Following the incident between police officer Derek Chauvin and George Floyd on May 25th, the Black Lives Matter movement has seen global support, even in Malta. Local rapper Ben Miller released his single ‘I Can’t Breathe’ only a few days after the event in question. It has since garnered a significant number of views and streams, and is still steadily-rising.
Gadgets asked him why he felt the need to approach the subject in the best way he knows how, through his music.
“I was scrolling through social media watching the George Floyd incident, and I felt horrified. I was overwhelmed by anxiety and frustration, seeing one man choke another to death” he says. “Other videos of police brutality began resurfacing, and it hit me that these incidents are happening every day, even if we don’t see them directly. It made me feel so much sympathy with the Black Lives Matter movement.”
Despite knowing he was going to write about it from the moment it happened, he felt apprehensive. “Initially, I had doubts about how it would come across to the public. It’s so easy for other people to say that I’m jumping on a bandwagon or that my intentions are increased exposure, when in reality being in the public eye means you have to be ready to hear these things,” he explains.
As an artist, Ben feels like being an emotional person is a resource which he harnesses to translate his feelings into music. He contrasts the experience of reading about an incident in the news vis-à-vis watching an actual video of the incident, and how something as graphic and hard-hitting as the George Floyd video impacted him deeply.
“I felt the need to say something about it from the moment I saw the video the first time. I began writing the song on June 1st, meaning it was finished in four days. I would be in the studio all day, and as a perfectionist, I’m not happy releasing any music unless I’m completely satisfied with the final version. The process becomes so much harder because I write the song, I produce the beat, I mix it and then I master it,” he says, explaining the individual processes he goes through as an artist.
I Can’t Breathe has reached more than 30,000 streams on Spotify. Along with transforming a message into lyrics, Ben also faces the challenge of producing his own music from scratch.
We asked Ben what the biggest challenges to writing his own music are. “As a rapper it’s so important to me to use different techniques to catch my listeners’ ear,” he points out. “I started writing music when I was 10, so obviously it comes to me more naturally than producing, but since then I’ve learnt how to use different rhyming schemes and patterns to keep things interesting and avoid being just another rapper. Producing my own beats gives me the freedom to build a song the way I envision it in my mind. By doing so, I find a way to translate the image in my head into a final version that people can listen to”
Ben’s message is one of positivity, and how important it is to spread it. “If you have a voice, you have to use it. The world is a negative place right now with all that’s going on, and people need to spread positive messages. Even though some people were quick to criticize me for releasing the song, I was expecting that reaction, and at the end of the day, I’m lucky enough to have a platform. It won’t affect my dedication to the craft, and maintaining the passion I have to put in the hours. The way I see it, I don’t have any other choice.”
Officer Derek Chauvin and his three colleagues have since been charged and are facing trial in court.