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Local rapper aims to put Calgary’s hip hop scene on the map

SAIT alumni and local rapper Beni Johnson graduated from the new media production and design program in 2008.  Amanda Siebert PHOTO

SAIT alumni and local rapper Beni Johnson graduated from the new media production and design program in 2008. Amanda Siebert PHOTO

Local artist Beni Johnson is predominantly known in Calgary for his involvement with 10 at 10: A Hip-hop Showcase of Beats and Rhymes. However, there is more to this rapper than just a host and organizer to this monthly event.

Johnson is a full-time entrepreneur that is fully immersed in Calgary’s hip hop culture.

“I breathe hip hop, that’s who I am, and when there’s no dollars coming in and when nobody is looking, I’m still doing hip hop,” he said.

“This, for me, is a genuine calling.”

Through his calling, Johnson has managed to create a number of different avenues that have allowed him to incorporate hip hop into his everyday life. But for this hip hop enthusiast it isn’t all about making a name for himself as much as it is about creating a sense of community amongst other hip hop lovers here in Calgary.

“I can move to Toronto and be a dime a dozen or I can stay here and make a real impact, so that’s what I’m here to do—make an impact.”

According to Johnson, when people who share the same passion band together with the same end goal in mind they’re more likely to advance in their craft. In his eyes, those who choose to stand alone often don’t progress as easily.

“I think it’s a human condition and a human lesson that can be learned,” he said.

“We only do great things in large numbers. Our small selfish individualistic ideas only bring forth isolation. With isolation you only have your ideas, but when you work with two other people already there is two other ideas in the pot, when you work with a thousand people now you have a thousand different strengths.”

Building on people’s strengths is something that is key for this rapper as like-minded individuals who aim towards exposing the hip hop talent in this city often surround him.

This includes some of the individuals involved in 10 at 10, a monthly hip hop event that occurs at Commonwealth Bar and Stage at 10 p.m., where 10 people take the stage for 10 minutes at a time to showcase their talents. In addition to Johnson, the crew behind this event includes producer and DJ Rico Drummmond and DJ GrimRock, rapper and co-host Ryan Serquina, lead visual showcasing artist Ryan Postic, and community liaison Sarosh Rizvi.

Together, these individuals have set out to help elevate the hip hop scene in Calgary as opposed to waiting for an opportunity to fall in their laps.

“Everybody always says someone should do it, and you have to realize that you are someone so go ahead and do it,” said Johnson.

Through his efforts to support and motivate, Johnson has managed to remain modest while letting his work and personality speak for themselves.

Often people aren’t even aware that Johnson is one half of a duo called Humble Giants—a rap collaboration whose name rings true to both his personality and that of the duo’s other half, local rapper HalfCut (Marty Loughran).

Outside of his passion for hip hop, Johnson is a web and graphic designer who studied new media, production and design at SAIT. Through his company, Beni Johnson Media, he’s able to exercise his creativity while also making a tangible income for himself.

As a web designer, Johnson launched an online publication, 10at10.ca, that showcases the many different avenues of hip hop in the city. This publication is much needed in YYC because, according to Johnson, “nobody is running to write a story about hip hop because to them it still sounds the same like it did 15 years ago, and nobody is looking at Calgary for their hip hop artists, for their entertainment value or for their scene.”

While Calgary hosts a great number of individuals that are passionate about different musical genres, Johnson says hip hop in Calgary isn’t often talked about in the media. Because of the lack of exposure some may even argue that it simply doesn’t exist.

Through the online publication he hopes to shed light on a scene that is slowly growing here in Calgary. This online publication will be an extension of the monthly event (10 at 10) that aims towards to same goal, to create exposure for hip-hip enthusiasts.

“The infrastructure in Calgary isn’t even paying attention to what we’re doing so we’re going to create our own stars.”

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