CHATHAM — Taylor Bennett may look like his older brother Chance the Rapper, but when it comes to music and style, the resemblance quickly fades.
“In terms of music, his style, we’re trying to do our own thing,” said the 20-year-old Bennett, who dropped his debut album “Broad Shoulders” in December.
Chance is featured on a track with him. Other featured artists include Donnie Trumpet and King Louie.
Bennett said that although he looked up to his older brother, and Chance had influenced him in music and in life, he refused to live in his shadow.
Pursuing a music career was inevitable for the West Chatham resident who grew up mesmerized by the tongue-twisting, fast-paced lyrics of Chicago rappers Twista, Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco.
He first felt inspired to start producing and performing at 10 when he heard Twista’s “Hope,” featuring Faith Evans. The song was released in 2005.
Ever since then, he’s been fully committed to his art.
His father Ken Bennett, a top aide to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, said both his sons always have loved music and performing. One of his earliest memories of his youngest son was on Christmas morning. Taylor was no older than 2, and he and Chance were dancing to a Christmas carol.
As Taylor got older, he began to freestyle like his big brother. He also loved the spoken word. Teachers would always tell Bennett that his son had a unique gift for writing poetry.
Both young men share similarities and interests, but they also have differences, Bennett said.
"Even though he is very involved and loves being on the stage, Taylor has a very strong interest in the business of music," he said. "For Taylor, it’s the music, but it’s also the business. He’s a businessman."
His son is also interested in helping other young people get involved in the business side of music, Bennett said, adding that he's proud of him.
He considers himself a fan and said he listens to both of his sons' music when he's working out or just relaxing at home.
"I listen to their music all the time," he said. "Taylor, I love his style. He has a unique edge to his music and energy to his music."
The tracks on “Broad Shoulders” have more than just a catchy beat, Taylor Bennett said. The lyrics are powerful and he speaks truth, he said because he wants listeners to relate to his message, as well as “love and genuinely care about them.”
“The whole project was about moving forward and stepping into that next stage of life, no matter if you’re coming out of a heartbreak, if you’re working, competing, trying to do your thing, whatever is going on, it’s just about putting your best foot forward,” he said.
The album is nicknamed after Chicago, the “City of Broad Shoulders.” He released the free album online, a move more artists are starting to take to both find and grow their audience. The songs can be purchased for 99 cents.
Working on the album wasn’t as challenging as Taylor had expected, he said because he did his research before jumping into putting it together. He discovered TuneCore, a site for independent music artists that offers services like song licensing, distribution credits and more.
Taylor said he didn't want to sign with a label and he wanted control of everything from marketing to distribution of his work.
When he’s not working on the business side of his music, he’s in the studio immersed in creative energy, he said.
“A lot of artists bring their music home and they write it,” he said. “Me, I just usually write it in the studio.”
He said he preferred writing in the studio because it was easier to “find the beat” to match his lyrics. He doesn’t like any interruptions during the creative process, he said.
He’s in the studio just about every night, either with friends or alone, he said. His work ethic is one thing that sets him apart from other rappers, he said.
It’s difficult to categorize or label his music style, and that’s the way Taylor said he likes it.
“To me it’s always about growing and your energy, and it’s just really hard to put a label on that,” Taylor said. “I do a lot of different genres, but to me it’s just music and I love doing it.”
Throughout the music-making process, Chance’s words have stuck with him, Bennett said.
“Just be yourself, be true to who you are, and don’t try to be something you’re not,” is advice Taylor follows.
His own advice to aspiring artists: “Don’t give up, and understand that with every downfall there’s a lesson that you learn.”
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