched on, after all, it’s his third project, he’s conscious of any legal restrains that could hinder his music. But it’s not just legalities Taylor was avoiding, he wanted to avoid any direct familiarity; “I wanted to make music no one had ever heard before… The only way I could do that was to make sounds that people couldn’t directly compare them to… I didn’t want anything like ‘oh he flipped that beat from so and so’. I wanted people to like it solely because they liked the sounds we had created”.

The result is Broad Shoulders, and it’s one of those albums that as soon as you listen, it instantly emits these buzzing up-beat vibes — there’s never a dull moment. The opening track Happy Place instantly creates these images in my head of a psychedelic funk-fuelled party — colours exploding everywhere. Aside from that, Taylor Bennett is a story teller: “It’s a bit about me growing up, but it’s also not that. In the project, I talk and create stories”. Taylor was focused on ensuring Broad Shoulders was as inclusive as possible: “I didn’t just write stuff from my perspective, or just so only one race, gender or class of people could relate. I wrote it from a perspective where it’s relatable to people on so many different ways.

Over the 12 months Taylor worked on the project, he worked almost exclusively with producer Ludlow. For a self confessed “picky” artist, who normally likes to work with a variety of people, Taylor had to adapt. But it’s the guest appearances and features on the album that offer alternative sounds and voices. From King Louie and Joey Purp on Favourite Drink, Tali Stewart on Cake, and MAX & Quechera Jowers on one of Taylor’s personal favourites, Fall Back Fools, one of the more mellow joints on the album.

There’s also these moments of positivity and hope dotted throughout Broad Shoulders. The penultimate track, Dancing in the Rain features Donnie Trumpet and boy, does that one take it to the church. It has this simply dope, positive message reminding us all to continue to smile and live life in those crappy dark times we all have. Taylor explains: “You know rain. A lot of people hate going outside when it’s raining — people are worried they’ll mess their hair up or something [laughs] — but the idea of it is that regardless, we can rejoice and go somewhere, somewhere that may not be the most comfortable… But somewhere, you can still rejoice, be happy and continue to push through it — and you know, just dance in the rain”. This positivity, and sense of hope seems to be a reoccurring theme in the artists coming out of Chicago at the moment. The Social Experiment’s project SURF, released earlier this year, had this same sense of emotional uplifting and community.

But what’s the future for Taylor Bennett? Is he going to just get branded as Chance the Rapper’s brother? For Taylor, it took him a long time to realise what it was,  being branded as Chance’s brother isn’t a bad thing: “I realised people were comparing me to Chance because he’s a great artist. If people heard me, and they didn’t like the music, they wouldn’t compare it to Chance. Chance is so talented — it would be an insult to him. But they’re comparing it to Chance and they say it’s dope, they’re like “Yo he is Chance’s little brother”… I think it’s good they’re pushing it like that… I take no disrespect at all… That’s family, my brother… Honestly, it’s an honour to be compared to an artist like Chance — it’s crazy.”

Check out Taylor Bennett for yourself. Stream “Broad Shoulders” below: