After a long 2 years of production, Benga one of the forefather’s of Dubstep debuts his much anticipated third full length—Chapter II. Originally slated to come out August 2012, this is Benga’s first shot at a major label release. His last album Diary of an Afro Warrior came out over 5 years ago, so Chapter II has been a long time coming. You will find many familiar Benga-isms on the album: quirky intros, super tight drums, prominent bass lines, as well as some great vocal-based tracks featuring the likes of Kano, Sam Frank, P Money and more. It is definitely a more accessible mainstream sound—you won’t find any grindy Phaze: One-esqe tunes on here. Well. Maybe one or two.
Today I finally got my hands on Chapter II. So I proceeded to head back into my basement studio (that I have been holed up in for the last week making music) load it up in my [eye]Tunes (Get it Benga fans?), cranked up my sub, sat back in my chair, and prepared myself for some…ahem…Benga bangers.
My prophecy was soon fulfilled after only hearing the first track, “Yellow”, a heavy funky tune that comes in strong with a snare that slaps you right in the balls.
The next track, “Smile” features uncredited vocals by Charli XCX. You may know Charli from her ethereal vocals on Philadelphia bass pioneer Starkey’s “Lost in Space”. This track sticks to a familiar pop chord progression with super punchy drums and a catchy hook that consists of Charli spelling out the word C-R-Y-S-T-A-L, and insisting that you and her love are crystalized. It’s cute.
Benga then breaks it down into a more moody arrhythmic arrangement Amon Tobin style with “Click and Tap”. The song has more atmosphere than groove, albeit with a funky bass line thrown in.
The next track takes it down into Grime realm with “Forefather”, featuring Kano’s HEAVY verses on the mic, and Benga on the colorful pulsating bass lines.
When I listen to Benga I hear a distinct characteristic in all of his music: simplicity. Benga doesn’t mess around, he gets right to the point in his songs. He doesn’t make you wait through 10 minutes of builds and false drops and the like. He paints the picture, and then drops you into his world. That is one of the reasons I love Benga. His songs always have such a strong theme that you can latch onto, and are never too complex for someone to grasp.
The next single on the album “I Will Never Change” helps to embrace this point. The track begins with a mysterious sloshing sound accompanied by a high pitched noise that sounds like metal scraping together—Benga really giving you no inkling into where he will take you next. A transitional sweep then escorts you into a deep sub bass line with percussive melodic synth stabs on top. Now that you are in a more comfortable musical realm, you get bombarded by a massively heavy and vibrant drop that could be cousins with the drop in “Forefather”. It was amazing.
“To Hell and Back” is probably the heaviest track on the album. So heavy, in fact that even the monstrous soundsystem at Cable (R.I.P.) wouldn’t do it justice. It starts off with an orchestral amalgamation of those signature Benga horns and timpanis and then drops into a dark, sweaty, moshy…hell like place. If this is what hell is like than hell is pretty sick.
Some more great performance come from pop vocalist Autumn Rowe on the track “Higher”, and Sam Frank on “Warzone”. These tracks followed by the super grimey tune—“High Speed” featuring P Money shows Benga’s crazy diversity in production.
Benga closes the album with “Waiting” featuring a beautiful performance by Happiness.
Overall I think Benga’s Chapter II is a cohesive and diverse piece that shares mainstream melodies with grimey and bass-y sounds. It’s not the most innovative album for Benga or Dubstep for that matter, but it definitely has some tunes on there.
You can download or buy a copy of Chapter II off of Benga’s official music store here. Chapter II isn’t available on the US iTunes yet, but if you are in the UK you can grab it here.