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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Artist Of The Week - Benjamin Hooks
Monday, April 05, 2010

It’s officially spring, so your kick game better be on point. Benjamin Hooks knows a thing or two about sneakers, he’s a featured artist on the Know You Got SOLE soundtrack, and he’s leading off my Season of Sole series here at Adam’s World. Season of Sole is a monthlong co-promotion with Ope Entertainment where all throughout April I’ll be featuring artists from the Ope Ent. project, Know You Got SOLE, as Artists Of The Week. The album has three previous Artists Of The Week on it in Substantial, Fresh Daily and Loj, so you already know the caliber of the talent is high.

This brings us to Benjamin Hooks, who was actually the first artist signed to Ope Entertainment, way back in 1996. Credited with discovering Pack FM, Benjamin Hooks had an album ready to go in 2002, but it was completed just a little too late for him, as at that point he was ready to leave music, which he did. Know You Got SOLE brought him out of retirement and relit the fire in him.

This week I caught up with Benjamin Hooks to find out about the ups and downs of the game, how and when he discovered Pack FM, and how Q-Tip stopped him from buying a pair of Jordans.

Adam Bernard: Your song, “Ill Back Then,” on the Know You Got SOLE soundtrack, is your return to hip-hop after quite the long hiatus. Tell me what led to you taking a break from the game and also what made you want to come back.
Benjamin Hooks: Frustration finally set in after numerous setbacks and roadblocks. The bad started outweighing the good and the business started affecting Ope (Ope Ent. founder Sean "Ope" Williams) and my relationship as friends. Being that he was promising a lot and not delivering had me blaming him for everything. At the time I didn't realize that a lot of those things were not in his control. Ope speaks in a “this is a sure thing” tone at times, but that is only as a motivating factor. Back then I took it as, “this cat lied to me again.” After we gave each other a time out for a few months we started to rebuild the friendship. Now the ironic thing is the reason I left, which was Ope, is the reason I came back. When he called about the Know You Got SOLE music project, it was a no brainer. It was a chance to ride out with my boy again. Once back in the studio that spark came back. I recorded the same night Taajwar was recording his song and we started clicking and actually recorded a song together that night.

Adam Bernard: In your estimation, what about the scene has improved, and what about the scene has deteriorated, since you first became a part of it?
Benjamin Hooks: I think the underground scene is accepted more and there are many more opportunities than say ten years ago. Pretty much our only way of getting our music heard was on the AM stations, i.e. Awesome Two, Red Bandit, Faith Child, college radio. The internet was starting to take off with MP3.com and 88hiphop.com, but it was nothing compared to today. Where it has deteriorated is in the music itself. I just don't hear that genuine love coming from these cats’ music. Granted, you have to have a certain amount of bravado and be braggadocios, but does it all have to be about how much money you have? How are cats popping up with the jewels and the $500K whips in their first video? That’s just bogus to me. The overall lack of creativity is what is hurting hip-hop music. Every second and third record sounds the same. It's what I like to call “see do” music, as in “monkey see/monkey do.”

Adam Bernard: On June 21st, your birthday, you’ll be releasing your album, It’s About Time. The reasoning for the title is fairly obvious, but let’s dive a little deeper into the project. What are you bringing people, both lyrically and musically, that they can only get from Benjamin Hooks?
Benjamin Hooks: Ahh, It's About Time! I have honestly never worked so hard on a project in my life, ever. The title has several meanings. There’s the obvious “it's about time I'm finally dropping an album,” but it’s also about taking it back to a time when the music was fun and exciting. This project is a “time piece,” retro music if you will. I make no secret of the fact that I am a child from the Golden Era of hip-hop, so what Ope and I did was try to channel the sound and feel of that era. I don't want folks to think that I’m stuck in that era, it was just a way to put a different twist on this music thing. Seventy percent of the production is done by Ope with 30% done by another one of my producers/good friend Mister A, whom I know through Ope, of course. Lyrically you are going to get that Benjamin Hooks excitement, along with witty lines and great stories. Musically you are going to get that knock back in your music. I truly hope your speakers can handle Ope's boom-bap style.

Adam Bernard: I know for a fact your skills go far beyond rhyming. You actually discovered QN5’s Pack FM back in 1997. How did that happen, and what’s your relationship with him now?
Benjamin Hooks: Well, I discovered Pack FM in a “Christopher Columbus discovered America” type of way. He was a young buck in Brooklyn College, where we were regulars on Fly Ry's Boiler Room show. I think Pack was working with another DJ at the school, but he was always at the station. Ry's show used to broadcast through Brooklyn’s Public Access cable channel. One night my old partner Chris Dubbs was being featured on the show. I stayed home to record it while he and Ope did the interview. During the freestyle session a hot young spitter by the name of Pack FM caught my attention. I called the show on some “yo, I love this kid, we have to have him.” I convinced Ope that we really needed to have this kid in the crew and he became the fourth member of Poor wit'a Fortune. Ope, aka O*Asiatic, was “The General,"” he spit that knowledge. Chris Dubbs was “The Muscle,” he brought that dude in the street element to the table. I was “The Underboss,” bringing the energy and excitement, and Pack FM was “The Soldier,” the off the top thinker. “Who wanna battle?” Sic' em Pack. That’s what it was until it all came crashing down. I said all of that to say that I've never once heard Ope Entertainment mentioned in a Pack FM interview or bio. Why is that, Pack? I guess Jay isn't the only rapper to rewrite history without a pen. Apparently Pack beat him to the punch. Our relationship today has been reduced to friends on a social networking website. Yo Pack, holla at'cha boy Hooks, same cell number since '96.

Adam Bernard: Damn, now that’s a story I’m sure very few people knew! Moving from the serious to the sneakers, since this interview is part of the Season of Sole series, tell me about your favorite pair of kicks.
Benjamin Hooks: I just copped the Air Max '90s and the Air Trainer SC 2010s. It's between those two, but I'm not sure yet which are my favorite. For arguments sake, I'll say the Air Max because they're all black and I'm simple, I like all black shoes. It’s also a very comfortable shoe. I don't have OSD (Obsessive Sneaker Disorder), I'm not in it as heavy as Ope is {laughs}. However, It is important to have on a good clean shoe to go with your gear. I must quote myself from “Ill Back Then,” “I don't go here and there in search of the rare, just gimme a fresh pair to pair with my fresh.”

Adam Bernard: Just in case a sneaker manufacturer is reading this, why don’t you close this interview by hitting everyone with the one pair of kicks you’re still dying to get your hands on and your feet into.
Benjamin Hooks: You are not going to believe this, but the one shoe that continues to elude me is the Air Jordan VI (Infrared). I had a chance to get them back in '92, my moms was gonna buy them for me, but I had seen Q-Tip on Rap City's Spring Break and he was rocking this dope leather jacket, which I spotted in Wilson's Leather. Being that I had a fresh pair of the AJ VIII (Aqua/Flower Power), I went for the jacket. By the time the VI's were originally retro-ed I was onto something else, but I would still love a pair. I should just get them, right?

Related Links

Amazon: Know You Got SOLE
iTunes: Know You Got SOLE


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:25 AM  
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