When the sun comes up, and you look around at where you are, what will you see?
And will you like it?
These are questions we can all ask ourselves on a number of levels both great and small — societally, professionally, physically, emotionally — and they’re ones that Daniel Bennet (a.k.a. Transit22) found himself asking on both a personal and artistic level.
The answers? Dark Day // Good Morning.
It’s the Calgary rapper’s latest release and it marks a stunning departure from previous efforts, both musically and lyrically.
Mature, thoughtful, sonically assured and deftly delivered — it’s a new day for Bennett and he likes what he sees and where he’s at.
“I just figured out what life I wanted to live,” he says simply. “For a long time I had fallen into my own narrative. I looked up to rappers who live that sad, touring, alcoholic, broken, depressed lifestyle. I looked up to that, I wanted to emulate that and then that became my life.
“A lot of the record was written in the lowest part of my life ever, when I felt the most hopeless … And then when I started being like, ‘You know, I really don’t want to live this narrative any more,’ I just challenged myself to try and get out of it and help myself, and then half the record became more positive after that, just talking about different things I was going through.”
That’s not to say DD//GM is all rainbows and unicorns — the darkness still gets its just due, but there’s a clarity and focus to his rhymes and the music that takes it to a whole new level.
It’s a complete album, a confident and fully formed work of art.
Part of that is that it was recorded over a two-day period in Vancouver’s Echoplant Recording Studios, with Conan Karpinski from West Coast band Little India — whom Bennett met when they were both part of the Peak Performance Project — produced it, made the beats and added some gorgeous layers and textures.
Staying in an Airbnb in Maple Ridge, it allowed the artist to get away from it all and hone in on exactly what he wanted to say and how.
“It was the perfect environment to be making this record,” he says.
And as much as the album benefits from that experience and environment, it was what happened internally with Bennett that truly set its course.
It was him asking those aforementioned questions as he hit 29 and saw how his lifestyle was tainting every aspect of his life and how he saw the world.
A big part of that was that his drinking was “out of hand to the point I was getting sick from it … it was eating away at me.”
“There was a dark cloud attached to my music when I was an alcoholic just because that was the only emotion that could shine through, so every song kind of had the same hopelessness,” he says.
“A lot of people really love those songs, and I still love those songs, I’m still going to perform them, they’re still going to be a major part of my music, but I guess when I was able to step out of it I was able to write about things bigger than myself.”
His sobriety was the Good Morning that freed him to a sunnier day and sound, getting him outside of himself to the point that, he notes with a laugh, “there’s only one breakup song,” and he even touches on subjects such as politics, the Indigenous water crisis and police violence on the far-ranging and resigned Never Really Saved Us.
His happier disposition gets its due on the celebratory, horn-drenched We, The After Party, featuring Little India, and the sugar rimmed Slingshot, which features soulful vocals from Ciele.
As to whether those who came to him for his darkness will follow him into the light, Bennett thinks he may lose some people, but thinks its been worth it.
“Some people, maybe. I might lose some people but I think I have a pretty loyal fanbase just because of being vulnerable,” he says.
“I remember when I was going to counselling … I was talking to the lady about how I was scared that if I got happy that my music would suffer. And that’s something that I always fear, because we all know when have a favourite artist and they get sober and they get happy, we’re like, ‘Great, we’re not looking forward to that project.’ You know what I mean?”
He laughs. “So I think it’s just been me challenging myself to make sure that that doesn’t happen and just using the extra creative juices to come off maybe with a little positive message but to not alienate and sound corny.”
Fans will get a chance to decide for themselves which they prefer when Bennett celebrates the release of the latest Transit22 album with a show at The Gateway.
He thinks that even if they’re coming for those Dark Days they’ll be impressed at how he delivers them after his sober, sunnier Good Morning.
“That definitely shows when I perform live,” he says. “I always used to be afraid of the notion of performing without alcohol because, ‘How am I going to be dance without alcohol?’ But I opened for Royal Foundry at The Gateway in October when I wasn’t drinking and it was the best show of my life …
“It makes me more clear.”
(Photo courtesy Jordan Lee.)
Transit22 releases his new album Dark Days // Good Morning Saturday, Jan. 19 at The Gateway.