We speak to Funk Volume's Jarren Benton about his grandma, drugs, the XXL Freshmen list and other randomness.
Jarren Benton hasn't dropped a new project since My Grandmother's Basementlast June, and he also hasn't dropped much in the way of new music either. That's not to say the (weirdest) member of Funk Volume hasn't kept himself busy. He was heavily promoting himself for a spot on the XXL Freshmen list, and it worked to his benefit, as he was named the People's Champ on this year's list. In addition, the rapper has been working on a new album which he hopes will be classic material. We hopped on the phone with Jarren to shoot the shit, and the conversation ranged from his grandmother's basement to doing drugs with celebrities to his infamous raccoon hat. For a peek inside Jarren's mind, read below.
HotNewHipHop: Let’s take it back to your last project, My Grandmother’s Basement, you did some promo videos leading up to that where you were sitting with your grandmother in her basement, and there was this photo of you pouring her liquor while she holds a gun. I just wanna know what your grandma is really like and how did your relationship develop like that?
Jarren Benton: Oh yeah, we have a fucking close [relationship]. She’s always been like that, she’s been like my mom in a sense, she kinda raised me. Everything in there was completely 100% her, if you meet her, she’ll come across real sweet in the beginning but once you get to warm up to her, you’ll see, like oh shit.
HNHH: Yeah she seems like a G, in the video she was talking about why she had to use a gun, and she was like oh, just because. Is that real life?
Jarren: Hell yeah. Her past history, she was a wild woman.
HNHH: Oh yeah? And has any crazy shit gone down in your grandma’s basement, like when you were living there for a period of time.
Jarren: Uh, the craziest shit, was probably me trying to fucking commit suicide. That’d probably be the craziest shit that went down in my grandma’s basement.
HNHH: Yeah…that’s crazy. Anything, more, fun?
Jarren: [Laughs] Uh, anything fun ever went down…No, nothing fun went on in my grandma’s basement, because I was like, I didn’t even wanna bring chicks to my grandma’s basement, ‘cause I felt like, I was in my grandma’s basement. I was with my kid’s mother at the time, and we was kinda off and on, and everyone was like you should start dating. I dunno, I had a couple chicks I went out with, but I was embarrassed. I was like 20-something, I don’t wanna bring a chick back to my basement.
HNHH: You decided to name your album after it though, so what was the decision to do that?
Jarren: That shit was hella of an important part [of my life]. I went through growing pains, before I was in that basement I was so care free, and doing what the fuck I wanted do, and then life hit me. I had kids, I lost jobs, lost money, so I was down on my luck and had to go back there, and I didn’t get back on my feet for like five years. The main purpose of me naming my project that is because I wanted to give people..just open up the door a little and give people a personal side of me.
HNHH: Right, and where you living these days?
Jarren: I live in my own house these days.
HNHH: In Atlanta?
Jarren: Yeah, I’m still in Atlanta. Everyone else is like L.A. or Vegas, I’m still in Atlanta. I might move there one day.
HNHH: Yeah okay. Let’s go back further to your mixtapes, you did Huffing Glue with Hasselhoff and Freebasing with Kevin Bacon, do you think there is gunna be any other drug & celebrity-themed mixtapes in the future?
Jarren: Yeah, I’m definitely gunna do it. Hell yeah I am. I’m not gunna do it on the next project, I feel like the next project I got a lot of shit to prove, so this [is] gunna be the project that gunna shut everybody’s fuckin’ mouth up, but after that I’m get back to...
HNHH: Is the next project a mixtape or album?
Jarren: Nah I wanna do a full album, the next project. And then after that I think I’ma go back to doing some shit. I’ve said this before, I’m gunna do something crazy with a celebrity that will really hold up to the title.
HNHH: Speaking of that, what other drugs would you wanna do what other celebrities? Like, for example, popping molly with…Gimme the drug and the celebrity name.
Jarren: Let me see if I was to do a random drug with a celebrity…I would do shrooms with Zach Galifianakis.
HNHH: That would probably be fun. I read in an interview that you actually did huff glue with Hasselhoff. Is that real life, how did that happen?
Jarren: You know what, that really did happen, but then somebody called me and told me don’t put out that story, so I gotta keep the Hasselhoff story under wraps.
HNHH: It seems like 2 Chainz is taking on the Freebase theme. Do you like Tity Boi, did you check out his new EP?
Jarren: Yeah I fuck with 2 Chainz. 2 Chainz is actually on the Freebasing with Kevin Bacon.
HNHH: Oh yeah. So present day: you just won People’s Champ on the XXL Freshmen list. I know you were really vying for it. What was that experience like, the cover shoot with everyone there, did you know the other rappers? Who was the most chill?
Jarren: The only dude I knew before was Jon Connor. Jon Connor’s actually on Freebasing with Kevin Bacon. Jon Connor’s by far the coolest..he’s probably the most genuine person you’ll ever meet. There’s no diva in him, he’s a genuine motherfuckin’ dude.
HNHH: He seems really humble.
Jarren: Real humble dude. Who else was cool. Troy Ave was cool, Rich Homie Quan was cool as fuck, Ty Dolla $ign was cool. Kevin Gates was cool as fuck, and Lil Bibby was cool, he was just real quiet. Those were the only dudes I was really chilling with.
HNHH: Were people divided into groups?
Jarren: No, we were divided into groups with our cyphers but the for the shoot we had our own little rooms and shit. But those were the only dudes I kinda vibed with, everyone else I ain’t really get a chance to kick it with like that.
HNHH: Do you think anybody was snubbed, was there someone you woulda put on that didn’t make it?
Jarren: I woulda put the homie Rittz on there. Rittz or the lil homie Chris Webby, I feel like they went hard this year and last year. I’m surprised that dude, and I ain’t even heard a lot of his shit but the shit I heard I fuck with heavy, I’m surprised the dude Casey Veggies ain’t on there…Is that the dude Casey? He’s like on a song with Odd Future.
HNHH: I’m not sure…
Jarren: I think I’m thinking of Vince Staples.
HNHH: Ahhh yeah.
Jarren: Who else I think shoulda probably been on there? I think I’m missing someone. Childish Gambino. I think he turned it down.
HNHH: But now everyone from Funk Volume has been on it?
Jarren: Hell yeah, only one that hasn’t been on it is SwizZz. Once he put his album out, we gunna go hard for him, so we could get a cover four years in a row.
HNHH: Yeah, I feel like he hasn’t gotten his turn yet. So he’ll be next?
Jarren: Yeah, I think SwizZz will shock the world with his shit.
HNHH: Cool. What current rappers are you listening to right now?
Jarren: Um, Action Bronson, Sean Price. I’m listening to a lot of old shit too, I’m still bumping Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle and The Chronic right now. That shit stay in rotation. And mostly, I’ma be honest with you, I listen to probably more indie rock than rap anyways.
HNHH: Okay yeah, a lot of your music is hard-hitting, I feel like there’s a rock influence. Your next album, do you have any ideas or concepts for it yet, can you share anything about it.
Jarren: The whole thing I wanna do with the next album is to make it a timeless album, one of those albums you can listen too fucking twenty years from now and it still jams. I have a title I just can’t put the title out there yet.
HNHH: Okay, fair enough. One last question, I need to ask you about your raccoon hat..Is there a proper term for that hat?
Jarren: The proper term to it, it only works if you go to like the local...You live in L.A. right?
HNHH: No, I’m in New York right now.
Jarren: Okay go to the Bronx or wherever there’s a lot of fuckin’ blacks and just yell out "coon hat."
HNHH: [Laughs] Okay. When did you first pick up that hat? Now it’s kinda of your staple, you’re always wearing it. Are you trying to make the coon hat happen, or what’s the deal?
Jarren: That shit came from, speaking of the fuckin’ Bronx, that shit came from old school hip-hop fashion. Like a lot of people try to bring back the bucket hats, the gazelles, the shell-tops, and the fuckin’ racoon hat, people was rockin’ them shits back then, that was part of the style, and I’m like shit no one did that. And my little cousin, my little fuckin’ 13-year old cousin, he was in the house, and I think my grandma bought him one at a garage sale, and I was like yo, gimme that fuckin’ hat. I literally jacked that shit from my 13-year old little cousin.
HNHH: Aww, but now you can probably afford multiple ones and give him it back.
Jarren: You know what, the one I stole from him somebody snatched the fuckin’ tail off in Australia and I just gave him a [new one].
HNHH: How many of those hats do you have? Multiple, or you just wear one?
Jarren: Nah, I got multiple. I actually ordered some for this tour and I ordered the wrong size, they were all small so I kicked the fuckin’ box to the door. I got a shit load of racoon hats.
HNHH: You can send me one if it’s super small, I have a small head.
Jarren: Yeah what’s your Instagram? I’ma check you out.
HNHH: I don’t have Instagram actually. I have Twitter.
Jarren: What’s your Twitter?
HNHH: It’s @roselilahhshit.
Jarren: Rose Lilah Shit you say?
Jarren: Alright follow me, I’ma follow back.
HNHH: I always forget to tweet. I think that sums it up though, it was very nice talking to you.
Jarren: Cool. Good talking to you too.
HNHH: Looking forward to your next project.
Jarren: Thank you, I look forward to putting it out so you can look forward to hearing it.