In Conversation: Benji Socrate$’ Touch Is Good as Gold


GSC has joined Substack! If you would like to receive every GSC article to your inbox when it drops follow this link and join our Substack mailer. The mailer will eventually feature Substack exclusive content including early access to hypothetical merch drops.

Benji Socrate$ is a radiant soul. He’s one of the best beat makers out, engineering a robust catalog of mind melting loops for several years now. His energy precedes him. He wears his passion in his grin, as he did while chopping away at beats on a recent Instagram live. Watching him on Live talking with his friends is a perfect picture into the life of the New York born producer. He can be found throwing up BX in recognition of frequent collaborator and friend Stack Skrilla, Harlem shaking, laughing and hitting the dougie, freestyling, ‘My Benz exotic, my lungs bionic!’

Seth Gonzales, as the government knows him, radiates hip hop from his pores. You’ll see and feel that within a few minutes of being in the same room as him. He’s extremely humble and clearly doesn’t take himself too seriously, but like any master of his craft, his love for hip hop encompasses him. It is always on his mind. Growing up in the Amsterdam projects in Midtown, currently residing in the Bronx, Benji Socrate$’ instrumentals are a reflection of the city that both birthed hip hop and helped raise him.

The Spellcastor is a Puerto Rican NYU math major and already becoming one of the most influential artists in New York. As a member of the Dump Gawd collective, led by underground kingpin Tha God Fahim, Benji is constantly working and releasing said work. Fahim is known for having over a hundred mixtapes under his belt, rapping and producing on each one. Following suit since 2019 Benji has exclusively produced full length projects and EPs with Stack Skrilla, BA Pace, Lungs, All Hail YT, Jah-Monte Ogbon, AJ Suede, Pro Zay, Left Lane Didon, Starker and Fahim himself. Having also produced songs for many other artists such as YL, TRICKPAPI, AKAI SOLO, Jay NiCe, S!lence, DØØf, DFNS, Brizz Rawsteen, and Amir Bilal, among others.

On ‘28 Beats Later’, Benji’s latest beat tape, we hear the offspring of 28 different records chopped into a 29 minute soulful and jazzy display of how far he has been able to take his talents. This tape is consistent with the quality that Benji displayed wielding his sword on a few earlier beat tapes this year. The first of which,  ‘{socrates}’, was a beat tape that offered an entrancing time-blending selection of wide ranging sounds. Benji’s second, ‘{soula.return},’ is filled with distorted drums, chasing waning desolate instruments through interplanetary space. And the third installment of the ‘dnt.wrry’ series is split into two sides of heavily R&B and soul sounding samples, looped and fused into what feels like a triumphant Sunday morning victory lap. Until late last year, before getting his SP404, a lot of the beats produced by Benji were made on an iPhone using GarageBand and sampler apps like Koala. He has even performed live beat sets from his phone. His earliest work with Stack Skrilla, “Private Forum” and “4 for 4 EP”, feature Stack’s effortless wordplay and paintbrush cadence over the iPhone generated loops. Starting as a rapper before producing, Benji is getting back to those roots with an upcoming rap project, I Did What I’m Supposed To. Benji switches hats, tapping friends and collaborators for their production. We got a preview in a track under his alias “xiix” over a nice Moye beat on ‘wish eye had u’. A deep, dreary Benji speaks of lost love ending his verse with, “She say my name, I hope our love stays the same. But come to find out, this shit was just a one time thing.” 

I got to talk to Benji on FaceTime about working with so many different artists, upcoming projects, Skate 4, and using music as a means to make change in the times that we face. Our conversation below edited for clarity and brevity:

(Brizz Rawsteen, Stack Skrilla, Jay NiCE, Benji Socrate$)

Grandma Sophias Cookies: How are you doing? How’s your day so far?

Benji Socrate$: My day’s fantastic. I woke up hella, early like at 4am. And I watched the sun rise. There’s no other experience like that. Being up, when no one else is up, it’s kind of a weird thing but you would be surprised. I make my best beats during that time.

GSC: Is that regular for you?

BS: Yeah it’s something I’ve been doing since I started making beats to be honest. I would be making beats and watching the sunrise at the same time. I’d be up until 6:00 AM and one of my siblings would come into my room and see me making beats. I love that feeling, it’s sort of like a high. It keeps you not only motivated but stimulated.

GSC: I always felt like when I wake up to see the sun rise, I’m equipped with a different type of energy for my day.

BS: It’s an energy that’s indescribable. You just feel good, and I think it’s because you experience a moment that not many people are experiencing. Watching the shift of color, from pitch black, to dark purple, or bright pink to a light blue. It’s just beautiful. A majority of this interview will be me admiring the sky.

GSC: I moved to San Antonio, a few weeks after an UPPERCUTS I saw you at for Halfmoon. And since moving I take a lot of walks at night because it’s hot during the day. So I’ve really enjoyed sunsets as well.

BS: I just love being outside. When not everyone else is outside. You’re isolated in an open world. It’s a bit eerie but I’m getting energy just from experiencing things around me. I’m just completely isolated from everyone, looking at the sky, or sitting on a park bench looking at rats fighting. I’m also an insomniac. It’s not crucial in my process of creation but it helped motivate a lot of great beats and projects I’ve worked on. The whole month of May I did that, and drew inspiration from the well of infinity. That’s what my recent beat tape was about, 28 Beats Later.

(28 Beats Later Cover)

GSC: So for 28 Beats Later, you said you used 28 records right? 

BS: Let me show you, there’s seven records in each bag. I counted all the records, split them up. And went through the bags three times a day. The inspiration came from me trying to go back into the sources I’ve obtained. I felt like being on the laptop too much separated me from what I was originally doing, and I feel like this was a challenge sampling every record from Tom Brown, to Isaac Hayes, to Tom Scott, Wandering Souls, and Nate King Cole. 

GSC: And this is your first time approaching a beat tape like this?

BS: Yeah, I just wanted to force myself to use every record even if it’s not my steelo. And it sort of broke ceilings for me, it made me more room to create, I never made a beat using a 3/4th time signature. And in this tape there’s a sample I flip in a 3/4th time signature. I’ve never done that before. Not only that, it allowed me to experiment and sharpen my sword.

GSC:  I wanted to ask you about sharpening your sword, because you were mostly using your phone. And in September you said you had your MPC and SP404 on the way.

BS: Everything was off the iPhone. I made the switch to Reason in 2016. But I first started producing in 2015 off the iPhone. So I have been using my laptop. But, a lot of the early Benji Socrate$ beats people heard from 2017-18 were off an iPhone. Using Cross DJ Pro and Garageband. Props to Koala too, they helped bring awareness to mobile users. Peace to the homies DØØf and DFNS they’re crazy on the iPhone. I just saw I had to utilize my resources, my laptop wasn’t working at the time. Cross was the first program I used to make beats in 2015, and there you just press a button. I was just fucking around with that and Garageband. 

GSC: Utilizing your resources is a big thing, and you’re clearly tapped into music at all times attending a bunch of shows. I’m wondering where the dedication to getting better comes from for you?

BS: The dedication comes from me loving the art. Hip Hop did a lot for me. Hip Hop was basically that guardian angel I could rely on to protect me. I feel like being as dedicated as I am, I don’t want to take this shit as a joke. I love this with all my heart. And the reason I have all this love is because I was taught that through hip hop. I’m a Guru fan, a Nas fan, rest in peace Prodigy. But I was a really big Capital Steez fan too, that’s someone who got me into rapping. So that’s where a lot of the peace and love comes from.

GSC: Well you mentioned some of your influences, but you also mentioned rapping. I wanted to know if you were a rapper before a producer?

BS: Yeah the chicken laid the egg. I was a rapper before a producer. I was rapping like Lil Wayne.

GSC: Lil Wayne is my favorite rapper ever.

BS: I used to have these really basic ABC raps. And once I heard Survival Tactics I wanted to rap like that. He was the person who sparked in me, that you could rap like this.

GSC: It’s crazy how brief his career was, but how many people his music inspired so where his music continues to permeate through time.

BS: That’s what you call longevity, and that’s the thing I aim for. That’s the name of the game, is how long can your impact last?  Versus a quick career for a quick fix. A lot of people have the mentality where they just want to do right for them and the family around them, not for the family after. So my mentality when I look at it is, I’ll sacrifice my well-being to ensure that the family beyond me is good. 

Benji with Sidewalk Kal, Ba Pace, DFNS, Gam & Lungs

GSC: I wanted to know where the high regard of you as a person that you get from the people you work with comes from? Because everyone has something positive to say about you. Was that just how you were raised? 

BS: That’s love. Honestly, I didn’t really get it from the household. I grew up in an abusive household. In the projects, shit was the slums. But I had people around me that had enough love to show me, and I learned from them. I give a lot of credit to my siblings and other family. But the way I see it, you get what you give in this life. So if you give a lot of love you get a lot of love.  I’m going to be pleased with what I can give. I don’t need to receive any love back, it feels good to receive love but it’s imperative to show love.

GSC: In saying that, I wanted to know more about the artist you work with. Because they seem to be like minded in living by a similar work ethic, and concentration on showing love, whether it was before they met you but surely after.

BS: All the artist’s I’ve worked with have had an impact on me in some way. I don’t like to have favorites but Stack [Skrilla] is definitely my favorite artist. We feed off of each other’s energy.  I send him a beat, he likes it and he raps on it. I love his verse and we put it out. And we can bring you a God Amongst Men or Private Forum. I really find the gems inside his raps. BA Pace is another one, I never really understood how strong language was until I met BA. My perception of those two artists, they’re swordsmen.

(Benji Socrate$, Tha God Fahim, Stack Skrilla)

GSC: I first knew of you at a Bars and Rec show in late 2018. And Stack was performing. And you’re in front rapping every verse…

BS: You read my mind I was going to say Left Lane and Jay NiCE are the other two that I really respect and love working with because of the languages and gems they drop in their music, and gems they drop on me. 

GSC: Right! I was just saying that to say, are the artists that you find yourself around play a factor into inspiring you to want to rap again opposed to producing?

BS: Definitely. Just hearing the way they rap I was like, ‘I want to be that good.’ But I was in a slump as a rapper. I was focused more on beat making. It was really just me writing and trying to continue to write and in like February or March of 2019 I started to rap again. Working with those artists pushed my pen. And now I got songs recorded, and projects coming out soon. Just waiting on a studio to open up.

GSC:  Well you’re always working on something, and I wanted to know the idea behind Dump Gawd and putting out so much work. The conclusion I came to with it was that the goal is the collective  just wants to produce the best work.

BS: That’s one thing, but for me it’s not about paying attention to how much I was dropping. But paying attention to who I was dropping with. I was trying to work with people who feed off of each other’s vibe and do a project together. I was also just trying to get my name out there. Not many people knew about Benji Socrate$ until after 2019. And still not many people know about me and that’s fine. The more I dropped the more people noticed, and when people hit me up for beats I would sell to them. But I’m not just dropping it off at your door.  I’ll at least come in, say hi, see what you’re cooking, build a relationship with you.

(Benji Socrate$ and Stack Skrilla)

GSC: You have so many people you work with it turns into a relationship, do you attribute that to getting better? Working with so many different people? 

BS: The more I’m around other producers and rappers the more gems take. I might utilize a method in a beat one day and never put it out because I executed it terribly. The other day my homie Hajino showed me how to make beats on Ableton. Artists and producers that I chill and kick it with I learn a lot from. A samurai is ready at any given moment to draw his sword, not as a competition or anything but to sharpen your skills. Like, I won’t ever be caught lacking without beats to play, on  my phone, my laptop or SP.

GSC: Upcoming projects? Is there any information you can give me about the Benji rap project?

BS: I have a project coming out soon, a beattape. More info on that soon. I Did What I’m Supposed To is still being recorded with the corona going on, but I feel like with my first project I want to take all the time I need. I finished writing it, if you want to know some producers on there are, Alphonse, CRISTEN, Roper Williams x Benji Socrate$ featuring the homie Pootie, we were freestyling back and forth for twenty minutes at Roper’s studio in Jersey. So we just decided to write to it. That track is crazy. I listen to it everyday. Other producers, Olasegun, Spvcedd, aasir, Hajino, Noface?, no-fvce, Moye. Me and Moye have a project coming called Sable Socrate$. In terms of features, DFNS, BA Pace, Pootie, DØØf, S!lence. Everything’s coming together. It’s going to be 15 songs, I had enough to do an EP but it’s my first project and I wanted to do a complete body of work. I feel like once it’s recorded I will have all the right puzzle pieces to piece it together. Me and Stack are also dropping a project called Still Loading. That’s the next Benji Socrate$ and Stack release.

Benji Rappin

GSC: It sounds like you’re leaning into rap a little bit more than production. Is that wrong?

BS: It’s going to go where it’s going to go. I was a rapper first, but I feel like when it comes to producing there’s only so much you can do. And sometimes shit becomes stale, they’ll be days I don’t want to make a beat I just want to write. I’ll throw on beats I got for my CRISTEN project, and it’s just like I got to write. I just had stress built up and that shit was so therapeutic. And the release of that emotion is the reason for the name of that tape, Catharsis. His beats resonated so much I was able to release what I was feeling.

GSC: Are you rapping under Benji or “xiix” (ex-eye-ex)?

BS: I’m rapping under Benji Socrate$. xiix is too complicated to explain. It just looked cool like a reflection the way I wrote it. xiix might be a different persona. 

**At this part of the interview, Benji and I detoured into a conversation about DOOM and Madlib where we played the following songs: The Grind – Drake ft. Nickelus F, Accordion – Madvillian, All Caps – Madvillian, Curls – Madvillian**

GSC: I was going to ask you about Skate 4.

BS: OHH! *Flashes Skate Collection* Skate 2 is my favorite but it’s not X-Box One available so I’ve been playing a lot of Skate 1 because DØØf  put me back onto it. I love that game, but Skate 3 has lasted an entire decade. People talk about GTA V, but people are still playing Skate 3 a decade later..

God Amongst Men Artwork

GSC: I wanted to ask you about projects with Stack Skrilla.

BS: With Private Forum, it was clear what beats to send. I remember being at one of the studio sessions later into the process of creating the project listening to him rap. He played this beat I made in GarageBand called “wankillme”. The first time I ever linked up with Stack and Frozen I made three beats, one of those got onto Private Forum. We just connected and got to know each other more and we’re the deadly duo you know now. Stack’s my brother. His pen is impeccable. Private Forum proved that. I hit Stack up because I found out he did a song with Fahim and he’s from the Bronx. I wanted to send beats through and it just worked. To me that’s the perfect introduction. But there were a lot of struggles in creating God Amongst Men, but it came out perfectly. And that’s a tape strictly produced off the iPhone. It was a powerful project to me because it had a concept and the raps were just crazy. Songs, like Gundam, Listen to the Kids, Territorial Wars, those are all fire. I have to talk about Divine Brotherhood and Atlanta too. That’s my first time ever linking up with Fahim and creating with and getting to know him. Fahim and Mach are my idols, to meet them and to be looked at as a creative, having him show respect for my craft is crazy. We’re all in the Airbnb chilling, I’m making beats and shit while they rap. And we were just always working, it wasn’t always work it was fun. I never ate that much in my life. I made the B7 beat out there and B7 got sent to Mach [Hommy] from Fahim. I woke up to that news and almost cried.

GSC: I know you don’t work for recognition, but has any recognition felt particularly special?

BS: Related to B7, the recognition that was special to me was seeing a father rock his daughter to sleep to B7. That touched my heart more than any radio head playing my music. Because I know what it was like to be a little kid falling asleep to something my dad or mom would play. That sticks with you forever when you grow up and think about songs your parents used to play. 

Benji and Mach Hommy

GSC: I wanted to know more about selling zip files to your music and the IG Live you did in support of BLM.

BS: Yeah I still am. I don’t have any cassettes right now. I hope to work with some new producers and make cassettes to sell for a good cause. Right now black people are being targeted, not right now they’ve always been. Just right now we’re fed up with it. And it’s not something that can change within a day. It’s going to take a lot of time and support, to bring reform to this. Black people are being targeted everyday and people don’t talk about it. Seeing young beautiful black people die is extremely emotionally stressful. And we as people turn a blind eye to it, until something happens to one of us. The best thing we can do is build knowledge of the way the system works and ways we can change it. Also, if you’re a Puerto Rican or Dominican person and you think you’re not black, really do your research. Dig deep into your roots. I really just want to bring a lot of my brethren peace and my community. The more we invest within our people the more we expand for each other. We’re here, don’t let anyone break our stride. As long as you draw from the source accordingly, you can achieve anything.

GSC: How would you describe your sound?

BS: I wouldn’t. I feel like my sound is described itself. It’s hard to describe something you make yourself because you know the efforts you put into it. I don’t like to describe my sound, I would say my sound is something that I created. It’s a Benji Socrate$ beat. It’s my approach to it. I try to find something different. I just create the sound and the feelings of the beat are molded by the listener. But I’m also always trying to expand you may just hear that drill album.

GSC: Last question, how’s your Quarantine been? 

BS: It’s quarantine man, I just been eating up. I need to be reading more.  Noname smokes mids bro, I’ve never felt more represented in the music community than that. ‘40 days and a drought and I’m still smoking wet, f*ck is you talking about?!’

Follow Benji on Twitter, Instagram, and keep up with his upcoming releases on Bandcamp and Soundcloud.

2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s