After Ferguson erupted, musician and hip-hop artist Benny Starr felt the call to respond. Raised in the rural low country of South Carolina, he wanted to connect to those roots and echo a long line of Black artists focused on justice. He and his band The Four20s recorded A Water Album before a sold-out crowd in Charleston in 2018, the day after a near-miss from Hurricane Florence. The music reflects the life-bringing force of water and the existential threat that climate change poses to this flood-prone part of the world. The record is “a love offering,” he says. “We want to educate you, groove you, make you feel and think, but also want to let people know that there is power in our voices and our stories.”
“A society must assume that it is stable, but the artist must know, and he must let us know, that there is nothing stable under heaven.”
My work is rooted in remembrance and imagination, influenced by what has come before and fueled by possibility. A past and a future filled with pain and hope–a yearning for love, power, purpose, and collective joy.
My work is history and prophecy, requiring me to be an observer and practitioner. It is as much my inheritance as it is my solemn offering. It is often a personal lament, a prayer for my people—Black people—and the veneration of the rural South.
My work is an ode to process. I love the journey of getting there from here, following a feeling without seeking to control the outcome, and arriving at something honest and new.
My work is collaborative. I always want to be conversant and in relationship with my audience.
My work is spiritual. It’s ritual, improvisation, repetition, and imperfection. It is a space for dreaming, but equally important, a space to fail, reflect, refine, and improve. And I hope that when people engage with my creations and process, it moves them to engage deeply with their creativity in everything they do.
Black music and southern culture intersect with deep roots in hip-hop, gospel, jazz, blues and rock. They’re woven with rich history, resiliency, and storytelling that elicits a quest for a higher-calling in those who connect with them. The same rings true in the music created by South Carolina Lowcountry artist Benny Starr.
This most recent solo project, A Water Album, recorded live with his fellow bandmates The Four20s, at Charleston Music Hall, was released on Juneteenth 2019. Following the release of A Water Album, Benny Starr has been featured in The Oxford American’s yearly southern music issue, made history by becoming the first Hip-Hop artist to perform at Spoleto Festival USA, as well as A Water Album being named “South Carolina’s Best Album” in 2019, by the Free Times.