The Chicago Defender’s Black Music Month Special Edition
Cover Story | Millennial Moves | @_taylorbennett
The world of Hip Hop is constantly evolving and reinventing new voices of its era—Chicago has become the forefront of fresh new talent.
One of the fresh faces making waves on the music front is Taylor Bennett, a graduate of Urban Prep Academy and entrepreneurial thinker. Building his own record label, publishing and production company, he started Taylor Made—a music company that has released two full length projects thus far, including Broad Shoulders in 2015 and his most recent work, Restoration of An American Idol this Spring.
Similar to his famous older brother, Chance the Rapper, Taylor would put his music out for free download in the beginning but gradually changed courses to selling his music online.
“It all started when I started working on my last project, Broad Shoulders. I knew that I wanted to keep control of my project. My brother gives away a lot of his music for free, there’s a lot of other people who give their music away for free and I usually was giving my music away as well. However, the producer that I worked with, wrote the music—he had produced half of the project and did not want to give away the project for free,” said Bennett.
Learning the business side of the music industry was very important; from understanding split sheets, copyrights, publishing, point structures and production credits. He received a crash course when he began work on Broad Shoulders.
“At first, I refused and I wanted to give it away for free. He told me if I wanted to give it away for free, I need to have a better reason than just that. My concern at times has been I didn’t want to sign contracts. I didn’t want to be with a label. I didn’t want to have a distribution deal. I didn’t want a publishing deal. Contracts scare me, so I stayed away from them. My manager, Joseph Cabey, and I got a chance to go through options of what we could actually do and we found a platform called Tune Core.”
The 21-year-old explains, “I used to think that one day after rapping enough, I would just get a record deal for all this money which still could happen but I won’t do it. I’ve passed on them before—I’m carefree, nothing else matters. I think that’s still what a lot of people think—people just want record deals. Record labels are really just bad news, they’re not run by good people. I have friends who are in the industry, and it’s literally like a cage. You lose control of everything and the worst thing somebody can do is ‘cage an artist’ and their creativity, telling them what they can and can’t do.”
The Process of Creation
“My project Restoration of An American Idol took me one year to complete. It was a different process, and I don’t think I’ve said this in a lot of interviews, but it was a different process because I didn’t work with one producer. I still to this day think that Broad Shoulders is one of my best bodies of work, but with Restoration of An American Idol, I worked with multiple producers. On this last album, I learned a lot of stuff from my good friend Ludlow, who produced Broad Shoulders.
“I met Lil Yachty the year before that, he was a great friend to me—went to a bunch of his shows and we kicked it a couple of times. When I had the track, I hit up KYLE that has that iSpy song with Lil Yachty. KYLE was like ‘Yo, I want you to hop on this track, it’s called Neon Lights and I think you would love it.’ I sent it to him, and KYLE’s like one of my good friends; we hang out whenever I’m in Los Angeles. Eventually, I sent it to Yachty and told him I really wanted him to do this track. He said, ‘I got you.’ He sent the track right back and I hit up KYLE again and told him I had the track and needed him to do the verse.”
The new album features solid collaborations with Stro and Jordan Bratton on “New York Nights”, Donnie Trumphet, Brandon Fox and Shay Lewis on “Dancing in the Rain”, Aubree Jenai on “Play My Part”, along with Raury on “Nobody Tell a Name”. Most of Restoration includes some familiar names and new artists from his in-house production company.
Chicago Hip Hop Influences
“When I was nine years old, I was watching BET and that song with Faith Evans and Twista was on and I loved it so much. It meant so much to me because I knew Twista was from the Westside of Chicago. So, to be from the same city and to see him doing the things that he does was amazing and now he’s one of my good friends. I visit his studio at least three times a month, and he’s just a great guy,” said Bennett. “He works very closely with Supa Bwe and he’s just a really good guy and musician. He’s given back to the city so much and I think that that’s very important—you don’t always have to give back money. Support your artists, care enough to reach back to see what’s going on and check out their music. Twista does that.”
His Advocacy on Teen Homelessness
“When people think about homelessness, they don’t think about homeless kids and they don’t realize it’s a huge epidemic. I had friends that went from sleeping at my house, to sleeping at auntie’s house, to sleeping at friends’ houses which starts this snowball effect. The next thing you know, you’re sleeping on CTA trains. I think that as young adults and Chicagoans, it’s our duty to say these things.”