Benny Demus: To The Extreme

  What do you do if you’re in the middle of the ocean on a boat and your friends tease you about how they think you can’t swim? Well, Akon’s tour DJ and producer Benny Demus a.k.a. Benny D found himself in that very predicament when he decided to jump off the boat to prove […]

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What do you do if you’re in the middle of the ocean on a boat and your friends tease you about how they think you can’t swim? Well, Akon’s tour DJ and producer Benny Demus a.k.a. Benny D found himself in that very predicament when he decided to jump off the boat to prove to Akon that he can swim. Not one to hold back, the mohawk-sporting Virgin Islands native has made himself known as a bit of a daredevil and a full-fledged entertainer. After being on the road with Akon for the past few years, Benny has traveled the world, getting the opportunity to “Smack That” all along the way. As he was gearing up for Akon’s tour with Gwen Stefani, Benny D took time out to talk about his non-stop tours with Akon, dry humping Tara Reid at a Sundance Film Festival event, and where one can find the most beautiful women in the world. Exactly what different roles do you play? Benny D: I’m a producer; I’m an actor, DJ, engineer, artist, actor… I mean I pretty much try to dabble in everything that I can entertainment-wise. How do you make sure that you don’t spread yourself too thin? Benny D: Well the thing is, I’m an Aries and we think a lot. I’m very careful as to how much I put into each aspect of things that I do. You mentioned you’re an actor. What acting are you doing? Benny D: Right now Akon is talking about me having my own reality show. Just things that happen while we’re on the road, I’m like the livewire for everybody. So he was just talking about getting all that on camera. I used to write scripts and stuff for plays at school, I always wanted to get back into that but since the DJing took off so hard I had to put some of that stuff on hold. It was your older brother who taught you how to DJ, right? Benny D: Oh, definitely my brother. He was a DJ before me. When I was in the fourth grade, he was like, “It’s time for me to teach you how to put the needle to the record,” and ever since then I practiced so much getting the blends perfect, trying to get better all the time to impress him. That’s really what it was about, me trying to impress him – and eventually it turned into what it is today. If I’m not mistaken, you started DJing at a strip club before you were even of age. Benny D: Oh yeah, definitely. I was 15 spinning in the strip club on the island. For the three years that I worked there everyone didn’t know how old I was, so they thought I was 21. It was funny to them that I was such a young hype DJ that I never had any drinks. They’d offer me drinks but I would be like “No, I’m ok,” because I knew that in the morning I would have to get up and go to school, I was still in high school. When you say “the island” you mean St. Thomas? Benny D: Yes sir, my whole childhood was in the Virgin Islands. St. Thomas, Virgin Islands actually. It’s the same place where Tim Duncan and Raja Bell are from. Everybody from St. Thomas was looking for somebody they could look up to, and along came Benny D. How were the women from the States different from the Island girls? Benny D: The women that would come from Atlanta and Miami, they were certainly a bit more friendly, they let you touch them, smack them a little bit, weren’t afraid to take their clothes off. Our town was very small, so a local girl couldn’t really work at a strip club because everyone would know who she is everyone knew her parents and all that. Does that mean that you hid the fact that you worked at the strip club as well? Benny D: Oh definitely, at first I tried to hide it. I tried to hide the fact that I went to school during the day and worked at a strip club at night. But when my mom found out, she flipped the script. She didn’t like that her boy was working at the strip club or even going to the strip club. And then I showed ma how much money I was making and she became a little more lenient – but of course I had to hide the fact that I was going to high school. I couldn’t let the owners know, because then I wouldn’t be able to work at the strip club anymore. What finally brought you to America then? Benny D: At one point I actually wanted to slow down my DJing to pursue basketball. In 1997 and 1998 I had gone to several colleges, but in 1998 I dislocated my shoulder. I couldn’t get it fixed, so when I went to college in Wyoming the injury messed me up to the point where I couldn’t play so I left school and came back home. At home I decided to pick back up my DJing. While DJing, I met up with these two brothers called 2EKWHIP. They wanted to have themselves a DJ. Things ended up pretty well for the three of us, we put out three albums and decided that maybe it was time to expand to the U.S. since we had done so much in the islands. So we moved to the U.S. and it was starting over, nobody knew who we were. We just started trying to gain friends and fans and have people recognize our talents. From 2001 to 2003 that’s all we did, open mics and performing. Everybody started talking about us like, “Yo there’s these three crazy boys from the Virgin Islands tearing it up, two crazy rappers but they got this crazy DJ.” And soon enough Akon heard about this “crazy DJ” and he was looking for a DJ. And being that he was from a different place, Senegal and the Virgin Islands for him, it just felt better for him to have a connection with someone from the outside. So one night we were opening up for the Clipse and here comes Akon strolling through. After introductions he just let me know that that was my night. He gave me the offer and let me know that he was getting looked at for a record deal and he was looking for a DJ that could go out there and rock with him. From there, we went from nobody knowing him to trying to push “Belly Dancer” to “Locked Up,” to what he’s been able to do from there. Where you skeptical about Akon at first? Benny D: Kind of sort of, I’m always kind of on the edge. I would take on anything just to say I did it. I looked at it as more of an opportunity to travel to more states and promote my group. I didn’t really know him. I wasn’t too skeptical, but it took me a while before I got to know him. We are pretty cool and open people anyway, so it didn’t take too long to find out things about each other and get to work with each other. We don’t step on each other’s toes or anything like that. We were born on the same day, it was crazy for me to find out about that. We definitely have ourselves a good time playing the Ying and Yang on stage. You actually produced for Akon as well. What tracks did you do? Benny D: I did number 11 on the first album and I did the number 11 on the new album. The new one is called “Once in a While.” What are the similarities and differences between the DJing and the production? Benny D: I calculate everything and I try to be the best at everything I do. I am very into my work. For the production, I am 100% with that just like I am with my DJing. Unless I have a meeting or my boys want to catch an early movie or something, but as soon as the movie is over, I have to run back because I have to make beats. So I try to be the best at everything I do. Will you be producing for other artists as well? Benny D: Definitely, right now I’m in contact with some people from Atlantic Records, so hopefully I can shop some beats over to the Atlantic artists. I’m working with everyone on Konvict Music, Rock City and Spliff Star… that’s my boy. I did a crazy track for this kid named Sunny Valentine as well. Rock City is your group, right? Benny D: Rock City, for those who don’t know, is actually the group I was with back in the day called 2EKHWIP. We disbanded for about a year, and then they wanted to change their name up to represent the experience they’ve gained. Rock City is what they called St. Thomas. So every time they say “Rock City” it’s like they’re saying St. Thomas. What have you been doing recently? Benny D: We’re still on the road. We’ve been on the road since 2003 since we met. I was just in Texas doing a show, Montreal, TRL, 106 and Park, and Regis and Kelly. We’ve always been touring, we never stopped touring from the last album to this one. Touring as much as you have, what is your favorite place? Benny D: Definitely all the countries in Africa. Tanzania is great, the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Senegal – that is Akon’s home. That is by far one of the best places that we have performed. We performed for 90,000 people in Gabon, we did 200,000 in Morocco. People don’t really know how international we really are. I’ve been to Kazakhstan, everyone’s seen Borat and I’ve actually been to Kazakhstan. I’ve been everywhere – Malaysia, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti… it doesn’t stop. What place would you say has the best women? Benny D: There’s four to five places I want to mention. There’s Tanzania, Angola, Malaysia, India – and to me I’ve always liked the women out in London, their accents are “Oh my god.” I’ve always said Angola, but Akon’s band, they say India. It’s still kind of up in the air. Akon always said Cape Verde. Akon is very strong on Cape Verde. But Angola, you can call anyone from the crew and ask them hands down what they thought about the Angola show. What are some crazy groupie stories you have? Benny D: I guess after the show, this girl was just very horny. I watched this one chick take on about 30 to 35 guys after a show. I was just watching, just so you know. During the show though, one of craziest things I’ve seen was the look on Tara Reid’s face after she was dry humped by me and Akon. I don’t think she was expecting that at all when she was brought on stage by Nelly. You dry humped Tara Reid? Benny D: When we perform, we do this segment called “Smack That.” We’d pull a girl on stage and then we’d dance with her and smack her and hump her and what not. Well this one time Nelly was like, “Yo Akon, I got a girl that wants you to ‘Smack That,’” and out comes Tara Reid. Keep in mind Akon still doesn’t know who Tara Reid is, so he was like “Ok cool, Benny start over the song,” and I do, and he picks her up and he starts humping her and doing the dance. And next thing he is pointing to me to go over and start doing what we do to the other girls. Being the entertainer that I am, I ran up on stage and next thing you see is just Tara Reid bouncing up and down with me and Akon grinding up on her like what… After that happened she wanted to stop and she walked off the stage, her face was so shocked, she was smiling and laughing, but you could just see it in her face she was so shocked. Will you be trying anything new on this tour [with Gwen Stefani]? Benny D: Oh definitely, I always wanted to do some acrobatic stuff, whether it be handstands or flips. What other DJ do you know can do handstands or black flips or spitting fire or jumping off of speakers? It’s all good and fun to me if someone tried to do what I do. I love the idea of someone looking up to me. I love it when the artist before and after me go up to their DJ and say, “Why don’t you do some of the stuff that Benny D is doing?” I want my name to be as synonymous as DJ Jazzy Jeff [or] Funkmaster Flex, but for what I do. DJ Drama is known for his mixtapes, you can’t take that away from him. You can’t take away from me that I am the most entertaining DJ you have ever seen in your life, period. Akon doesn’t even call me a DJ, he calls me an entertainer.