Victoria-raised Daniel Bennett has plenty of items on his to-do list. And if Bennett had ultimate control over such things, not a single one of them would wait until tomorrow.
Though he’s just 23, the rapper, who performs under the moniker Transit, is already rolling career-wise, from a collaboration with singer-songwriter Jann Arden to a shortlist nomination in the contest to crown Calgary’s poet laureate.
Bennett is succeeding on the home front as well. Now a proud Albertan — he has lived in Calgary since 2007 — Bennett is due to be married this summer, after which he will adopt his fiancée’s five-year-old son.
But he wants more. And if possible, he’d like that sooner than later.
When he looks to the future, Bennett sees only possibilities ahead. He is currently on tour with Oakland rap duo Zion I. It’s a trek that will bring Bennett home to Victoria tonight for a Club 9ONE9 performance. His new release, Stale, is already building buzz that began with his 2011 effort, 22, which made it to the Top 10 on iTunes in Canada. And he’s not even close to being done.
He gets paid to run a recording studio he set up to help inner city kids at a Boys & Girls Club youth centre. Bennett loves his job as a mentor for aspiring youth, and the city. He can’t ever see moving away from Calgary, despite his fondness for hometown and his family, much of which is still based on the Island.
“Victoria raised me. My mentality, my feelings — it’s all Victoria,” Bennett said. “That’s my hometown, but when I moved to Calgary, I grew up. It feels more like my city.”
Despite the initial misgivings of his parents — Bennett’s father, Gary, is the senior pastor at Victoria’s First Church of the Nazarene — he took to rapping at an early age. He had albums to his credit by the time he graduated from Spectrum high school in 2007, and has added to the total in the years since.
Though he’s still an independent artist, he once summoned the confidence to spurn an offer from KISS bassist Gene Simmons, who expressed an interest in Bennett and his longtime collaborator, Victoria videographer Dave Wallace, after seeing a hit video they posted online in 2011.
The irony? Simmons wanted Bennett and Wallace to become what their viral video — Creating A Hit: 8 Hour Challenge — took great delight in mocking.
“Gene basically wanted us to do what we were making fun of. He had a whole formula. We are into staying true to what we do, and didn’t want to lose all that. So we sent him our real music in response. We could talk to him about that, but he never responded. Which tells me what kind of businessman he is.”
Q: Where were you born and raised?
A: I was born in Red Deer, Alta., but I was only there for two months. I was raised in Victoria.
At which point did you know the city was not for you in the long term?
I really wanted to stay in Victoria and not even go to school, just do my music. I went out to Calgary for spring break in Grade 12, and really loved it there. When I moved there, I couldn’t wait to get back to Victoria. But weirdly enough, I got accepted by Calgary.
Q: What is you favourite thing about Victoria?
A: The breakwater — times a million. When I graduated high school, I didn’t go to the party — I went to the breakwater. That’s my spot. When I’m really homesick, I watch YouTube videos of people walking with a camera on the breakwater.
Q: What is your greatest accomplishment as a person?
A: Graduating university [Bennett graduated from Ambrose University with a degree in behavioural sciences]. Everyone kind of expected that I was the kind of guy to drop out, but I buckled down while pursuing music and doing school. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do
Q: And as a professional?
A: Seeing my album 22 going to No. 4 on the iTunes hip-hop charts. It’s so amazing to see something you’ve worked so hard on go up the charts and compete with guys like Kendrick Lamar, even for a couple of days.
Q: First album you purchased?
A: I wasn’t allowed to listen to rap, but my friend had a couple of tapes — Maestro Fresh Wes’s Symphony in Effect and Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) — so I traded my lunch for the tapes. I didn’t eat all day. To be that interested in the art enough to go hungry, my eyes were opened.
Q: Favourite album?
A: Atmosphere, You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having.
Q: First concert you attended?
A: I was always going to concerts, because I grew up in a church. But I wasn’t really allowed to go to rap concerts until I was in high school, so it was John Reuben, a Christian rapper, at The Gorge Amphitheatere in George, Washington.
Q: Favourite concert you attended?
A: Brother Ali at the Warehouse in Calgary. Incredible.
Q: If you had one motto, or rule, to abide by, what would it be?
A: It’s an Albert Einstein quote, “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” Be a person first, and a professional second.
Victoria native Daniel Bennett, a.k.a. Transit, performs tonight at Club 9ONE9 with Zion I. Tickets are $17 at Lyle’s Place, Ditch Records, and the Strathcona Hotel. Doors are at 9 p.m.
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