Raised in Columbia, Ben G’s Hip-Hop Rise Continues on a New Mixtape

Friday at TLC
By Patrick Wall
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Ben G at St. Pat’s in Five Points | photo by Jordan Lawrence

The line’s about getting high — but not in the way you’re thinking.

“Did an interview on an airplane,” Ben G spits, over insistent string hits and a loping beat, on “Heart of a Lion,” a choice cut from Hot Sauce, his newest mixtape.

It’s a true story, says the Columbia-raised rapper, born Ben Hiott — an interview for an independent rap website (he doesn’t remember which one) conducted via text message over the in-flight Wi-Fi. But the line’s really the starting point for a series of metaphors — a quadruple entendre, Hiott calls it — that encapsulates just where Hiott is at this point in his career.

“Life’s a rollercoaster, no fair, man,” he continues over the Supah Mario beat. “No elevators, just stairs, man / Gotta get it if you with it / I done did it for a minute / Still fixin’ to be up there, man.”

The connection, Hiott says?

“All these things have ups.”

What: Ben G
Where: TLC, 936 S. Stadium Rd.
When: Friday, June 6, 9 p.m.
With: Waka Flocka Flame, DJ B-Lord, Lucid, Flauhaus & Friends, more
Price: $10
More Info: 251-3087

Hiott’s been on the up since leaving Columbia. He moved to Atlanta around Thanksgiving, partly on the advice of Waka Flocka Flame, his rap-game mentor who folded Hiott into his Brick Squad Monopoly crew. He’s still on his own grind, but he’s diversified since relocating. He’s started taking on non-performing projects, managing some producers, and executive producing and doing A&R work for Waka Flocka Flame, particularly the rapper’s upcoming EDM-oriented release.

But his extracurricular activities haven’t dulled the emcee’s budding rap career. He drops the Hot Sauce mixtape on Thursday. It’s so named because hot sauce is “good on everything,” Hiott laughs, and so is he. “No matter [the beat], I can flow on it,” he says.

Hot Sauce certainly features a wide range of styles, and Hiott’s easygoing flow plays well with each. “Somewhere,” produced by Atlanta production team The Outsyders, is a meaty trap track with thick drops that pull like riptides. There’s “Get Crazy,” helmed by the late Speaker Knockerz; the less-is-more beat, built on a sawtooth eight-note bassline and low-impact hi-hat trills, recalls the static rhythmic beds of DJ Mustard, the West Coast producer who’s currently running club-oriented hip-hop. The Drumma Boy-produced “Start Up” rides a gritty, Lex Luger-ish beat that fits Hiott’s chirpy rhymes.

Those aren’t the only notable names on Hot Sauce. The collection boasts more star power than ever. Some are homies and frequent collaborators, like Waka and Gorilla Zoe, one of the first rappers to take a shine to Hiott. But there are new faces, too: 2 Chainz and B.o.B both appear. These are emcees that navigated the mixtape circuit to major-label success, and their presence here gives Hiott a startling amount of cred.

But Hiott’s especially careful to rep his hometown, too, and local musicians and producers feature prominently on Hot Sauce. In the same way Waka and Gorilla Zoe took a shot on him, Hiott’s trying to give the same helping hand to some of his longtime friends and collaborators, like Nique the Geek and Jesse Leprotti.

“I’ll open up the doors for anyone in my circle,” he says, so long as they produce “quality material that’s going to draw attention once the door’s open.”

One such producer is Supah Mario, who powers that brassy standout “Heart of a Lion.” Hiott’s put Supah Mario’s beats into the hands of some hot rappers, one of which was Young Thug; Complex named the Mario-produced “2 Cups Stuffed” as one of the rising rapper’s most essential cuts.
“He got a check from Atlantic,” Hiott says. “Kid is really getting going. He’s got the talent. He deserves it.”

Now, people are starting to think the same about Hiott. Consider the chorus of “Heart of a Lion,” barked by Waka. The elder’s gruff grumbles are his own, but the words sound like they could be taken Hiott’s own mouth: “Been puttin’ in work for a minute / Now it’s my time.”

And maybe it is. Maybe it is.

Let us know what you think: Email music@free-times.com.

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