Appreciating Bay Area Artists: JTB x Benji

Meet the duo who grew their fan base from throwing the hottest parties in their hometown to performing packed shows in their new city.

Appreciating Bay Area Artists: JTB x Benji (Courtesy of JTB x Benji)

Los AngelesMy favorite thing about West Coast music is how distinct it is. You can hear it from a mile away and sometimes even decipher if the artist is from NorCal or SoCal just by their tone. With a laidback tempo, bumping bassline, catchy piano melody and a touch of your own flair, you’ve got yourself a hit. The tricky part is to remain refreshing without being repetitive. 

And the duo that has mastered that method are San Ramon natives, JTB x Benji.

Jonan Harris, 22, and Benjamin Brathwaite, 21, moved from the East Bay to Corona, California as high school friends who had no idea their chemistry would lead them to where they are now. The investment they’ve put into their music videos, performances and themselves proves that they were made to create, especially together. 

The pair have come a long way, and as they're working on their fourth studio album I got the chance to catch up with them.

YR Media: The last time we saw each other was at a party you guys hosted back home everyone from the Bay pulled up. What was it like throwing parties solely to perform to now being booked for your own shows? 

Jonan: My best friend and I realized no one throws parties in San Ramon. We rented out [a venue] for Halloween and decided to perform, which was one of our first times doing it. We performed “On Go,” and the reactions we got, I didn’t expect. Everyone was jumping up and down, it was crazy. The party at the Grange [in Danville] was when we got more performers like BigTreeSteve and Priceless Da Roc who was the headliner on the flier. But it's funny because I think we did a little bit better than him. To this day I look back at videos like we really created that moment. 

YR: I remember you had people talking about it for weeks! In a previous interview, you mentioned that making music was considered cringy back home. Why didn’t it stop you? 

Benji: Most schools in that area are only focused on education, college, and grades. [Making] music was considered a waste of time, but I didn't take those comments seriously. I also come from a musically influenced background.  A lot of people in my family make music, so it was encouraged.

YR: Back in 2019 you two took the stage as JTB x Benji for the first time. What do you remember and how is your dynamic now? 

Benji: I remember being so nervous  [Jonan] was calming me down. I was a performer when I was younger for tap dancing, but using my voice and singing was different. But once we fed off the energy from the crowd it was pretty cool.

Jonan: [Laughs] I remember him huffing and puffing before we got on and telling him that we got this. But I [also] performed before at his high school where my mom rented out the performing arts center. That was before we were in a group too, [Benji] was in the crowd jumping. [Then we met] and at first making music together felt like we were co-workers. 

Benji: [Laughs] Yeah. Anytime we’d hang out, outside of music, it would be hella awkward. 

Jonan: But doing this journey together, driving together down to SoCal from the Bay, shoots, and performances has brought us closer together. And now we live together so the best thing is that I got a best friend out of it.

YR: You chose a great spot, SoCal loves y'all. What do you think are the “do’s” and “don’ts” for musicians who’ve relocated to Socal for their careers? 

Jonan: Definitely, go outside. That is something we’ve been lacking in actually. We’re only now getting our team of directors and management together, but I’m still learning my “do’s” and “don’ts.” 

YR: How are you guys able to pursue a solo career while maintaining the chemistry between you guys when you come back as a duo?

Benji: Most of the time since we’ve been down here we’ve been focused on JTB x Benji, but I just let him know what I’m working on as I alternate.

Jonan: I want to see him win just as he wants to see me win. It’s as simple as working on him for a couple of months and then us. I don’t have a solo [artist] account but I’ve recently been trying to get into acting which I’m in school for at Annie Grindlay.

YR: And how did you guys end up on Kai Cenat’s radar? 

Jonan: He reached out after reacting to [videos we did] and invited us on his stream. I can’t speak too much on it because I signed the [NDA], but going back to the do’s and don’ts, when opportunities like that come, capitalize on it, which is what we did for JTB x Benji.

YR: I admire the effort that’s put into your music videos. How do you come up with the concepts? 

Jonan: It starts with the song itself which  [Benji] creates all the beats for. But for example “Flip the Script” our latest song, I created the entire concept for that video. I would go on Pinterest and look at aesthetics but do it in my way and even better.

YR: Who’s an artist you're listening to right now that you think deserves some love?

Benji: I’ve been listening to a lot of Chase Shakur, you would like his latest album.

YR: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Benji: It's kind of complicated. I haven't been in school for 4 years, but I want more stability and [might] join the police academy. I'm [currently] in my background checks for Riverside County.

Jonan: We are still working hard making our music. Hopefully, in five years we’ll be bigger, making millions. But this year we’ll be dropping an album called “Ghost” and increasing our fan base out here like we did back home. 

You can check out more of their music on Instagram: @JTBxBenji.

Sydney Wanguhu, (she/her) is from The Bay Area and is an L.A.-based journalist who covers entertainment and culture. Follow her on Instagram: @sydneyy._.

Edited by Nykeya Woods

Support the Next Generation of Content Creators
Invest in the diverse voices that will shape and lead the future of journalism and art.
donate now
Support the Next Generation of Content Creators
Invest in the diverse voices that will shape and lead the future of journalism and art.
donate now