Patience is a virtue, possess it if you can. It’s a quality that’s seldom, if ever, found in a modern-day drum & bass fan. For proof of this contemporary proverb let us examine the case of Benny L. A man subject to some of the highest levels of dubplate impatience in years, he’s had to reinstall Instagram more times than Andy C’s won Best DJ trophies due to high levels of inbox pester pressure. Link me this. I beg you that. ID? ID? ID? Oi oi oi…
“It winds me up!” admits the South London-born, -bred and -based drum & bass artist in question. “You make a tune, finish it, play it out, then it’s just constant messages asking when it’s coming out within a day. It’s mad.” He laughs about it — a perpetually upbeat fellow, he laughs about a lot of things — but there’s more than a smidgeon of seriousness to what he’s saying. Benny explains how he’s humbled by any support he receives from fans, but when it comes to the digital dispersal of tunes ahead of release (dubs or dubplates, for all intents and purposes, albeit without the actual physical plate itself), he feels a little decorum is necessary.
“Don’t message someone you don’t even know and make demands,” he says. “‘They need it now, they can’t wait.’ Just be patient. There are certain ways things happen, and kids now have grown up without knowing how things happen.” Aged 25, Benny grew up in a similar climate to the new generation of fans. But, thanks to a chance childhood encounter with Dillinja’s ‘Nasty Ways’, he seems much more au fait with age-old d&b traditions than many other artists his age and younger. He was just 10 years old when his brother exposed him to the track.
“It was pretty much a love-at-first-sight thing, and has been ever since,” admits the man who’s effectively been studying the fine art of patience for the last 15 years. “My brother inspired me very early on,” Benny says. “I’d go into his room and see his decks. He’d say, ‘Not till you’re 10, then I’ll teach you,’ then it was, ‘Not till you’re 14,’ then ‘Not till you’re 16,’ and by then he’d moved out.”
His brother never took his passion beyond house parties, but Benny was biding his time. First, he had to wait an age to actually experience the music in the environment it’s intended for. From age 10 to 18, he absorbed the culture through his brother’s vinyl collection (early favourites included Dillinja’s remix of Adam F & DJ Fresh’s ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ and Krome & Time’s ‘Ganja Man’), magazines, online interviews, videos and early dabbles in production. Only once did he try his luck underage.
“I remember being, like, 15,” he says. “Me and my mate went to Fridge to try and see DJ Hype. It was a classic Inbetweeners situation,” he laughs. “Go in the queue, get to the door, any ID? No. You’re not coming in. Okay, bye then. And off we went home, tails between our legs.”
Now the only ID requests Benny receives are from the aforementioned dubplate ‘enthusiasts’. Since his massive breakthrough tune, the quintessential foghorn track and veritable groaner boner ‘Low Blow’, blew up 2017 (thanks again to precision dubplate tactics and some heavy endorsements from Goldie, who went on to release the tune on Metalheadz), speculation, mistitled clips and brazen online rips have been rife with pretty much every new tune Benny has revealed. But one tune in particular has been a popular request: his remix of ‘Police In Helicopter’ by late, great reggae icon John Holt.
A key re-loader and massive festival anthem for the biggest DJs of the genre for the last six months, it’s been one of the most coveted dubplates in drum & bass in recent years. Its well-timed build-up and release (as part of Hospital Records’ ‘Sick Music 2019’ album) worked so well, in fact, it set a new benchmark as the first drum & bass track to smash Beatport’s overall Top 100 No.1: a position it maintained over gargantuan house and techno acts such as Solomun and Solardo, whose status and sales figures usually dwarf the comparatively smaller d&b stats.
“I still can’t believe it, it’s mad,” Benny says. “I knew the track would do well, but nothing like this.” At the time of speaking to him, it’s just five weeks after the release, and his remix not only remains in the overall Top 100 but also sits pride of place at No.1 in the genre charts. No other drum & bass track has had anywhere near as much success on the popular download store and it’s proof, if needed, that dubplate culture and careful building of a tune can still work, even in the impatient age of proliferation and immediacy. It’s also proof, if you need that too, that Benny L is flipping killing it, and has been for quite some time. Possibly more than some realise.