Despite only starting his rap career in the summer of 2009, Islington based Benjamin O’Leary, AKA Benny Banks, has come on in leaps and bounds. Benny entered the game alone and started collaborating with Joe Black once he was released from jail. He has also collaborated with Squeeks and Ratlin. Benny has featured on various UK urban channels, but the peak of his short career has no doubt been his recent signing with record company 679 Artists, who have represented the likes of Kano, Plan B and The Streets. This is going to make 2012 a very exciting year for Mr Banks indeed.
Benny Banks’s big break was arguably when he took part in BBC Radio 1Xtra’s Fire in the Booth in the spring of 2010. This paved the way for features and interviews on other urban channels, and pioneers SBTV eventually included him on one of their famous Warm Up Sessions in October 2010. With over two million YouTube video views accumulated since Banks created his own channel in January this year, his growth in popularity has been rapid and intense.
The artist only solo mixtape release to date is Patiently Waiting Vol. 1, and it has been well received by the masses. But how has Banks, who was a nobody a couple of years ago, managed to attract a record contract?
Returning back to 2009 and early 2010 when Banks was just starting out in the game, he released tracks such as Don’t Let Go and I Ain’t New To This, which attracted thousands of listeners on YouTube. His laid back flow whilst rapping about the difficulties of his childhood and adolescence is compelling, and he has managed to keep this rare quality consistent throughout his career. With Westy’s well crafted beats Benny Banks, Propane, Hunt Izzy and Squeeks teamed up to release No Sleep which was an instrumental mixtape in putting Islington’s talent onto the UK rap scene’s map. Christmas Day 2010 saw the release of Ride or Die, where we are given a look into life on the streets and the testing experience of bringing up a daughter. The chilled out beat and the yet again relaxed delivery of his lyrics is affecting for the listener.
Released in spring this year, emotional My Past, talking of the challenges of growing up without a father present and living in a rough area of London, offers the listener an intimate look into the childhood of Benny Banks: “[Mum] tried to show me the way, she tried to teach me; but a woman can’t teach a man how to be a he, and my dad died – I had no man there to teach me”. Banks promises us that “I’ma send shivers down your spine, make you feel my past”, and he certainly keeps to his word.
Moving onto the collaboration aspect of Benny Banks’s work, one of my favourite tracks is Nothing on Me, where he collaborated with Squeeks, Joe Black and Frostie. Banks speaks of his talent and his aims to be the best that he can be. Featuring on Squeeks’s Another Day, Banks’s verse focuses on the difficulties he faced growing up in poverty – yet again his flow is relaxed yet passionate and his honesty is admirable. The combination of honesty, bluntness and emotion, and his ease to adapt to different subject matters and musical styles makes Benny Banks a great signing for 679. His solo tracks have proven that he can touch listeners from all walks of life – everyone can relate to something he talks about, from growing up on the streets of Islington or being a young parent struggling for money, to the more simple difficulties such as that age old issue of adolescence and disliking school.
As Banks entered the scene alone and created a buzz. His work was respected by UK urban veteran Joe Black when he returned to rap and they created a bigger buzz all over YouTube, appearing in numerous street videos and collaborating with many established names, it’s no wonder that he has been so successful in such a short timespan. He obviously has an extremely strong work ethic and a intelligent business orientated head, not to mention the fact that he is an talented artist. It could be suggested that he has the ‘x factor’ that seems to be missing from the scene at the moment. 2012 is set to be a big year for Mr Banks.
But check out Benny Bank’s classic mixtape for yourself and let us know your thoughts.
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