BNXN Has Been Bad Since ’97 And Still Prospering

Hiba Hassan

By Hiba Hassan

Hiba Hassan

2 Nov 2022

Daniel Benson, AKA BNXN and formerly known as Buju, has had a steady growth since emerging onto the scene in 2019. Understanding how the 24-year-old artist has grown into his sound and gained a reputable roster of hit singles in the last few years is a gleaming trajectory to witness. Following the success of his self-titled EP, Daniel Benson last year, 2022 has been a staple time for his legacy, with viral singles like Finesse, features with the likes of Dave and M Huncho, and BNXN’s critically acclaimed EP, Bad Since ’97.

Speaking to us from his car in Lagos, Nigeria, BNXN is arguably the happiest he has been, fresh from a tour with Koffee, and the release of the EP, we reflected on it all and more…

Where are you going, how come you’re sitting in your car?

I’m on my way to rehearsal right now, we have a live show tomorrow so we’re just getting through that.

How have you been since I spoke to you last year? You’ve had a strong year!

It’s been crazy! So much has been happening, I’m just so grateful because I’ve been blessed. I was on tour with Koffee, we toured so many cities, she’s also an amazing person and we had so much fun. Especially to see how music has travelled, I went to so many places as well, places that I’ve only seen in magazines. Every day, as much as this is my life right now, every day surprises me.

So, that was your first tour?

Yeah, my first-ever tour, and I intend to do a tour on my own too. I was doing a couple of festivals and shows, but I want to do something that is me headlining in a few cities. And based on touring and everything I’ve done this past year; I have a direction that I want to go in. I want to go back to Malta, Berlin, Stockholm, Paris, and so many places I want to go back to. It was amazing, Alhamdulillah.

I remember the last time I spoke to you, you said you wanted to release as much music as you can, and you’ve done that. You also had your headline show in London last year, how was that?

The last time we spoke, there was a lot of pressure on me to see what was next and I had to pocket all of that emotion, all of that anxiety and pressure and put it into my music. I am so excited that you guys get this project because it is so amazing.

What do you want your listeners to get out of this project?

I listened to my project last year and this current project, and I see the difference. The storytelling, the production, and the engineering have changed 100%, in terms of how I structure things now is different on records. On this project I want people to feel me on a different scale, this is a very self-reflective project. I was talking about relationships, how to feel coming out of a toxic relationship, confidence, and confidence in the music industry.

I take you on a groove in many ways. And I think I delivered so well on the project that I’m so, you know, it’s like, I could tell that there was so much work I put in, and it’s evident it was substantial to me.

What’s your favourite track from the project?

There are so many. If I pick one, I think In My Mind. Because it’s reflective, it’s about my story of being in a toxic relationship, like, my side of it, like my view of it. Because usually, I always hear people talking about toxic relationships this, toxic relationships that, but I didn’t necessarily understand it until I was in one. And it was terrible. So, I literally poured out everything I felt at the time of the song. You sort of understand how I feel. Without even me telling you the story.

A lot of people when they come out of toxic relationships, or relationships in general, learn a lot about themselves. What was something that you learnt about yourself coming out of that, and now writing music about it?

Well, I think when I came out of that situation, I was a lot more self-aware. In terms of my emotions, and how I do people. I tend to put myself first in some sense, when I got out of that situation, I felt more confident in myself, because the whole time I was really insecure, as much as I want it to be, you know, confident or more like dominant in some sense. I was really insecure. And it made me feel less of who I was.

So, when I got out, I was more confident I was more, I knew how to handle people a lot better, you know, dealing with like, even the opposite sex and even, like my fellow guys and whatnot. So was cognitive of like, my emotional responses to everything. I knew when to, you know, talk, you know, like, respond to certain things, or hold back on certain things. I knew when to lash out or not to lash out, you know, there was a whole lot that changed after that kind of experience.

When your songwriting how much of your private life goes into the music? Is there a point where you’re like, okay, cool, I don’t want to talk about this?

It’s very natural to actually put your story into it. Well, I can tell another person’s story but it’s always better when I’m telling my story. So, it’s like now, I didn’t know how to tell people I was in a toxic relationship, that involves so much more than what people actually understand about being toxic. I needed to put it in music that can make people relate to it, whereby you’re not seeing, you’re not seeing violence, you’re more or less like, envisioning it. You’re in a story without necessarily having anything to do with it.

You know, that’s the job of a songwriter, to sort of immerse you in his emotion. I always make sure I pour everything on there, the lyrics will change, but you have to get the story, you have to get the film. That’s why I always take lyricism to be so key, because when you actually read the lyrics, you know, listen to the song, you get, like a proper mental picture of what happened, or what is happening, or what was happening.

No, I get you. But last time we spoke, we spoke about a lot of things, but I never actually asked you about your songwriting process.

Sometimes it depends. Thankfully, with my phone, I could be, I could be anywhere. And if a melody comes to my head, or like a pattern comes to my head, I just turn on my recorder and you know, sing it or recorded it. It might not make sense word-wise, but the melody, would you mind blowing it to me, so I have to record it down? Other times, like when I recorded Finesse. In my verse on Finesse when Pheelz came to my house, I didn’t have an idea of what I wanted to do on the song. Then I went into the bathroom and took a shower. It’s crazy.

Do you know like when you have the odd moments in the shower, where you’re just singing, you know, like, any song entirely performing and I’m an artist, so I will be singing just any songs. I was just minding myself while he was playing, and I came out of the shower, and I wrote the verse like it was just a level of how I was enjoying it, like, while I was in the shower. So you know, sometimes it’s like, you could think of something, it could be a word or a sentence that comes to your mind. So, it depends. Sometimes you just need to have like a topic in your head, like a particular subject, you might want to hit, you know, if you want to talk about love, you need to know how you’re going to express it. Like, it always comes whenever you have a structure, 

if you get a word or a sentence, and there’s a topic in your mind. Trust me, it’ll come so easily because you just be writing in line with what you’re thinking and feeling at the time.

I have to go back to Finesse, one of the biggest songs this year. You’ve also had a lot of big songs that have been going off recently. How does that feel?

I wouldn’t say that I saw Finesse blowing up that much at the time. Because at the time, it was just, you know, regular vibration. And when I heard it and hit Pheelz up, I was like this is crazy. And he was like, ‘Yo, we need to do this thing together.’ And at first, I was more reluctant because it’s like, is this something everybody’s ready for? You know, it’s also something like we made the song as happy as possible. If anything it’s the emotion in the song that really took over. I mean, it’s just been really, it’s been great. Last year, it was Feeling and Mood, and this year, there’s Finesse, and Kenkele, there are so many songs that are doing so much for me.

You also had two massive UK features, M Huncho and Dave.

Yeahhhhh! Starting off in music, I was really, I was envious of the UK scene. I won’t say envious that’s the wrong word. It’s more like, I was like, ‘yo, these guys are amazing. How exactly can I get into this kind of space?’ Like, how can I make a sound that works with how they make music? Especially like, you know, with r&b guys, the hook guys, and even with the drill guys.

So, I mean, I was hooked on J Hus for a while. And subsequently, Dave and then the love just kept growing. And when Feeling dropped, that kind of got it to the UK and made everybody go, ‘Oh, who is that guy?’ So, Jae5 came to Lagos, and he put out a tweet that he was looking for, like, the best artists to work with, out of the youngest out there. And Twitter was going crazy, everybody was tagging me.

He came we recorded like, three songs that night. And Propeller was one of them. He went back to the UK and played it for Dave and Dave loved it and jumped on it. It was nuts, at the time, it was the feature I recorded, for the UK. And man, it’s just a blessing. M Huncho is just an amazing person because I have been loving his music for some time. Like when he did the Mad About Bars, it was just lovely to see how everybody I looked up to as an OG I’ve actually kind of worked with them, it’s a madness, just blessed to see.

I want to talk about your name change as well. From Buju to BNXN, why did that happen?

Well, I was trying to maintain authenticity. I felt like everything in the world that matters today is the name. Everything. Now, Buju is a nickname given to like chubby kids, you know, the name relates so much to me, as I give him more meaning and call it Beauty Underneath But Just Understood, you know. But I was going through my catalogue and I noticed every time I searched myself, I was always clashing. My name wasn’t actually coming first before the legendary Buju Banton.

I wanted something that stands out for me. And at the time, I just dropped my first project. ‘Sorry, I’m late.’ And I had a song on there called Daniel Benson, which is actually my name, like my original name. Since I had already put that out there, I felt like the ones that actually loved me, for me, would actually know that my name is Daniel Benson. And if I actually decided to call myself Benson, and go by my surname, they wouldn’t have a problem. And so that was how decided to run. And I decided to write it as B N X N, mainly because of aesthetics. Because I draw a lot and I write a lot and I coined it just exactly like that, because of how I write it. It’s amazing.

What’s next for you? Like when I next speak to you where will you be? 

I’ll probably have a Grammy! I’m excited about the future. I’m in a space where I’m in my lane and doing something that’s going to outlast me and my generation. I’m just excited for where God is taking me, where I’m going and how the growth you know, it’s not stagnant. So, like, I’m in tune with myself and I’m in a good position. I’m just trying to move at God’s speed.