Jarren Benton wants Atlanta's respect 

The best MC you don't know

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Sick of being crazy, God I want to be ordinary."

— "Skitzo," Freebasing with Kevin Bacon

"Skitzo's" vivid imagery and twisted wordplay drew comparisons to early Eminem and Redman, a rare comparison heard around these parts. The video for "Skitzo" was littered with stabbings, a Michael Jackson corpse, and Benton rocking a Davy Crockett raccoon cap. It solidified him as an entertainer, in the vein of his aggressive, shock-rap forefathers. Benton's presence on the mic is magnified on stage, whether he's stage-diving, chugging beers snatched from audience members, or just freestyling. Benton says he's always considered it a requirement for the best artists to be masters in the booth, on wax, and on stage.

"When you listened to rappers back when I was a child you felt inadequate," he says. "Back then you would hear a rapper and think, 'Goddamn I fucking suck.' You weren't on their level. I come from that school."

Aside from the obvious forebears of Atlanta hip-hop and a few short-lived solo success stories, the city is lacking a shining rap star of today.

"L.A., they say Kendrick Lamar is the dude. That's their dude they can look up to that can spar with the best," he says before asking, "Who does Atlanta have? I ain't talking the T.I.s, the Ludas, the Jeezys, and 'Kast. [In terms of new artists], like if you're just going for lyricists who can hang with the fucking best?"

"I feel like Atlanta doesn't really fuck with Jarren like they do a lot of mainstream artists you hear on radio here," Kato says. "I see his success outside of the city and it's so much bigger than Atlanta. Why worry about one city out of the entire world to support his music?"

Kato's sentiment aside, Benton wants his fellow ATLiens to believe he can be the city's best MC, but says the average Atlanta DJ — with the exception of DJs Jelly, Drama, Cannon, and Greg Street — are "burying true talent by cosigning bullshit."

He admits that maybe the shock-rapper shtick that's prevalent in his music might put folks off, but his outrageous song and album titles, and equally wild live shows and videos, are just his way of having fun, he says. "I didn't want to be serious anymore," Benton says of his earlier raps that bordered on emo. "I was like fuck it, let's make the most dumb shit I can fucking think of."

Maybe it's the anything-goes approach that keeps Benton from being fully embraced. He's not the safest bet, but Atlanta used to pride itself on backing artists a little left of center.

"I just wish some of these DJs would have the fucking balls to stand behind some of the niggas coming out of the A with a little bit of something different," he says. "I feel like in Atlanta it's like the same circle of people and they only stand behind the same exact shit. ... The city's got to do a better job of getting behind us and letting the world know we fucking exist."

One of the staunchest backers of Benton was Pryor, who died suddenly last October from complications with diabetes. Were it not for Pryor, Benton probably would still be a mad rapper focused on what he didn't have versus how far he's come, he says.

Benton wants to represent Atlanta. He aspires to be the local hero he saw in early Andre and Big Boi. "I grew up in the same way most of the inner city kids in our city grew up: fatherless child, parent struggling, going to Atlanta bullshit public schools — I'm that kid."

Whether or not his hometown, L.A. Reid, or XXL readers see it, Benton believes he might be the city's best rep. "When you watch sports you want a good [player] representing your shit. You want the best," he says. "I may jam a different sound, but I'm still Atlanta."

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