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.”
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JMICAH FILMS
“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.”
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.
In 2020, Native Son, a duo comprised of Benny Starr and harmonious singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Rodrick Cliche, was formed. Together, they are redefining what it means to be dynamic while remaining highly respected. When merging the comforting allure of Southern breakfast at Grandma’s house with the triumphant command of a revolutionary’s chant, you get the sonic resonance that their sound taunts—decadent and nourishing.
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