He may share a single parent background and love of cool kicks with many of his hip-hop contemporaries; but unlike his industry peers whose childhoods were distinguished by the boundaries of their borough or inner-city community, Ben Caesar was a globe-trotter before his teens.
His journey began when his mother Gabrielle Le Roux (a Londoner with a distinctly French name), met Caesar Charles on the Caribbean island of Martinique. Maybe it was foretelling that his herbalist father was known as Disciple Caesar- a rather hip-hop sounding moniker.
He was born in Dominica but would not remain in the lush paradise for too long. By age 11, Ben Caesar Charles Le Roux had lived in five countries: Dominica, St. Lucia, The Netherlands, the UK and finally South Africa, where he shifted between Kwazulu Natal, Johannesburg and later Capetown where he is currently settled.
While in South Africa, Gabrielle headed Woman’s Media Watch and her young son broadened his horizons in the school of life, accompanying her to conferences, protests, exhibitions and other gatherings inspired by the struggles and triumphs of women in the emerging democracy.
Music increasingly took a more serious presence in his life and he eventually booked his first paid gig at the South Africa National Gallery in late 2007.
He proudly recalls the moment, “I remember my mother ‘saying you’ve been paid for a gig; you’re a professional musician now’.”
He released his first album I.R.ME that year, followed by Eye of the Storm a year later. In 2009 he linked up with British producer Miles Timothy for his third album LONDONE. After three years of touring and performing at venues around Europe and South Africa, Ben Caesar is back with a new album, Le Tigra.
Produced by South African electro beast Roscoe Gabriel, two of the album’s 12 tracks “Opening Ceremony” and “Get Wild” have been on steady rotation on 6 the country’s biggest radio stations including YFM, Highveld and Good Hope FM. Caesar is currently working on the video for “Sunday Times” and will soon drop two more singles: “No Pressure” featuring Lu Chase and “Obscurity” feat. Katherine.
His music is at its core is hip-hop and colorful as his diverse background. His songs are infused with feminist prose, rude bwoy swag, and an ever-present ode to Dominica a place nearer to his heart than any other.
Just check how it all combines on “Get Wild”.
He starts off in a soft raspy tone doting out some wisdom on the female psyche:
To many women are locked in inhibition/
Too many women keep their tigers imprisoned/
And and hide them from vision/ while the wildness within them/ is denied an expression and desires forbidden/ but (you should really know)
He soon establishes his simmering need, while offering his manvice on how she can catch the eye of the wild beast inside every man :
I want the Tigress not the kitten (baby listen)
Let me be the key to your treasury/ that is buried very deep in your insecurity/
Look naturally, actually you are sexy/ so really you ain’t gotta impress me/
He openly and unabashedly coaxes her to a crescendo of arousal preceded by the the release of sexual freedom:
Just set free the feline though you wanna hide her/
Need I remind ya/ we gonna find her/
Light my desire flame in the fire/
You need to stop taming your Tiger/
Right about now I want you to really get wild/
You taming your Tiger but you should let it get out.
Don’t hold back no mo/ you should let it go/ cos I dare to know
what you’re scared to show/
Move like there’s a Tiger in your body/
When you move there’s a fire in your body/
(Creole) Le wu ka dance/ bagaila ka pwidi fe/
Mwe pa sav fini diwu sa wu ka fem mwe/
Now it’s time for writhing bodies to “get wild”
Evidently, his mother’s influence is part and parcel of his music. Ben makes it his own though, weaving his interpretation of sexuality and gender identities throughout his unique sound. Mom is proud and happy to promote her son in her work as well. Ben wrote the song “Ma Island” dedicated to his Dominican ancestors and was featured as the musical act at her “Living Ancestors” exhibition showing her paintings of Dominican centenarians. He performed in South Africa, Museum of London Docklands and UNESCO Paris viewings.
He has also performed at ILRIG conference on globalization, Bon Esperance Refugee Day celebration, Cape Town’s most reputable hip hop party Kool out Lounge and has been the featured artist at “Verses” Poetry sessions in Zula Bar, Cape Town. Ben has also shared the stage with local acts at two of Cape Town’s biggest festivals including the Winter Wonderland at the Cape Town stadium and the Night Market.
To date he has worked with a variety of artists and producers including Dale Fortune and Omar*velous*with whom he joined forces to release some singles including “History” and “On My way Up” the later which held the #1 spot on the local hip hop chart for a record 16 weeks. He’s also collaborated with the likes of rising South African talents Claire Phillips, Lungelo, Ameen, and Youngsta as well as pioneers such as Caramel (linked to Black Noise and P.O.C fame) and Paris’ Dion Henderson (son of Dominican cadence –lypso legend Gordon Henderson) who produced two singles for him as well. He also toured for a year and a half on the Madame Zingara Love Magic tour.
When he’s not busy touring and coming up with new hybrids in the studio he enjoys cooking and eating sushi at Cape Town Japanese hot-spot Minato.
Hmm, so no love interest for the “Nature Island” boy???
“Me? girls? Naw, girls don’t like me”, he says with a boyish smile and a twinkle in his playful eyes.
Woman empathizer, hybrid music creator ... Ben Caesar you are CC Certified!
1. Describe your sound and tell us how open is the SA crowd to it and to Caribbean music as well?
Ah, because I’ve been raised in so many different places and been exposed to so many things I think naturally I experiment with different sounds. I was in London about a year ago and just the vibe that I felt after not being there for so long, the music seemed very inspiring for me and I wanted to capture that and when I came back to SA I started producing that kind of sound- a dubstep feeling , electronic feeling. Right now I’m working with Ross Gabriel who produces dubstep and I’ve also been working with hip-hop producers, r &B producers. I also worked with Dion Henderson and that project had a zouk feel-so I was experimenting with that. So I don’t have a particular sound. I’ m open to different things. The scene in S.A is growing and that’s what’s exciting for me is that I can be a part of it and contribute another perspective to it coming from the Caribbean, and just mix the flavours and bring my influence. As far as Caribbean music, They don’t have extensive exposure. They don’t know soca or zouk. They know Rihanna, Sean Paul …there are a lot of rastas. Rastafarianism is big in SA especially in the ghettos.
2. You speak of issues like self love and self-expression in your music do you draw inspiration from similar acts say a Common, Talib Kwali etc?
I struggle with that question. Nas has always been the guy I listen too. You know everybody has somebody that captures their imagination and Nas has done that for me. In terms of inspiration, its not a lot of rappers that inspire me. Its artists like Tracy Chapman, the way that she writes grips me and um Sade.. (well there’s that feminine influence) I was raised by women..like literally raised by women (laughs).
3. Speaking of, your mom is white and your father is Afro-Caribbean which makes you bi-racial. Were you ever discriminated against?
Yes I was discriminated against. My earliest memories of that, of becoming conscious of you know how society boxes people up was really in S.A. (where there’s a lot of racial issues and a lot of politics), especially to because there aren’t a lot of Caribbean people in S.A. Like in my hometown there were maybe two individuals who were from the Caribbean. People often asked if I was adopted and as a young boy it did take me a long period to find my identity. In 2001 went back to Dominica with my mom. Dominica’s home. Dominica’s my heart man.
4. What about Dominica helped you to find yourself then?
I think it’s a really deep thing. What’s the word-instinctual?? It’s your roots, you know. It’s where I was born. So it’s like as soon as I came off the plane I felt like I was home and I hadn’t felt that feeling since I left. I finally got back to my roots and as a young man it really helped me to identify myself. I went back in 2004 and met my sisters and that just further solidified that link. Found a lot of family.
5. You are the only son and child of very feminist woman. How did that shape you as a man in general and also in terms of how you deal with women. Did it teach you anything about your father?
I think you have to ask the women in my life that question (Laugh). I realize that when I talk to some of my guy friends, I have a unique experience and perspective because I got to see a lot of the issues women .. that a lot of guys don’t get exposed to and it’s been beneficial because it gives me a lot of understanding of where women are coming from and the issues they face like every day. But it’s a funny thing cause I have this passion for music and I produce rap music which can be very sexist you know and I think there’s a space for that. There’s a space for progressive thought from a feminist angle. I learnt indirectly about my father from the effect he had on my Mother. I made a promise to myself to be honest and to treat women respectfully. This was one of the biggest lessons learnt from him.
6. Any place you’ve never been too that you would love to visit one day?
I got a little list going. Thailand I hear the food is just amazing. India cause I heard it’s a place you have to go to . But at the top of the list is Dominica. I don’t go a day without thinking about Dominica.
7. Do you have a morning routine ?
Um I work artist hours so my mornings are 11/12 o’clock. I pray, check my phone, have a sip of water, make my way to the kitchen, stretch.
8. Do you have a guilty pleasure
I have this thing about sneakers. It’s a problem. I will tell myself I’m not gonna go, I’ll try and stay away and somehow find myself in a sneaker store looking at a pair of sneakers like “how did I get here???’ I like Reebok. They make their sneakers really well.
9. What did you do to celebrate on your last bday
I got really drunk. I was on tour in Joburg, we partied. I was on stage acting a fool. It was good, real good
10. What is your favorite:
Saying: “if it ain’t on point, what’s the point?”
Work out exercise- break dancing.. works a lot of the muscles
Cologne scent- my favorite scent is vanilla, like I LOVE vanilla (a lot of my friends diss me cuz it’s a girly scent and sh*t, but steups) and Bay Rum and cocoa butter too.
Thing to wear to bed- boxers
Thing about the opposite sex: they’re not men.. u can’t put your finger on it but you know it’s so beyond you and I’m just in awe of it always
GO WITH YOUR GUT
11.Beach or river?
12. Text or email?
Both are annoying man.
13. Knowlegde or wisdom?
14. Nicki Minaj or Foxy Brown?
15. Papaya or pineapple?
Papaya … and put green coconuts in the mix, I’m green coconuts all day!
16. Sometimes I don’t wanna shower.
17. When I travel I always have difficulty choosing what sneakers to take.
18. Condoms- you gotta gift wrap it.
19. I always carry tissue.. crumpled up tissue..my sinuses are unpredictable.
20. Ben Caesar is one of the baddest out there.
BONUS: Have you ever been star struck?
Not really but I did see Nelson Mandela at the mall once. (Did you talk to him??)no when you’re star struck you’re just like uhhh (laughs). You’re just in awe cause he’s this noble, regal character