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For more than 25 years, the rapper-hustler narrative has been a leading archetype in hip-hop music. However, can Jay Z or Rick Ross claim to be involved in a $50 million business before Rap? Blanco can, with the struggle and documentation to prove it. However, the Bay Area MC was not selling poison. Instead, the impresario was on the frontlines of creating a legal marijuana business, Guerrilla style.

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Since he was a teenager, the artist first known as Benny Blanco had two passions: weed and music. As he and his older brother were feeding the family through hustling, the Berkeley, California native made the music he loved. Those two worlds had a lot of overlap. “The Bay area has this mentality of what it means to be a hustler and what true game is,” says Blanco, who turned to selling drugs when his father was imprisoned. “Since I was of a young age, my views were kind of skewed. ‘Cause that’s all I knew.” The son of a hippie mom and a father who was a close affiliate of The San Quentin Six and Black Guerrilla Family, Blanco describes his childhood as “radical.” Growing up in the liberal hotbed collegiate town, Blanco mixed book smarts and street smarts, along with a crusade for justice, with a mischievous streak. “I’m a pot child. I’m one with pot. I’ve been a smoker since 13 years old.”

From smoking it to selling it, Blanco and his brother intended to use marijuana as a launch-pad to entertainment. “Music was always our long term goal. But at the same time, we had to think about what else we were gonna do. That’s when we opened the dispensary, in 2004,” he recalls. It was then that the pair launched Guerrilla Entertainment, along with their Hayward, California pot shop. Suddenly, the middle class kid was truly living in his favorite rappers’ lyrics. “I was never on the corner, but I’ve been in rooms where people never know if they’re gonna make it out alive. That’s my life. I’ve seen more carnage than most people.”

Refining his skills, Blanco’s stress relief was the studio. He formed trio The Yay Boyz, and released a string of street-hot albums and tapes. The MC filled the void of an absentee father and the tensions of a high-pressure business with writing and recording. Moreover, he began connecting with some of the key figures of his region, from Yukmouth, to B-Legit, to Messy Marv. In an onslaught of mixtapes, Benny Blanco’s name—a play on the once-ignored antagonist of Carlito’s Way—was rising.

Blanco was making waves. By 2011, his American Psycho would be a critical independent release. Songs like viral hit “Dope Money” explained who Blanco was—then a man facing upwards of 15 years in federal prison. According to the brothers, a jealous local sheriff, a headstrong DEA, and the Bush Regime would lead to a wrongful arrest and a string of charges. Cash, cars, and other assets were seized, as the men liquidated their earnings to fight back. “People focus on the $50 million, but I was trying to push the bar and break the levy,” recalls Blanco of the legal battle. “That’s where

Berkeley and the ‘guerrilla’ aspect comes in. I could’ve done a lot of things that made me retire in the Bahamas. But I didn’t, I fought the feds.” Blanco produced all the legal and tax bookkeeping to show that the distributors were within their rights. “I learned what it means to go against big government, and lose.” Music maintained Blanco’s sanity throughout this case. “Even when I was under federal indictment, I was nervous talking about life on record,” he recalls. However, the self-proclaimed “square” from the college town was gaining respect from his Rap peers. In addition to his own skills developing, some high profile peers and the Bay contemporaries wanted in.

In recent years, Blanco has released entire albums with Messy Marv and The Jacka. The Oakland MC who was tragically murdered earlier this year was deeply instrumental to Blanco. Even when they weren’t recording early collaborations or the later LP, Jonestown, the elder MC encouraged Blanco to step further into his own. Admitting the two smokers had a “weed rivalry” of the best strains, music followed. “He taught me to say only what I believe, and to experiment. ‘If you like it, do it.’” Even in Blanco’s recording his first Rock album, Jacka had deep musical wisdom. “He blew my mind with how much knowledge he’d acquired.”

Beyond the Bay, Blanco’s catalog boasts appearances by Styles P, Gucci Mane, Freddie Gibbs, and even Redman. Red’ in particular, proved to be one of Benny’s biggest fans. “I remember Redman calling me after we worked together,” said the MC. The Def Squad MC simply wanted to praise his counterpart. “That was his only point in calling.” In 2013, Blanco & Nipsey Hussle released the highly- acclaimed Raw album. “Nipsey, Styles, Gibbs, I cannot deny that those guys are better rappers than me,” he admits. “But I want to be the best, so that’s why I work at it.”

Blanco may be his own worst critic—and even he admits his improvements are staggering. “I’m so comfortable with being myself,” he says, noting that he memorizes verses rather than using paper. Making music on his terms is much more important than money or fame. “Instead of working with only people I grew up with respect, I know I could have just gotten a pop artist and hit the radio.” While he refuses to go pop, Blanco wants his music to endure. “I’m trying to not get wrapped up in Northern California curse. I’m trying to make timeless music.”

After serving a one-year plea bargain (reduced from facing 15 years), Blanco approaches his next album with undivided attention. “I’m still on probation, but it’s all behind. Now I can speak freely and openly in my music.” Free speech and exercising his rights is a key component for Blanco and Guerrilla. The label has cleverly referenced films, Punk groups, and pop-art in their covers—and have been sued for it. Meanwhile, Blanco is wrapping up recording his Rap-Rock LP, Wigger.

“We gave it that one word as a conversation piece,” he says of a title that pokes fun at himself. “The album doesn’t reflect that at all—there’s no fake shit.” Focusing on his own catalog rather than more collaborative street tapes, Blanco is raisng the bar all around. “I only work with producers who have kept new styles coming, and have something to bring to the table.” The LP was made in the same studios used by Digital Underground, and mastered by Dr. Dre and Sublime’s engineer. With the blessings of his influences and basking in freedom with a story to tell, Blanco professes, “Nowadays,I feel one with the microphone, one with the beat, and one with the studio.”


Press Releases

Bay Area Rapper Blanco Teams Up With Grammy-Winning Producer Bosko for Drug-Worshipping EP
Teaming With the Grammy-winning Producer, the Bay Area Rappers Connect to Create a Minimalistic, Drug-Induced Love Ballad
Legendary G-Funk Crooner Kokane Joins Blanco, Husalah for Tortoise and The Hare EP, Available for Free Download
Cali Trio’s Second Single from Forthcoming Tortoise and the Hare EP, Premiere via The Smoking Section
SPIN Debuts First Single from Bay Area Trio’s Forthcoming Tortoise and the Hare EP
Bay Area Trio Releases Third Single from Collaborative EP, One Hunnid, Available on iTunes and for Free Download
Free EP: Blanco, The Jacka & Messy Marv – One Hunnid [Prod. By Tha Bizness]
YG, Nipsey Hussle, Freeway, Trae the Truth Feature On Bay Area Trio’s Collaborative EP
AllHipHop Premieres Sceond Single from One Hunnid EP, due Tuesday, April 15
Complex premieres Blanco’s first single from Collaborative EP One Hunnid featuring YG, The Jacka and Messy Marv, produced by Tha Bizness
Nipsey Hussle, YG, Styles P, Freddie Gibbs and Freeway Join Bay Area Heavyweights Blanco and The Jacka on Game Over
Blanco and The Jacka Release DJ Toure-Produced Album Along with Two Music Videos
Blanco and The Jacka Collab with All-Star Guests on AraabMuzik-Produced Album
Houston OG Trae The Truth Joins Blanco On Hard-Edged New Song Off Album Game Over
Blanco Premieres Collab With The Jacka, “Duck Hunt” Ft. Nipsey Hussle, YG and Messy Marv
Complex Premieres Blanco And Nipsey Hussle Collab Album Raw Available For Download Now

Press Photos

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