Entertainment Macco Interviews Benjai

Before you even start reading this interview by Entertainment Macco , you must listen to some of his songs. Benjai has several tracks on my life's carnival soundtrack.

Entertainment Macco has always been very interested in talking (Maccoing) to international recording artiste Benjai, Why? because he is one of the few artiste out of Trinidad and Tobago that usually speaks his mind without worrying about the backlash. Not only is he straight forward, but he is a very talented entertainer and songwriter  hailing from Arima. It became even more necessary to speak to Benjai as we interviewed his long time friend and ex-band mate Scarz, who when we questioned about a specific performance this past carnival  he suggested we ask Benjai. So of course that is exactly what we did!

Entertainment Macco: Who Is Benjai?
Benjai: “The average person….the person you would pass on the street everyday….the one who pushed his talent…the person who people never expected to reach the levels he has….I created a window of opportunity for myself….hence the reason I am a role model in the area I am from (Malabar)….Benjai is the ghetto youth…musically inclined…very spiritual, very spontaneous….People say I have schizo personality…Jai is really just humble…loving….”

Entertainment Macco: What is your given name?
Benjai:  “Rodney Le Blanc”

Entertainment Macco: Birthday / Sign?
Benjai:  “22nd March…Aries…”

Entertainment Macco: How long have you been singing professionally?
Benjai:  “12 years”

Entertainment Macco: What genres of music do you perform/record?
Benjai: “Reggae….Soca…Alternative….”

Entertainment Macco: We always got the impression that Benjai is destined to be a lone-star…are we right or wrong?
Benjai:  “I wont say so…to start a career it is a good thing to start off in a band to build your strengths but no one is a lone-star….I do not consider myself one

Entertainment Macco: Where did the name Benjai come from and what is the significance of it?
Benjai:  “From my religion (12 tribes….from the tribe of Benjamins)…….”

Entertainment Macco: What do you think is your strongest asset as an artiste?
Benjai:  My ability to communicate with the public…I get melody and hooks easily unlike other artistes who does be struggling...I usually know what the people want and I am able to give it to them…I please my audience at all times.”

Entertainment Macco: We have noticed that you are one of few Trinidad artistes that speak your mind do you ever worry about being black-listed?
Benjai:  “No I don’t worry...I doh hut up my head…I believe everyone talent is from God and no one can take away your talent from you. I am always concerned about what my fans have to say and I make a lot of decisions in my career with the fans in mind but I still always keep spiritually grounded, sometimes it may not always be made for the public but they have to be done for my progress…”

Entertainment Macco: We heard your announcement about the forming of a band and it is public knowledge that you were a part of two bands, was this motivation to form your own band?
Benjai: “The experience of being in 2 of the tops bands did give me some motivation..the experiences made me know that I am at a level that I can have my own band…my repertoire is too big to run on a stage singing and only sing two songs...I do not mind doing it if it is like a party or something…but we always looking for more”
Entertainment Macco: How is the band looking so far?
Benjai:  I put it on pause for a while, because I wanna do other things first...I wanna go back to school and stuff…and economy wise it is just not the best option right now…but things are still happening”

Entertainment Macco: Was your song "All Woman" a message about the planned girls band?
Benjai:  “Yes it was about that” 

Entertainment Macco: Any children or plans of having any?
Benjai:  “Two beautiful children….boy and girl ages 12 and 9. I am not sure if you should expect more BUT, I always wanted to adopt but I would only do that when I am at a level in my career where I am financially stable….If anyone asks me what is the happiest moment of my life I will have to say, when my children were born”

Entertainment Macco: Are you single/in a relationship or married?
Benjai:  “NO comment!! It’s complicated…..”

Entertainment Macco: What is your biggest turn on in the opposite sex?
Benjai:  “Well…..Many things…Light skinned, educated, independent, not vain, able to cook…have to love dogs”
Entertainment Macco: Lol @ Light skinned AKA Reds..
Benjai:  “Sistren doh get me wrong you know…I doh have anything against darkies but a Red woman does just turn me on…It have some real bess darkies out here.”

Entertainment Macco: When you were or when looking for a mate did u look for someone in the industry or out of the industry? 
Benjai:  “Out of the industry."

Entertainment Macco: Why?
Benjai:  "…too much conflict if both ah we in it….it will be more exciting if she is not involved. I should be able to hear something refreshing, we should be able to talk about other things other than something that we always in”

Entertainment Macco:Since you hit the scene you have been releasing quality music, you have made it very far as part of a unit and as a solo artiste, so lets talk about Soca Monarch, 2009 you had a very strong song, but you were one of the few artiste that had very little to no props on stage and you manage to still place, What happened?
Benjai:  “I KINDA fedup with the competition thing; it is so rigged…honestly…they doing it with money in mind….and not the fans…not the culture. I knew the power of the song and they were not going to give Groovy Soca Monarch to me…”
Entertainment Macco: What do you mean?
Benjai:  “We knew they were going to give it to Fay- Ann because of the whole pregnancy scene...So I decided to put my money to use, I also wanted to go back to the days when it was just the Artiste, the band and the people…with less props. I was fed up of the whole vibes that was going on then. It have people out here raping the culture and I wanted to show that it is not about that and should not be. I knew that I would have placed in the top 4 or else the public would have seen the unfairness and the bias judging if they didn’t place me….”

Entertainment Macco: Soca monarch 2010 where was Benjai, I for one was very disappointed when I didn't see on stage on fantastic Friday…What happened?
Benjai:  “They eh even studying that the levels drop…AC (Alternative Concept) bigger than soca monarch because people know they gonna get more….the best….most of the best. In Soca Monarch too much of the rules change to make certain people rich…people only talking bout wah they do for the culture but not wah the culture do for them…if no artistes eh sing and enter then Caribbean Prestige Foundation (CPF) eh go make no money...is the artiste who bringing in the money for them..Monroe accepting money from other countries to guarantee spots for artistes from the Caribbean…*Stuepps* that cah be right”

Entertainment Macco: Do you think it would be different ifs some other body was responsible for Soca Monarch other that CPF?
Benjai: “Who is our national Soca Monarch, to have an international you must have a National. Maybe the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Gender Affairs or the Government should take a hold of it, we also need proper facilities for shows…they build a centre that none ah we could sing in….My heart goes out to all the artistes because is real money to put out our stuff…touring…repping the artform and we should get the credit…the government have to step in, no man should govern and control. In my heart that is how I feel…it is not his place to take the culture of we country and run it. Monroe not even from Trini….is we culture….”

Entertainment Macco: I just want to say that was like WOW to see Skarz, 3Suns and you on stage together at Dawn (A Breakfast party for Trinidad Carnival), of course Gailann and Bunji were missing, Do you remember your introduction? What was that about? (The introduction made was Benjai Introducing members of the Godfathers Asylum family as the "Bomboclat cult").
Benjai: “That was just me venting out some rage…”

Entertainment Macco: Why though?
Benjai:  “Days before the show I called him (Garlin) he tell me come to rehearse with the band but said he will tell me what day to come through, then two days before the show he telling me that the band full. Fay-Ann come and change he whole order, wah she change is wah had we original; our camaraderie and brother hood….Ah man come and make pum pum change him…the night ah dawn was real disrespect”
Entertainment Macco: Right…I am following you…Go on..
Benjai:  “We were backstage and while we were there..Bunji and the “Asylum” (the remainder of the band) were there and Garlin knew we were supposed to perform and is ah whole set ah nasty games he was playing. Is the games I cah handle, the smiling and the face that he wanna hail people out and he know his heart not clean, that happens when his wife calling shots, is something different. NOW if I have to perform, the promoter might want you to perform with a band and it is harder sometimes to get a job with tracks.”

Entertainment Macco: This ever happened before?
Benjai:  “It happen more than once with Bunji… I have no problem with Roy Cape, HD or any other band only Asylum, Bunji moving like total hate…Bunji I believe is a punk….making the public feel he so good and he is a snake…”

Entertainment Macco: Damn…
Benjai:  “Bunji pressure Skarz until he leave because he eh have a hit, he fire Gailann because Fay-Ann doh like she and Ninja was paid off to leave.When we were together as a unit, ah whole set ah my songs, I make group songs that I wrote, songs that really establish the Asylum like “By the bar”, “Clear the way”, “In my brain”, “Watchin me”, “We dread”….he (Bunji) never showed appreciation for the hard work people was doing. Everything was always about him, we used to hide it but everybody was kinda upset about certain things….with management etc. He (Bunji) is very selfish and have the audacity to sing my songs in his set when he performing. If you have the energy and power to sing it leh ah man pay his bills…. He ah snake and he greedy…the nastiness in Fay-Ann and Bunji will come out….someone will reveal it….her (Fayann) attitude is stink and she eh know how to talk to people…..”

Entertainment Macco: So are you still a member of the God Fathers Asylum?
Benjai:  “NO!”

Entertainment Macco: Can you tell us how that whole movement (Asylum) came about?
Benjai:  “Ital D found us and the Asylum was a dream Bunji always had, he always wanted to do something like that, always wanted to be a part of something big. Initially there were a lot of members…. It was about 55 people and started to break down….friends, brethrens, family members and it broke down to musicians….20-25. The true God father was Ranger not Bunji, Ranger was the man who made sure everyone had an order amongst an order…Treason (3Suns) buss first (On d Promenade) and Bunji came after and he assumed the running…I still studying how that happen…not sure how that happen…..”

Entertainment Macco: Did you leave the Asylum band or were your fired?
Benjai:“I left, I saw the signs when Bunji and Fay-Ann met I saw what was going to happen so I made my departure….the brother hood was failing because Garlin is very weak….he is not what he looks…..he like a little egg….Fay- Ann is more the controller…..”

Entertainment Macco: It seemed that later you and Bunji settled your differences but from you responses I get that you are no longer affiliated it with them what happened?
Benjai: “If he see me he go hail me and thing like that…if we have to talk or deal then so be it but the problem was small money, after I write all them big tunes…an issue was money. Garlin take home pay was a big amount and I was working equally as hard.”

Entertainment Macco: Oh ho….
Benjai: “Then Onika died and the love was failing…Fay-Ann come on the scene and people started to get uncomfortable. That salary wasn’t comfortable and compared to the number of hit songs I had I was treated unfairly…when I left the band there was a change in my salary and promoters were and are paying meh the same thing I was asking Garlin them for…then I got the opportunity with Machel. I have no regrets though everything ran its course; greater bands than us broke up for smaller reasons…we had our differences…” 

Entertainment Macco: Do you feel that you have been more successful in the band or outside the band?
Benjai: “Out of the band…no elements to tie you down or shield yuh...I ehhave to worry about anyone upset that I taking their spotlight, just me and me alone. I doh have to write any songs for a group or worry about harmonizing etc”

Entertainment Macco: Do you feel that while in the band you were given a fair chance to do your thing?
Benjai: “Nah….never…Machel is the only person who saw my full potential as a solo artiste…..that I needed to do my own thing within a band…the 2 yrs I was with HD was very exciting and I was happy. Machel gave me 45minutes in AC (Alternative Concept) he didn’t just talk it he gave it to me…he allow me to do me and I appreciate that… he show me more love than them before.”

Entertainment Macco: Did you at any point feel like you were always in Bunji's Shadow?
Benjai: “I always thought so because of how they wanted to treat me. I had nuff arguments with Ian Pantin, because of how he would treat the band to how he would treat Bunji. Imagine every body in a country on tour...say Miami but we in a normal hotel and Bunji and Fay-Ann in a 5star hotel… dais why I love Machel he staying with the band regardless ah where we were or whatever, It could have been in a backyard he was there with us.”

Entertainment Macco: When you look at the new Asylum band today and you realize it is not the same players how does it make you feel?
Benjai: “Musicians always change…I caught mehself looking at the past musicians in the band to now…they real talented right now…people however will choose original over duplicate any day. It is plain to see the original flavour from the asylum gone…they will never get it back because all the goodness they run Right now is just musicians who cutting a gig and everyone wanna be a star…full respect to Roy Cape and the HD family…other bands should emulate..Watch their camaraderie”

Entertainment Macco: We saw when you moved from Asylum to HD and back to Asylum..how was the HD experience? 
Benjai: “Besssssss…compared to the Asylum, I had more fun…the energies were positive, vibes, reasoning. I live in Machel house for 3 months. Machel is a man who is all for talking things out and looking for solutions, smiles and prayers…realness no stab in back scenes”

Entertainment Macco: How difficult was it for you to part ways with the band that you have been with for so long? 
Benjai: It wasn’t difficult...it happened very easily….I was in a rehearsal with a band and I wanted to discuss something and no one seemed to care...at that point I realized that this is not for me again that those people were total strangers”

Entertainment Macco: Would you go back into another band?
Benjai: “Is only one band other than the two I have been that I would join and that is Roy Cape…”
Entertainment Macco:Why Jai?
Benjai: “The legacy, the wealth of experience and the camaraderie.”

Entertainment Macco: Do you know anything about a Godmothers asylum?
Benjai: “I eh know much bout them buh I know bout a group of girls is Brooklyn who used to follow the band…next thing yuh hearing bout grandfather asylum or godbrothers…hahaha ”

Entertainment Macco:Why is it that there are more successful men in our music industry than women?
Benjai: “ahhhh….I eh know nah….I believe the men does be on it more than the women. It is also easier for men to make the sacrifices required; that is how the industry set up. There are more restrictions for a woman than a man in the game…a woman must be an automatic sex symbol to fit into a certain category…they have to be the full package. There are a lot of talented women out there who would remain just that “A great singer” and nothing more because they are not the total package. To me women make more competent managers than men….when it comes down business. Yes they are a little more emotional but they handle it better than or sometimes just as good as men”

Entertainment Macco: If you were not singing what would you be doing?
Benjai: “In the army or law enforcement…I would want to kick in them minsters doors when they doing shit…ever since I was growing up I always wanted to help my country…be apart of something that help the country”

Entertainment Macco: What is your wish for Soca and Caribbean music?
Benjai: “It is already happening…..I can’t wish for more…we are being heard….this is bigger than “we”, the government just need to step up and be a part of this.”

Entertainment Macco: Why you cut your dreads?
Benjai: “Been there done that, it was breaking off and stuff and added to that I got a facial stroke something called Bell's palsy because of moisture in my head, the added stress did not do my body any good. My entire face was twisted to one side” 
Entertainment Macco: Wow @ facial stroke...I had no idea

Entertainment Macco: Rumour has it that you were involved in illegal activities before you started singing….you wanna shed some light on this?
Benjai: “I cah hide that...I from the streets I had to do things to survive. I have a lot of friends who still in the game but I got a lucky break…I not gonna lie or dispel anything because it is what it is. I am what some would call a seasoned veteran. I am a hustler I was on d streets from age 14, they used to call guys like me hustlers or gangsters… ”
Entertainment Macco: I appreciate your honesty
Benjai: “Sistren you are a smart one….you would have never asked if you did not trust your source and one thing I eh want you to think is that Benjai is a damn liar, if I didn’t give you the answer you knew you would have been singing that song and that is not me”

Entertainment Macco: Oh my….lol well thank you again for you honest responses
Benjai: “I like how you came at me straight though…dais realness”

Entertainment Macco:What can we expect from you in the future?
Benjai: “Music…my flavour of music…unique styles…everything”

Entertainment Macco: I know it have real life maccos out there…how do you keep your personal life and business life away from the maccos?
Benjai: “It easy I doh really go out unless I have to or invited to something…my public life is Benjai and who know Rodney it has nothing to do with the music just him and his children….”

Entertainment Macco: So who did I interview today…Benjai or Rodney?
Benjai: “You had Rodney from the beginning to the end.”  

Courtesy of Entertainment Macco

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