A musician in the broadest and most creative sense of the word, RJ Benjamin’s career has encompassed the roles of vocalist, composer, songwriter, producer and teacher. As a master architect of musical hybrids, he has successfully blended Soul, Pop, Hip-Hop, Funk and House music into glittering fusions. His creative magic has redefined the R&B and Neo-Soul perspective in the South African music industry — where his talent and insight continues to influence and enrich every project he works on.
In 2009 RJ Benjamin recorded ‘Change The World’. His luscious vocals and inspirational message seduced the entire nation. The song was an instant hit – an anthem on radio stations and dance floors all over the South Africa. It received both a Channel O and SAMA nomination for <em>Best Dance Video</em> and <em>Song of the Year </em>respectively. Ironically, the song did change RJ’s world, the Soul star had introduced himself to South Africa’s House audience and they couldn’t get enough of this multi-faceted musical talent.
‘Change The World’ was far from Benjamin’s House debut, the singer is no stranger to House music. In fact, House music is where it all started. “Despite what a lot of my new and old fans may think, House music has been an integral part of my life and my career”, he explains. RJ recalls stories of his high school friendship with the now prolific DJ/ Director Grant de Sousa and being kept awake until the early hours of the morning by thumping house music courtesy of Grant’s older brother, Craig de Sousa— with whom Benjamin recorded the hit track ‘Everything’ many years later.
It was during this teenage phase that music began to take a firm hold of the young RJ— with mic in hand he began tagging along with his DJ friends to clubs and improvising over funky and Deep House beats. Later while RJ was studying music he encountered a “little known but highly driven guy” who introduced him to kasi-style House. This was none other than the now legendary DJ Cleo who gave RJ his very first opportunity in House music.
His 2008 follow-up, ‘Swimming In The Soul Of Music’ represented a more sophisticated artist, and showed off the hard work Benjamin had poured into his craft. The musician had focused specifically on his musical roots and influences as an artist—Soul, Jazz and Funk. RJ won the award for Best R&B album at the Metro FM awards later that year.
Early on, RJ discovered that his talents were not only in creating and performing but also as a teacher who could instill knowledge, skill and passion in up-and-coming singers. From 2001 to 2007 he taught as head vocal coach at the Damelin Contemporary Music School in Bramley, also running classes at the National School of the Arts in 2003 and 2004. During that period he was snatched up as the head vocal coach on the reality TV Show, <em>Project Fame</em> and was voted the most popular teacher by fans watching the show. In 2008, RJ built the platform for the Music Department at South Africa’s first Sports and Arts Academy in Centurion Pretoria, SAX. Currently he coaches privately focusing on South Africa’s professional singers, including: Danny K, Vicky Sampson, Pebbles, Relo (Skwatta Kamp), Elan Lea, Pabi Moloi, Carmel Fisher, Tumi, Stefan Ludik & Aya.
Following the huge success of ‘Change the World’, RJ has returned to his roots and embraced House music, releasing a third album through South Africa’s top dance label, Soul Candi Records, aptly titled ‘House Bound’. Of course, Benjamin pulled in the country’s top House producers DJ Clock, Dr. Duda, Kyle Worde, 37mph, Rowick Deep, Nutty Nys, Shaun Duvet, Craig Massiv and Ryan Dent to provide the canvas over which he has layered his Soul-soaked vocals. Listeners are treated to thirteen House tracks that range in mood and tempo from sultry to scorching. RJ penned all the songs on the album— songs that explore love, life and good times. Much like the man himself, the dominant themes are passion and positivity although his collaboration with Danny K on a track called ‘Love Again’ looks at the superficial side of love. The first single off the album is a track called ‘Into The Stars’, Benjamin has re-united with the mastermind behind the ‘Change The World’, Dr Duda.
‘House Bound’ showcases RJ Benjamin’s phenomenal vocal and writing skills and his mastery of a new medium— House music, although in his own words ‘House Bound’ is merely a part one to a two-part series. In August 2011, RJ will release ‘Inside: The Soulful Re-interpretations’. RJ is embarking on something never dime before: effectively remixing, or more appropriately, “soulifying” all the songs featured on ‘House Bound’.
In 2011, RJ will release ‘Inside’, a reminder to people of RJ’s artistic versatility. ‘Inside’ will contain souful re-interpretations of the tracks featured on ‘Housebound’ as well as a few bonus re-works of other big House tracks RJ has recorded including DJ Fresh’s ‘Alright’, DJ Kent’s ‘Slowly’ & Dr Duda’s “I’ll Never Runaway’. Sadly this will be RJ’s final solo project & 2011 will be his final year as an artist in the industry. RJ will be focusing on production, songwriting and teaching music to South Africa’s future stars which he feels is sorely needed. There are exciting times ahead for this star, whose talent knows no boundaries.