In a time when unique and interesting releases can be somewhat difficult to find, its artists who seem to come out of nowhere who are the ones to surprise the most. Who knew that Benjiman, helming from Lacomb, Oregon, would be the latest artist to keep a watchful eye on? Fans of alternative rock acts Kutless and Falling Up should be familiar with Benjiman's accompaniment work, but his debut solo project Activate is the general public's first one-on-one experience. And an impressive one it is.
Activate opens boldly with the title track. Blending electronic synths, live guitars and engaging raps, Benjiman's sound immediately offers a TobyMac meets Linkin Park vibe. Catchy keys and soulful harmonies provided by producer Zach Hodges give tracks like "This One" and "Trace Of Love" a more Maroon5-laced-with-hip-hop feel. While much of the record possesses this formula, "Upside Your Head" switches gears to serve up a standard rap track ala Mars Ill or even Grits. "One More Time" and "Lay It All Down" finish off the record in this style, with the latter offering up noteworthy and encouraging vocals to drop life's burdens at the foot of the cross.
Much like the sorely underrated Mat Kearney, who successfully took an alernative Brit-pop sound a la Cold Play and created a unique sound by beefing it up with hip hop glazings, Benjiman uses familiar influences to create a relevant and unique sound of his own. With hard hitting songs like the title track and "Outta Time," Benjiman proves to be a force to be reckoned with in modern music. While Benjiman may have benefited by not relying so heavily on the influences he frequently borrows from, Activate remains a solid hip-hop/rock marriage that just might be worthy of celebration.- Review date: 2/8/05, written by John DiBiase
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