Traveling through what seemed like an endless amount of studio sessions can be a typical lifestyle of a music producer, no less of one that’s as in-demand and talented as one that’s G.O.O.D. Music affiliated such as Benny Cassette. Signed to the noted musical outfit’s Very GOOD Beats division, Benny’s obvious gifts in the studio need little introduction with such a backing and connection to the label’s renowned architect, Kanye West. And it was during these trying studio sessions where Cassette harnessed such lauded talent and used it to formulate the groundwork for his latest project, Broken Hearts & Dollar Signs.
“When you’re working and traveling that much, it’s kind of just like you and the music,” said Benny Cassette during a private listening session for Broken Hearts & Dollar Signs at his home studio. “You don’t really have a lot of people around you. So in order to keep myself, I guess, feeling connected, I started writing letters to people. I started writing letters to ex-girlfriends, I wrote a letter to my mom, I wrote a letter to my grandma who passed.”
Through these letters and the raw, honest emotion expressed in them, Cassette was able to lay the foundation for this project. “I just sat at the piano and started making songs out of these letters and after that, I built production out off of the letters, and that became the whole project.”
As a result of this unique basis for the album’s songs, every track is a candid look into a certain point in time or emotion that Cassette was going through then. With this format – personal letters speaking to specific individuals and addressing exact and real feelings, as opposed to the typical arbitrary and generalized concepts and thoughts – listening to Broken Hearts & Dollar Signs becomes a personal invite into a certain vulnerability and honesty rarely seen in hip-hop artists these days.
“Every song has a very distinct personality based on whatever mood I was in on that day. So conceptually, what we want to do when the project comes out is release a book of all the letters.”
Such a visionary take on his project’s accompanying content now makes it clear as to why one Mr. West took so easily to Cassette’s knack and one-of-a-kind aptitude with non-traditional concepts and bigger picture type of vision. Simply put, Benny Cassette is keeping it real-er and maybe even the realest, in hip-hop’s crowded sea of vainglorious posturing and ceremony.
One song that Benny Cassette previewed, “Entertain Us,” was a personal letter aimed at certain individuals that use social media to flaunt fake lifestyles and personas. He explains, “With this song I was just telling those people how I felt about them living a fake social media life. I was looking at this girl’s Instagram one night and she’s posting all these pictures that are pretty much thirst traps. I’m looking at her like, ‘Nah, I know you! This is not who you are. You’re just trying to get likes.’ Then there’s this dude I know and he’s posting pictures of cars that aren’t his and watches that aren’t his and I’m like, ‘This guy can’t really afford any of those things!’”
Another song we previewed, “All Girls Love California,” was an energized track that on its surface, seemed like the typical ode to the California girl. However, as we’ve caught on from the forthright and concept-based approach to the songs on Broken Hearts & Dollar Signs, the exact message paints a more detailed picture and tells the tale of Cassette’s interaction with a beautiful small-town girl that he met at the airport during a layover.
“We got to talking and she was telling me how she wanted to move to LA to pursue modeling and acting. I was like, ‘Are you sure you want to do that?’ She comes back like, ‘Don’t you know all girls love California?’ Which, when I heard that, it really hit me and inspired me to write a letter to her. So we kept in touch through Instagram, and soon enough I see that she’s moved out to Los Angeles. Of course, she becomes one of “those” girls, where she’s dating all these certain dudes that we know and are living that lifestyle. I thought, ‘How awesome would it be if I could make a song where I’m talking about that life that she was caught up in, but the chorus was a party chorus, so that all the girls that are like that would sing along with it, even though they don’t know that what they’re singing is about them!’”
As for the overall feel and theme of Broken Hearts & Dollar Signs, Cassette explains it by addressing his fans what he wants them to take away from listening to the project.
“I just want fans to know that when they hear the music in this project, they should know to never be afraid of the journey. Never be afraid of falling or hitting a low point. Never be afraid of the struggle, because when we’re going through all that, that’s when we grow. We don’t become better humans when everything is going great and life is amazing. That’s easy. For me this project was born out of struggle and I think it’s a testament that through that struggle, great things can happen.”
Truly Benny Cassette did grow and cultivate a potentially impactful and thought-provoking musical offering that underlies his genuine nature, which is something we all should look forward to, knowing that the heart of a great song beats with its ability to be relatable and authentic.
Photos by: Art Derecho