meta-scriptFrom Brandy Vs. Monica To Timbaland Vs. Swizz Beatz, What's Your Favorite Verzuz Battle Matchup? | GRAMMY.com
From Brandy Vs. Monica To Timbaland Vs. Swizz Beatz, What's Your Favorite Verzuz Battle Matchup?

Brandy & Monica at 2011 Pre-GRAMMY Gala

Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images

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From Brandy Vs. Monica To Timbaland Vs. Swizz Beatz, What's Your Favorite Verzuz Battle Matchup?

On Aug. 31, the latest Verzuz battle will pair up the '90s R&B/pop superstars 22 years after their unforgettable GRAMMY-winning "The Boy Is Mine" duet/duel. We want to know which epic pairing is your favorite

GRAMMYs/Aug 28, 2020 - 08:10 pm

One of the more beautiful and creative things to come out of quarantine has been the Verzuz rap-and-beyond livestream battles, an ongoing, star-studded series hosted by GRAMMY-winning hip-hop icons Timbaland and Swizz Beatz.

The star-studded musical series began with the hosts themselves battling it out during a five-hour Instagram Live back in March, and has since featured such epic pairings as rap kings Rick Ross and 2 Chainz, New York OGs Fabolous and Jadakiss, big dogs DMX and Snoop Dogg, R&B/pop pianists Alicia Keys and John Legend, Jamaican dancehall heavyweights Beenie Man and Bounty Killer and many more.

Learn More: The Verzuz Effect: How Swizz Beatz & Timbaland's Beat Battles Showcase Music's Past, Present And Future

The musical faceoffs have also featured OG hit-making R&B producers Teddy Riley and Babyface, rap producer wunderkids Boi-1da and Hit-Boy, neo-soul queens Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, Southern rap champs Nelly and Ludacris, rapper/producer/hype men T-Pain and Lil Jon, as well as gospel legends Fred Hammond and Kirk Franklin.

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The latest, highly anticipated Verzuz (airing on Aug. 31 on Verzuz's Instagram, Apple Music and Apple TV) will pair up the '90s R&B/pop superstars Brandy and Monica 22 years after their iconic, GRAMMY-winning "The Boy Is Mine" duet/duel.

In honor of all the magic and realness Verzuz has been sharing worldwide this year, we want to know which epic pairing is your favorite in our poll above. Vote now and scroll down to watch some of the past battles.

Read: Afro Nation Co-Founders Smade & Obi Asika Talk Festival Origins, Uniting The African Diaspora & Celebrating Diversity

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Can You Fill Me In: 20 Years Of Craig David's 'Born To Do It'

Usher's Super Bowl Halftime Show Was More Than A Performance, It Was A Celebration Of Black Excellence
Usher performs with Ludacris, Lil Jon, Jermaine Dupri and Will.i.am during the Apple Music halftime show at the NFL Super Bowl 58 football game

Photo: Michael Owens/Getty Images

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Usher's Super Bowl Halftime Show Was More Than A Performance, It Was A Celebration Of Black Excellence

From celebrating Atlanta's HBCU culture to shining light on Southern rappers like Ludacris and Lil Jon, Usher brought the brilliance of the Black South to Las Vegas.

GRAMMYs/Feb 12, 2024 - 08:41 pm

In the days leading up to Usher’s Super Bowl performance, the singer waxed poetically about the significance of this moment not only in popular culture but for Black music.

Speaking with Kelly Carter on "Good Morning America," Usher reflected on the history of Black entertainers who performed for the masses under restrictive laws. Although a majority of those laws have been overturned, it would be remiss to not think about the recent series of court cases that have targeted Black musicians, such as Atlanta-based rapper Young Thug, whose music is currently being used against him in court

For singers like Usher who have been privy to the ways in which Black music — and those who create it — have been mistreated, his halftime performance was as much as a statement as it was a tribute to those who came before him. "I'm coming through the front door with this one," Usher told Carter.

It is only fitting that the performance opened with lines from "My Way" the title of his Las Vegas residency, which has featured a who’s who of prominent figures in pop culture before launching into "Caught Up." Usher then descended from his anointed throne in a crisp, all white Dolce & Gabbana ensemble, he began a Michael Jackson-inspired dance routine with an array of backup dancers; the standout being renowned celebrity choreographer Sean Bankhead.

Usher made it clear early on, however, that his performance was no mere spectacle. He paused to deliver a testimony, one that bears repeating despite his new album and $100 million-earning Vegas residency: "They said I wouldn't make it, they said I wouldn't be here today, but I am." 

Once the air cleared and Usher thanked his momma for her steadfast advocacy and faith in him, he led Allegiant Stadium in a sing along of "Superstar." The track from 2004’s Confessions recently inspired a viral challenge on TikTok. 

A consummate performer and supporter of his peers, Usher wasn't content to simply highlight his own success. The singer transformed Allegiant Stadium to "The Yard" — the singular place at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, where students gather to talk, discuss, and have fun — and filled it with music. 

Usher’s Yard included a performance of "Love In This Club" with the assistance of two members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., the second oldest Black fraternity in the U.S. The trio was supported by the Jackson State University marching band, known as the "Sonic Boom of The South," to finish the song. 

Even his brief moment of affection with singer Alicia Keys, who joined the singer for "My Boo," can be described as a "homecoming hug." Homecoming is another HBCU tradition, where alumni convene at their respective campuses and greet their former flame with a hug.

When Jermaine Dupri entered the stage to announce the 20th anniversary of Confessions, the transportation was complete. The audience was no longer in Vegas, but in Atlanta, the Black Mecca of the world. And Usher is Atlanta’s nucleus.

It is here that the spirits of Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, and Prince accompanied Usher as he bewitched millions with a singular microphone and momentum stage presence. A haze of purple clouds and smoke led the way for singer H.E.R., the night’s self appointed "Bad Girl" and her crew of roller skating baddies.

While Usher may have began the halftime show with the enthusiasm of a young boy who just got his chance to perform a solo in the church choir, by its end he was fully inhabiting his chart-topping sex icon persona.Will.i.am’s voice rippled through the stadium as Usher, donning a blue and black Off-White outfit reminiscent of football shoulder pads, glided onto the stage with an aura that is equal parts charismatic and sinful sweet. 

Skating, a main tenant of Atlanta’s culture, is embedded in Usher’s ethos and a part of his larger business. The singer loves skating and owns several skating rinks.

Usher finished the extravagant performance with "Yeah!" — a song beloved in Atlanta and far, far beyond. That the song is turning 20 this year and still resonates with a global audience (not to mention a football-loving one) is further evidence that Usher truly is the "King of R&B."

"Your moment is your moment. And this is a moment I’ve prepared for during the last 30 years," Usher told Billboard ahead of the Super Bowl. 

He certainly owned his moment. Usher's Super Bowl halftime show was no singular performance or an audition, but a coronation. He was receiving the torch carried by all the Black entertainers who preceded him, and reminding the world that the South still has something to say. 

Surrounded by Ludacris and Lil Jon,  strippers, and his own marching band, Usher closed the night out with the A-Town Stomp and one important phase: "I took the world to the A!" 

Usher's Biggest Hits, From Baby-Making Slow Jams To Dance Floor Classics

Usher Electrifies Las Vegas with Triumphant Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show: 6 Best Moments
Usher performs onstage during the Apple Music Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show.

Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

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Usher Electrifies Las Vegas with Triumphant Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show: 6 Best Moments

R&B superstar Usher ran through his career of hits, from “U Got It Bad,” “Burn” and “Yeah!” to “My Boo,” “Love in This Club,” “O.M.G.,” and more during his halftime performance at Super Bowl LVIII.

GRAMMYs/Feb 12, 2024 - 03:14 am

He’s (still) got it bad! Usher lit up Super Bowl LVIII with an electrifying halftime show filled with a career-spanning setlist, drool-worthy dance moves and a parade of surprise guests including Alicia Keys, Ludacris, Lil Jon, H.E.R., will.i.am and more.

Days before taking the stage at Allegiant Stadium, the eight-time GRAMMY-winning R&B superstar opened up to Apple Music about the creative approach he took to planning his halftime show. “What I did is, I was very mindful of my past, celebrating my present, which is here in Las Vegas, and thinking about where we’re headed in the future, and that was really the idea,” he said. “What songs do I feel people know me for? What songs have been a celebration of all of the journey of what life and love and emotion has been offered in my music?

Usher’s halftime show comes on the heels of a monumental year and a half for the star, following his sold-out 100-show Las Vegas residency, My Way, at the Park MGM’s Dolby Live Theater. The R&B heartthrob also released Coming Home — his ninth studio album (and first in nearly a decade) on Friday — just two days before his epic performance.

Below, GRAMMY.com broke down all the best moments from Usher’s momentous halftime show.

That Grand, Las Vegas-Style Entrance 

From the drop, Usher let us know his Super Bowl set would be a celebration of all things Sin City as the camera wove through acrobats, showgirls, contortionists and dancers to reveal the R&B icon in all his glory — dressed in a dazzling white cape and seated on a mirrored thrown. 

From there, he launched into a high-energy rendition of “Caught Up,” one of the five consecutive top 10 singles from his landmark 2004 album Confessions. Not even an acrobat being launched through the air could distract from Usher’s swagger as he sauntered across the field.

A Sweet Shout-Out to His Mom

Transitioning between 2003’s “U Don’t Have to Call'' and a snippet of Confessions deep cut “Superstar,” Usher took a moment to recognize the magnitude of the occasion with a shout-out to his mother, Jonetta Patton. “But if you do call, know that God answers prayers. They said I wouldn’t make it. They said I wouldn’t be here today, but I am. Hey, mama, we made it. Now this — this is for you. My number one,” he said before crooning, “Spotlight, big stage / Sixty-thousand fans screamin’ in a rage.”

A Nostalgic Duet with His “Boo”

Usher’s halftime performance really hit its stride once he broke into his 2008 No. 1 hit “Love in This Club” with a full marching band. But the end of the song delivered the first big surprise of the night as the singer gestured across the field to introduce none other than Alicia Keys.

Seated at a futuristic red piano with a majestic cape of the same shade billowing behind her, the 16-time GRAMMY-winning singer-songwriter performed a snippet of her own 2004 single “If I Ain’t Got You” before being joined by Usher on their No. 1 hit “My Boo.” 

The pair’s decades of friendship were palpable as they belted out, “I don’t know about y’all but I know about us, and uh / It’s the only way we know how to rock / It started when we were younger, you were mine / My boo” and the number ended with both stars grinning ear to ear as Usher wrapped his arms around Keys. 

“Burn”-ing Up to Confessions

With producer Jermaine Dupri playing hype man, Usher celebrated the 20th anniversary of Confessions by running through a medley of songs from the 14x-platinum album, including “Confessions Part II” and a soaring take on “Burn,” which was undeniably one of the standout vocal moments of Usher’s entire set.

The star also put his sex appeal on full display, tearing away his glittery silver top to reveal a simple white tank as he performed “U Got It Bad” — only to remove that as well, finishing the song shirtless and glistening with sweat before ceding the spotlight to H.E.R. on an electric guitar.

“O.M.G.,” That Roller Skate Choreography!

Joined by will.i.am, Usher returned to stage dressed in a sparkling black-and-blue ensemble and roller skates — incorporating a popular moment from his recent residency as he ran through his 2010 chart-topper “O.M.G.” by nailing the choreography on wheels. For added measure, he finished off the section by skating deftly through will.i.am’s legs and striking a pose. 

Peace Up, A-Town Down

Of course, the grand finale of Usher’s halftime set couldn’t be anything but “Yeah!,” his smash worldwide hit that became the longest-running No. 1 of 2004 and an inescapable soundtrack to the early 2000s. Enlisting help from collaborators Lil Jon and Ludacris, Usher turned Allegiant Stadium into an all-out dance party and brought his halftime show to a triumphant climax with the song’s infectious, shout-it-out chorus.

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Here's What Happened At The Black Music Collective’s Recording Academy Honors 2024 GRAMMY Event Celebrating Mariah Carey & Lenny Kravitz
Mariah Carey accepts the Global Impact Award during the Recording Academy Honors presented by the Black Music Collective

Photo: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

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Here's What Happened At The Black Music Collective’s Recording Academy Honors 2024 GRAMMY Event Celebrating Mariah Carey & Lenny Kravitz

The power of staying true to yourself was at the center of the 2024 GRAMMY Week event. Honorees Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz were lauded by colleagues and performers, including Stevie Wonder, Quavo, Babyface and Andra Day.

GRAMMYs/Feb 3, 2024 - 08:34 pm

On a wet but buzzing Thursday evening ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs, leading lights in the music industry gathered for the third annual Recording Academy Honors Presented By The Black Music Collective. Along the event's black carpet, stars and industry insiders were showing out — taking photos, reconnecting with friends and collaborators, and chatting with the press. 

The official 2024 GRAMMY Week event was held Feb. 1 — the first day of Black History Month — at the Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles and was sponsored by Amazon Music and City National Bank. Each year, BMC presents its Global Impact Award to legendary musicians advancing the culture, and 2024’s honorees Lenny Kravitz and Mariah Carey, loomed over the entire evening before they'd even arrived.

Flava Flav, sporting his patented clock necklace, was also hyped about the evening. "It means everything to be at the GRAMMYs tonight. This is big," Flav told GRAMMY.com. The rapper then spoke about the two transcendent stars being honored. "I feel real big about the honorees. Mariah Carey, always been proud of her and I love her songs…Lenny Kravitz is my dude. That’s my man. So congratulations Lenny!" 

The significance of the event was felt from the first foot set on the black carpet. Afrobeats star Fireboy DML weighed in on the importance of the night. "I’m honored. It feels good. It’s always important to be in spaces like this," Fireboy told GRAMMY.com, adding that he's excited about his upcoming fourth album. "It’s important for the culture." 

As attendees inside the jam-packed ballroom room eagerly awaited the main guests of the night, Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. spoke about the momentum being built through Black Music Collective. 

"[Last year] I spoke how great it was to be holding the second annual BMC event. To me it meant we established a new tradition. And now the tradition proudly continues," Mason Jr. told the audience, emphasizing how the influence of Black culture can be found in all corners of the world and across musical genres. 

A performance by Nigerian superstar Davido, a first-time GRAMMY nominee, spoke to the power of musical diversity in the Academy and BMC. Although the crowd had sat down with their appetizers, many stood up to vibe out as Davido performed his nominated song, "Unavailable."

By the time Andra Day, adorned in a bright red leather coat, got to the end of her rendition of "Strange Fruit" with support from trumpeter Keyon Harrold, everyone in the ballroom was on their feet. It was a great moment for Day, whose cover of Billie Holiday’s 1939 cry for justice hammered home the connection between Black artists across different genres and across time.

Gabby Samone garnered the second standing ovation of the night for her take on Nina Simone’s "Four Women." Simone has had a number of major cosigns as her star has grown brighter, and her fans include Jennifer Hudson and none other than Mariah Carey. Samone's performance was followed by a powerful song from Erica Campbell, whose I Love You is nominated for Best Gospel Album this year.

A set from DJ Mannie Fresh, Kravitz took the stage to receive the first BMC Global Impact Award of the night. Introduced by mentee H.E.R, she talked about "American Woman’s" genre-bending influence on her own career and Kravitz's own influence from childhood. "The fashion, the confidence, the badass walk, and the killer vocals made me at six years old say to my dad ‘I wanna play guitar.’ ‘I wanna be a rockstar.’ ‘I wanna be like Lenny Kravitz,’" H.E.R. said. 

She then listed off some of Kravitz’s other accomplishments including working on "Rustin," the new Netflix film about critical civil rights architect Bayard Rustin, as well as Kravitz’s work in philanthropy through his Let Love Rule Foundation. 

Once the din died down, Kravitz took a trip back to childhood, too. He shared how, when he went to go see the Jackson 5 with his family, and was so hooked that he dreamed of becoming part of the storied troupe. "I fantasized that I was their long lost brother and turned the Jackson 5 into the Jackson 6," he said.

Kravitz also spoke the various genres of music that helped mold him, drawn from many different corners. From his "grandfather’s block in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn," where he "witnessed the birth of hip-hop," to being shaped by legends like Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye and Nina Simone. He also shouted out his godmother, the late great actress Cicely Tyson. 

In a particularly cool mashup of genre and generation, Quavo provided vocals to "Fly Away," flanked by P-funk all star George Clinton, Earth, Wind & Fire bassist Verdine White, and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith. At the end of the performance, Kravitz went over to each performer and hugged them.

After a brief intermission, record producer and BMC Chair Rico Love shouted out leadership, including the Recording Academy board of trustees and Ryan Butler, Vice President of DEI. Love spoke about Black Music Collective as a space where everyone can feel at home. "The life of a creator is so hard. And lonely. That’s why it’s valuable to build community," he emphasized. 

Black Music Collective’s scholarship program, in collaboration with Amazon Music, Love said, will once again support HBCU students who aspire to be in the next generation of music industry power players. In 2023, scholarships were awarded to students at Florida A&M University, Texas Southern University, Norfolk State University, among others. Love recalls the mentors he had when he was coming up and is glad BMC is also paying it forward. 

Last night’s program found one of the few people on the planet that even Mariah Carey might be star struck by. Before the pop legend received her Global Impact Award, Stevie Wonder appeared and sat down over a keyboard. 

"Very excited to be here to celebrate someone that has been a friend and I’ve been a fan of since the very beginning of hearing her voice," he said, before serenading Carey with "I Just Called to Say I Love You," ending the rendition with "I love you, I love you, you are my hero."

Mariah Carey was seemingly surprised and star-struck herself. Once she overcame the awe, Carey detailed the pressure she faced early in her career to avoid leaning into Black music. "When I first started in the music business, I was often told to ‘conform’ to certain expectations. I was not encouraged to focus on my love for Black music," she told the crowd.

Later, some of Carey’s other friends and collaborators performed, including Babyface, who once sang backing vocals on Carey’s "Melt Away." (Carey then returned the favor by singing on "Every Time I Close My Eyes.") Another Carey collaborator, Busta Rhymes, performed crowd favorite "I Know What You Want" and offered sincere thanks to Carey for her boldness and desire to "run with the wolves." Tori Kelly also sang "Vision of Love" during this segment and earlier in the night, gospel legend Yolanda Adams performed "Make It Happen." The third annual Recording Academy Honors/BMC event certainly did make it happen, as attendees flooded out of the ballroom and into the streets pumped with pride.

2024 GRAMMYs: See The Full Nominees And Winners List

Head to live.GRAMMY.com all year long to watch all the GRAMMY performances, acceptance speeches, the GRAMMY Live From The Red Carpet livestream special, the full Premiere Ceremony livestream, and even more exclusive, never-before-seen content from the 2024 GRAMMYs.

Benny The Butcher Is Ready To Rise On 'Everybody Can’t Go'
Benny The Butcher

Photo: Prince Williams/WireImage

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Benny The Butcher Is Ready To Rise On 'Everybody Can’t Go'

Benny The Butcher is growing even further in the game. Ahead of his debut album with Def Jam Recordings, the rapper discusses the key to his confidence, working with Griselda producers, and future collaborations with the "Queens of R&B and hip-hop."

GRAMMYs/Jan 25, 2024 - 02:13 pm

Benny The Butcher is prepared to spar with the biggest names in rap music to prove he’s one of the most prolific MCs in the industry. 

"My confidence comes from my talent, and my talent comes from my preparation," Benny tells GRAMMY.com. 

For the uninitiated, the East Buffalo rapper's brash delivery and unshakeable confidence could be perceived as arrogance. But for Benny and long-time fans of the Montana Avenue vet, he’s more than earned the distinction. 

"If you see these dudes, they’re not confident because they’re not prepared to talk that talk. We stand behind this music, man," he continues. "I’m only on this interview with you because I rap good. I’m not on this interview with you because I’m dating an R&B chick, or because I have a Rihanna feature.”

Benny The Butcher is just days ahead of releasing Everybody Can’t Go, his debut album with Def Jam Recordings. Out Jan. 26, Everybody is Benny's major label launch but it's far from his first foray.

Off the heels of his critically acclaimed album Tana Talk 4 in 2022 — which boasted the viral hit "Johnny P’s Caddy" featuring J. ColeBenny has kept a steady hand on the pulse of the rap game. Since then, he’s been heard on DJ Drama’s "Forever," G Herbo’s "Real Rap" and memorialized a Buffalo legend on the BSF project Long Live DJ Shay.  

In that time, Benny, born Jeremie Pennick, has fashioned himself as the proprietor of "caviar drug rap," and he’s not afraid to remind you, either. He’s confident the release of Everybody Can’t Go will showcase his evolution as an artist.

"I’m on a higher level than I was. Everybody gets to watch my career elevate and it’s right in front of me," he says. "From the mixtapes, from the freestyles, featuring on Westside Gunn and Conway The Machine’s s–, and people share that journey with me. It’s high-level drug rap."

After switching his moniker from "Benny" to "Benny The Butcher," he veered away from rapping over other artists’ beats and started working with in-house Griselda producers like Daringer to round out his nostalgic, boom-bap sound that’s become synonymous with the Griselda imprint. 

If the album’s lead singles "Bron," "Big Dog," and the title track are any indication, Benny isn’t deviating from the sound that made him. Tales of his past exploits are coated in Hit-Boy and Alchemist beats, with features from Griselda and BSF collaborators Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine, 38 Spesh, Lil Wayne, and others. But the method behind the music, Benny says, was all the same. 

"I didn’t take no new approach, I just wanted to deliver some dope music and make sure I sounded how I felt," the 39-year-old MC says. "I feel like my sound is more refined and I switched my flow up."

To casual connoisseurs, Benny is a burgeoning star who’s aiming for wider success and acclaim. But for fans of the "Trade It All" lyricist, who saw his rise as the younger cousin of Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine on Griselda, he’s earned the right to share his vivid tales and signature brand of mafioso rap on a larger scale. And he’s already made good use of the label’s platform.

He’s rubbed shoulders with artists like J. Cole, connected with legends like Snoop Dogg for his Def Jam signing, and now has his sights on more R&B-oriented records. Benny wants to work with the "Queens of R&B and hip-hop," naming legends including SZA, Teyana Taylor, Coco Jones, Summer Walker, and others at the top of his list.  

With his ascension, Benny is continuing to discover the perils of fame. He admits it’s challenging to deal with trolls and faceless critics on X (formerly known as Twitter). "You have to remind yourself it’s only a fraction of the people. Their voice is so loud on social media that it tricks the artist into thinking that’s the general population that feels like that, but it’s not," Benny says.

He’s also accepted the fact that not everyone is meant to be a part of his journey. The sentiment inspired the new album title and is reflective of his new attitude: Whether friend or family, hindering his growth is too hefty a price tag. As his career continues to take flight, others will be left at the terminal. 

"Everybody Can’t Go is me realizing, Wow, it’s not for everybody even though I got this far to help provide opportunities," he said. "You could make someone the president or an A&R at Def Jam, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready for it. A lot of people don’t want to work, they just want what comes with the work —  the lifestyle, the fame, and the money."

After the project’s release, Benny intends to expand as a legitimate businessman and do more executive production, starting with his roster of BSF talent, which includes Rick Hyde, Heem B$F, ElCamino, LoveBoat Luciano, and other members. 

With Griselda, Benny already has his two cousins as counterparts, but Benny talked about having his daughter by his side during the album’s press run. He was impressed with her vocal ability and is open to exploring her musical side. "This is a family business," he says. "I encourage everybody to get into music because it’s therapeutic, it keeps you out of the way, and it’s lucrative if you do it right."

Of his growth as a solo artist, Benny says, "It feels like I’m on pace to keep doing great things." In the near-future, he's already making plans to dive into the film industry and drop another project to close out yet another big year in music. 

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