Editor's Note: Kicks presents 20Q, a feature that introduces readers to people involved in the area's arts and entertainment community. Compiled by kicks Editor Greg Little, each piece will include a short bio, photo and answers to questions that provide insight into not only that person's artistic interests but also his or her unique personality.
Jonathan Benish (Tha Mid City Kid)
By day, Jonathan Benish is an unassuming 22-year-old who was born and raised in Janesville. A 2013 graduate of Parker High School, he has spent 10 years trying to bring to life his dream of launching a successful music career.
By night, however, he becomes Tha Mid City Kid, a rapping tsunami and leader of the J-ViLLa music movement he formed just six years ago. Most recently, Tha Kid was on tour as part of the “1 in 7 Billion” project that saw him perform at stops in Iowa, Nebraska, Utah, Colorado, Nevada and California.
Whether he performs locally or nationwide, Tha Kid always goes out of his way to represent his hometown and home state.
For more about Benish, search on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. To see a video, visit GazetteXtra.com/Videos.
1. When and why did you start rapping? I've wanted to be an entertainer for as long as I can remember. There are pictures of me performing for my family and friends—imitating my favorite musical idols. I started writing and rapping my own music around age 10 when I realized this is 110 percent what I want to do in life.
2. It's got to be hard getting into the game when you're from Janesville, Wisconsin. What are some of the challenges you've faced? There's definitely a struggle to start a career as a musician strictly in Janesville. There's not many recreational facilities or venues for youth to do things such as shows. Also, most people around here have never seen anything like what I'm doing, and maybe they don't know how to take it. The city is frankly too small of a market for the music career I'm looking for. That's why I always travel.
3. Pizza rolls or bagel bites? Pizza rolls. Combination. All day long.
4. Best compliment you've ever received? I actually had a family from Reedsburg tell me they've listened to me for years and decided to name their newborn, Jonathan, after me. I've never met them personally.
5. Why “Tha Mid City Kid?” Because I'm from a mid-size city in the Midwest, and I'm just an average kid. Not above anyone, but not below anyone either. I'm right in the middle.
6. You've opened for the likes of Big Sean and Tech N9ne. Did either offer any advice? Opening for big-time artists always is beneficial. I didn't meet Tech N9ne either time opening, nor did I meet Big Sean. I just performed and then joined the crowd to watch and study them from a fan standpoint.
7. You released your first demo when you were 14 years old. Do you find it's hard to get people to take you seriously in the music business when you're barely shaving? That can be beneficial and a negative at the same time. Some people think it's great when someone that young has passion and an idea of what they want to do in life. Some others look at it as you're not mature yet, and they just can't take it seriously. It depends on their personal perceptions.
8. Tattoos, yes or no? No, not yet, but I'm sure I will sometime soon. Not sure exactly what.
9. Talk about the importance of getting support from your hometown. It's everything! Especially in my case, where I'm in my hometown most of the time. Those people will put the most pride behind you because they share a similar upbringing, so they can relate.
10. Even after all these years, rap still faces certain stigmas in society. To what do you attribute that? Trust me, I'm fed up with most rap these days, too. That's why I try to bring something completely original and different to the table every time. I try to rhyme as much as possible to make up for the others who are there for the money and not the art. I strive to be a prime example of real conscience rap. Hip-hop is not dead.
11. Name a musical artist people would be surprised to learn you like. I really appreciate Johnny Cash. Growing up, I think my sister and I could sing every song of his word-for-word. Every time he comes on, I have to jam!
12. Have you ever milked a cow? Yes, I have. It was during a school field trip. I've never done it on my own time, though being from Wisconsin I do have farmer friends. In my opinion, the work farmers put in on a daily basis is very unappreciated by the average person. They make the world go 'round.
13. You can share the stage with any performer alive or dead. Who would it be, and why? Michael Jackson. Come on now … he's the king of pop. Hands down, the most notorious entertainer of all time.
14. When did you realize you could actually make a living doing this, or are you still not sure? I realized after my first demo at 14 years old. I knew the people really liked my product through trial and error in all marketing schemes. I learned at an early age the importance of business and skill, and I think that gave me a head start.
15. What do you try to do with your rhymes to separate yourself from other rappers? I try to say something different in every single rhyme and use my own style of multi-syllable and internal rhyming with real messages that stick with you. And I focus hard on creating my own original melodies, too.
16. You shoot a lot of videos around Janesville. Do you ever get hassled by business owners, residents or police? The only problem I've ever had was on Milton Avenue going into Milton when we were shooting video on the bridge. The police shut us down due to people calling and complaining for whatever reason. They said we were distracting traffic.
17. How diverse is your fan base? My base is ages 8 to 80, literally. I make music for all ages.
18. Do you write out lyrics or rap on the fly? I always write and craft my lyrics before they're laid down in the studio. But don't get me wrong; I can kick a pretty good freestyle off the top of my head.
19. Be honest, do you own a rhyming thesaurus or dictionary? I had actually never heard of those until a couple of years ago when a local rapper brought one to a session. I would never knock someone's intentions to improve and better themselves in any way, but I think that's kind of cheating. I guess after 10 years of consistently rhyming, my brain just does it automatically.
20. Describe your life five years from now. I see myself living in a house in the Madison area with a small apartment in L.A. because I'll be there half the year. I'd be 100 percent financially stable off of my music and consistently touring the globe promoting and performing.
If you're involved in the arts and entertainment community or think you or someone you know would be a great subject for 20Q, send an email to kicks Editor Greg Little at firstname.lastname@example.org.