Two great tastes tasting greater together — what’s to hate?
There’s nothing not to love about Calgary hip-hop’s peanut butter cups, Miss Benzo and Tea Fannie, two boss, “bad-ass bitches,” with burgeoning solo careers who’ve come together to collaborate on one of the finest YYC EPs you’ll hear this year — the five-track, provocatively titled Most Hated.
And if the name sounds like vocalists Miss Benzo and Tea Fannie are setting themselves up to be the nasty queens of the music scene, you only got part of that right.
“We wanted it to be a play on words,” Fannie says. “We’re huge with wordplay, both of us, I think that’s why we get along so well.
She laughs. “It was mostly a jealousy take on it. In Calgary, artists really come together, but we both started in the Edmonton music scene and we experienced that when people rise, you kind of get hated on because your stuff is really good. Being new artists and if you’re doing something decent that people like, then you get hated.
“Also, I mean with Benzo, she’s had a lot of personal hate towards her, with body shaming, so we wanted it to be a little sexual and in-your-face.”
That’s pretty much where that blue streak ends, although the 40-Year-Old-Virgin line “put this pussy on a pedestal” is gleefully repeated throughout the cool album opener Edibles (and later on the funktified 24K), with it also containing the warning “you can find out firsthand that I’m really on my kegels” — Benzo’s smooth, soulful cooing and Fannie’s spitfire rapping passing the baton to one another over the course of the three-minute, dancefloor bonghit.
Most Hated is not about pushing buttons, but coming together. Even musically.
The rest of the record is an incredibly positive Thelma and Louise marriage of the two different styles and flows, including the stellar cypher remix of their BLM, BIPOC and Trans-friendly cut from last October called Qings Cypher. It’s masterful.
And rather than meant to antagonize any further cattiness from said haters, it, all of it, is about winning them over, helping all rise up.
“We’re definitely all about female empowerment,” Tea says, noting the name Miss Benzo comes from the anxiety drugs benzodiazepines.
“She’s all about the mental health aspect, suicide prevention.”
In fact, Bento’s mission statement on her website is: “My main goal when creating music is to act as a cure and to draw awareness to suicide prevention, addiction, mental illness, resilience and forgiveness by giving the audience and fans all of my emotions, and potentially saving lives through my lyrical content,” she says. “I plan to give the world a euphoric taste of comfort and support, giving the feeling of an antidepressant and helping people around the world understand their self worth, and importance.”
Tea adds further context, explaining, a half-decade ago Benzo had a risky surgery — the doctors giving her less than 5 per cent chance at survival — eventually coming through while also losing her thyroid and SCM muscle.
“She actually lost half her neck six years ago, and was told she couldn’t even sing any more.”
The artist laughs. “She’s been hitting higher octaves every year since I’ve known her.
“Her perseverance is all about, ‘We can do it ourselves, push through.’ ”
As for her own story, Fannie only went all in on music two years ago — discovering hip-hop via Nas when she was 16 — and has quickly made a name for herself. Well, a couple of different names, actually.
Originally her hip-hop moniker was SHE before changing it to Tea Fannie, which is a play off of her real first name Tiffany — in keeping with the wordplay, she’s of Caribbean descent, with her mom from Jamaica and father from Dominica, so every time she’d go there, with the island accent, it always sounded like locals were calling her “Teefannie.”
She also has an alter-ego for her, shall we say, more salty side that doesn’t quite get much of a workout on Hated. (Dig for it, you’ll find it.)
“Every girl has that freak side … I just figured in my music I should have an outlet for all of my emotions,” she says.
“I don’t want that to pop me, I don’t want the dirty stuff to be what makes people listen to me, but I want it to be a piece of me.”
She continues. “Hip-hop doesn’t have to be all about shakin’ ass or whatever — and we have notes of that in there, which is what I love, notes of nasty … but for the most part it’s, ‘No, we’ve been through some stuff and this is who we are now.’ ”
Other than their fondness for wordplay and empowerment, Tea admits the pair share a love of R&B, with it showing up more in her partner’s work than what she leans toward in her art, but their different styles and approaches meshing in an instant and wonderful way.
“We find that we do different stuff when we get together,” she says. “I have my stuff that I have, she has her stuff, but when we create together it comes out so (different).”
“Honestly, we were just having fun. It was a couple of days of us hanging out and we ended up writing all of this music.
“It’s just us having fun, this is just how we are together all the time.”
Perhaps that’s why Most Hated came together so effortlessly, the two artists recording seven tracks over a week last year.
They then re-recorded the five that appear on the EP three months ago — practise improved and tightened the performances and delivery — Miss Benzo’s boyfriend, G Major, mixing and mastering it into the powerful statement it is from two fine artists getting finer together.
That’s what Tea Fannie’s ultimate hope is, that both of their separate fanbases will come at it, and come together, raising the album up into a crossover hit that showcases how talented each singer is while showing how more powerful they are together.
“Miss Benzo’s fans know her as an R&B (singer), so to see and hear her in this light will be something new and fresh for her fans, and then on top of that people who listen to me will maybe like this style of her and dive into her stuff and, of course, vice versa …
“I feel like the crossover fans will be really, really, really big,” she says.
“We just want to have people have a good time this summer.
“And be empowered to be that boss-ass bitch.”
(Photos courtesy Black Rooms Photography.)
Tea Fannie & Miss Benzo’s Most Hated is available now.