It was a cold Thursday night, but inside the Majestic the warm bodies packed together in front of the stage made it easy to forget about the frigid outside world. They had been there for hours waiting for Taylor Bennet, and when the DJ stopped the music they went crazy. Fans grabbed their phones and turned up their flashlights as bright as they would go as they waited for their man.
He sauntered in from the back of the stage, illuminated by the phone lights as the crowd screamed and with a quick, “What the fuck is up Madison?!”, the show was underway.
Throughout his time in the front of the room, Taylor had the fans ready to go, moving back and forth with the music, hands up and swaying. Before almost every song, the people were encouraged by “sing it if you know it”, from both Taylor and his DJ. They took it to heart, becoming more and more involved as the night went on.
Taylor Bennett hails from Chicago, the younger brother of Chance the Rapper. In the past few years, he has released two projects (Broad Shoulders & Restoration American Idol), both of which were released to favorable review. Being the younger brother of one of the biggest current rappers on the planet comes with its advantages and disadvantages.
It definitely helped to get his name popping when he was first starting to release music (just about every headline about him started with, “Chance’s Brother”), getting him into a lot of large hip-hop publications as well as appearing on some of the more well known radio shows such as Sway in the Morning.
It also means that we’ve heard a lot of what he does now already. When Chance blew up, his voice cut through the noise and brought new, fresh vibes to hip-hop, vibes that Taylor has continued to ride throughout his music. There has not been much variation from the formula that Chance used to blow up, except for the small fact that Taylor simply isn’t as good as Chance.
One of the biggest goals for Taylor on this tour has been to meet his fans and get to know them. He illustrated that numerous time, not only during our interview but between songs in the set as well. It seems at a contradiction then that he played for barely thirty minutes during his show, and that’s including the stopping between every song to converse with the audience.
During one of the first breaks, Taylor told the captivated crowd about where his mind-state was at while writing for Restoration American Idol, and his experience being in the hospital while creating part of it. With a limited catalogue (and being that this is a promotional tour), it was inevitable that much of the music played would come from Restoration of an American Idol.
It seemed to be a good mixture new to old tracks. It didn’t matter to the audience, whether the songs were new, old, they were captivated by the man on stage giving them what they had been waiting so desperately for.
Evolution is a natural part of life, as one grows older and gains new perspective from experiences one’s idea of where they fit in the world and what they’re there for shifts around.
With his new album and tour promoting that album, Taylor is trying to show his fans that they don’t have to wait to realize that they should be themselves. It is a theme within hip-hop that has been changing, to be you and not let what society says drag you down or corner you into a box.
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We talked about the ways that not only hip-hop, but society at large has become a more accepting place in the last decade.
“Right now, hip-hop is all about the culture, and culture is about being you and being true to yourself,” Taylor told me, highlighting the symbiotic relationship between changes in hip-hop and changes going on within society as a whole.
Artists and the music they make often reflects the times in which it is being made, and as society transitions to a more open and free space, hip-hop goes with it. Much of the crowd that night was made up of college aged students, there to see their man on stage doing his thing, a man who isn’t much older than them.
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During our interview, I asked Taylor what type of emotions went through his head when he stood on stage in
front of an audience of people who could have been his academic peers had he not made music.
“It’s crazy man,” he started, “One of my favorite quotes is ‘you gotta be who you are in this world’, and the music is my route”, summing up pretty well, in his view, that he is doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing in life.
He is still relatively new when it comes to touring, but he is heading over to Europe for a tour fairly soon. For him, it is all about new experiences, seeing new places and meeting the people there.
One of the new experiences that he had recently was signing his first artist, Bianca Shaw, to his label Tay Bennett Entertainment.
We discussed what the experience has been like so far, Taylor describing it as a “very dope thing, I’m learning a lot from her during this, it goes both ways with the learning, and she’s making some great music”.
With Taylor having been in the independent game for so long, he is also getting to use his experience a lot to help guide her on her own journey.
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As he put it, “I learned that you can’t try and put someone down a path with music, you have to let them do their thing and be there to guide them when they need it”.
The night ended with Taylor coming back on stage to perform his latest release, “Minimum Wage”, after a round of encore cheers from his adoring fans. While Taylor commanded an incredible stage presence, holding the fans attention from the moment he came on to the moment he left, much of the music felt as though he had spent some time going through Chance’s old music, piecing together what he liked.
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The set was pretty short at the end of the day, running slightly under 30 minutes, and even though Taylor insisted how important the fans were to him on this tour it seems like an empty ideal.
Hopefully this show is an anomaly on his tour, because if he does interact with his fans at a deep level it will be an awesome experience for everyone.
He has been working on music for a new album while on this tour, and just put out the video for “Minimum Wage”, which was directed by his long-time friend, and fellow Chicagoan, Cole Bennett.