As rapper, activist, and Chicago native Taylor Bennett approaches me, his glistening white smile strikes me first, immediately followed by his inviting albeit sweaty hug. Bennett exudes brightness and positivity through both his personal demeanor and his inspiring music. The 23-year-old artist self-released his third album called Be Yourself in 2018, and with it, came a celebrated mantra. “Be Yourself was all about being yourself, embracing yourself, and being comfortable with expressing who you are,” he says. Prior to that release, Bennett publicly came out as bisexual. “I am Taylor Bennett as a person so in my head, I am very used to seeing that side of myself.” While his fans and family have supported him and he feels just as much himself as before, making his sexuality public did influence his latest EP, The American Reject, which was self-released in May 2019.
“American Reject was inspired by this idea that there are a lot of people who create isolation or a jurisdiction of whether people are welcome or not based off of the color of their skin or who they like or their weight; whatever their difference is,” Bennett says of his latest work. “I started thinking about all the defects I could and all the different things and if I wanted to group them into one thing, I would call them rejects.”
By flipping the script on the typically negative definition of a “reject,” Bennett was able to build a community of fans using what makes them different as the commonality. “There is no reason why ‘reject’ should not be a term, because everybody is a reject. We are all different and uncomfortable somewhere,” he says, becoming more and more animated as the conversation continues. Being able to have conversations with people who hold opposing viewpoints than you is a tool that Bennett treasures. Since growing up in Chicago with his parents in political fields and his brother, Chance the Rapper, creating music, he has always seen the value in communication, whether vocal or visual.
“You look at The American Reject album cover and see so many different people represented. We have trans people, we have police officers, we have doctors, we have so many different clan members. We have so many different spotlights and I wanted to trigger everybody to look at something different,” he says of the conversation spearheaded through his album art.
Using his creative outlets to inspire people came long before Be Yourself and The American Reject. Stemming from his parents and their platforms in Chicago, Bennett and his brother knew at an early age that having a voice is powerful. “I have sympathy for anyone who cannot voice their opinions. That’s just not mine and my brother’s positions,” he says. As independent artists, Chance and Bennett embrace the freedom to speak out as unapologetic and unfiltered as they’d like. “Chance showed me and everybody in the music industry that possibilities and heights you can reach as an independent artist. When I saw that I was like, ‘I’m with you, Chance.’”
Bennett smiles each time he mentions Chance’s name. When Bennett first started working on music it was his already iconic number three hat-wearing brother Chance the Rapper who told him that if he does music, he needs to do it because he loves it. “Chance proved that you can be successful as an independent artist, like major successful, not just being able to eat and being able to put food in your mouth.”
With his first son at home, several shows lined up for 2019, including Austin City Limits, new music on the way, and supporting his brother’s debut album and being a featured artist on it, this independent rapper is clearly loving exactly what he is doing. Listen to The American Reject below and Chance the Rapper’s album The Big Day here.