Benzino can hardly believe it himself, but somehow he’s become the voice of reason. The 47-year-old rapper and publisher (he and business partner David Mays formerly ran The Source, now they run Hip Hop Weekly based out of Atlanta), is finding some newfound fame thanks for a hit VH1 show called "Love and Hip Hop Atlanta".
He can barely walk through an Atlanta restaurant, grocery store or his son’s pee-wee football game and not be noticed. He gets dap from fans of the show – men, women, old and young – and those who saluted him the day we hung out with him all expressed an appreciation at the balance he brings to the show. The first of a two-part reunion special airs tonight on the network. Here, Benzino talks about his failed proposal attempt, his beef with Eminem and his good friend Stevie J.
EBONY: Last time I talked with you, you were angry about Eminem …
Benzino: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. That was a whole different vibe.
EBONY: But back then, you weren’t living in Atlanta; what made you come to Atlanta?
Benzino: I’ve probably been here like seven months, and I was living in Miami for like six years and after the whole Source situation, me and Dave (Mays), when we started Hip Hop Weekly, we just felt that it would be better (in Atlanta). But music is my first love. Me and Stevie had already been doing songs together, I’ve known Stevie for, like, 10 years and about a year and a half prior to me moving here, we had went down to Orlando and rented out a house and just started doing some music. It was really, like, performance-driven music, and we just came with the name The Magnificent 757s as a band-driven type of music.
EBONY: OK. There certainly is definitely a strong hip hop presence here in Atlanta, too, so I would imagine that made it a little bit easier to make the move here …
Benzino: Definitely. I’ve never really lived here, …. But I have my three kids living with me now. My oldest son is 19, he’s gonna be going to college, his first year of college. My daughter is 15, she’s gonna be running track for Campbell, and then my youngest son he’s starting his first year of football, pee wee football, in the area and they promoted him to quarterback. Its just really good fit to raise kids and, out here, you know, it’s like trees, it’s like secluded, so I like it.
I thought some of the shots I took at Em and maybe his fam and his daughter was definitely out of order.
EBONY: So what made you say yes to the reality show?
Benzino:I had been doing music with Stevie J. and then when I came up here, he was telling me (about the show) and I was like, ‘OK, that’s hot.’ I figured maybe they would catch a side of Stevie and the band. At some point they had asked me to do a car scene with Stevie to talk to him about what he’s going through, and I agreed.
EBONY: Was there any fear with doing a reality show? Especially this one?
Benzino: I wasn’t going into it with a female! Initially, I’m with my man, this is cool, you know, I could be the band, just do a little thing on it, a little rapping, they would see me rap and that would be it. And that’s when I met Karlie (Redd), man. She was coming out of one of the scene with Stevie, where she was doing the ‘Louis, Prada, Gucci’ song. She asked me for my number, and then we went on a date like the day after. And the day after that I got a call from (executive producer) Mona Scott saying, ‘Listen, if you’re gonna be dating anybody in the cast …. we’ll have to have cameras.’ So then I was a little bit hesitant. But I talked to Stevie and he convinced me.
EBONY: And you went through the beginning of a relationship, the relationship and then ultimately the break-up of one all on reality TV …
Benzino:I’m gonna be honest, people don’t understand, doing a reality show, with cameras all the time in your private life, it’s not easy. But strangely enough, I got used to the cameras. So if you kinda block the cameras out you can go about your daily routine.
EBONY: The last time we saw you on camera, you took back your engagement ring. “We ain’t rocking no more,” you said …
Benzino: We had been fighting it the whole time. We were going through things towards the end of the relationship, which lasted about five months. And all the way up until I seen her I was like, ‘Well, let’s see how she feels, because I hadn’t seen her in a couple of weeks.’ And then when she came out and was like, ‘You never loved