The Fraught Gospel of Benny Revival
Updated: Dec 11, 2018
Benny Revival is a real one, the realest of the real. A mysterious and foreboding figure, he exists on his own terms. Musically, visually, and even spiritually, Benny challenges conventions with a confusing and discomforting aesthetic that sometimes borders on meaninglessness. This bizarre presentation is like Gummo for the smartphone generation. It’s a collage of vice, questioning, existential dread, love, and at its core self-confrontation. In other words, Benny Revival is purely and uniquely human.
The captivating enigma that is Benny Revival has sidestepped virtually every convention of a musical artist. Whatever unconventionalities remain, he’s flipped them upside down. For example, he seldom shows his face. There are a few revealing pictures deep within his Instagram, and one is even his Twitter AVI, but for the most part he's almost always masked. However, Benny does more than don a gaudy helmet like a bobbleheaded EDM star. With an endless selection of high-end latex masks (and often accompanying outfits) ranging from garish monsters to familiar cartoon characters, each day he takes on a new persona, redefining the “fit pic” phenomenon. As of this writing, he has less than 19k followers on Twitter and Instagram combined. But those who have found Benny have found much more than just an account or even a person; they’ve found his gospel.
Benny is a preacher in his own right. His cryptic, caps-locked Instagram vignettes read like a blend of occultism and Illuminism hastily scrawled on dirty bathroom stalls. The profundity of Mr. Revival’s scripture isn't always clear. While much of the content is steeped in conspiracy and littered with references that range from ancient cities to chemical warfare tactics to Golden Girls, it is clear that Benny wants his followers to question everything. His bold ideas reflect his own tribulations and the powerful losses of innocence that come with them (more on that to come). His ability to grab attention with such sheer weirdness allows him to be a conduit for critical thinking. Come for the costumes, stay for the unlearning.
Then there’s his music. Pulsing beats draw heavily from an endless sonic palette that includes 80s and 90s club beats, funk, old school hip-hop, and more. The instrumentation perfectly complements his flow, which is a smooth fusion of West Coast and Southern rap. Lyrically speaking, his songs serve as more fleshed out versions of the ideas presented in his social media posts. They’re often peppered with sound bites and samples that reflect the themes of each unique musical project. For example, “SPOKEN TRUTH #14,” off his HIV POSITIVE mixtape includes the HIV stories of two individuals. Other themes include racism (LOSE CULTURE), religion and the supernatural (FORGIVE), and even his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida (NORTH FLORIDA). Comparatively speaking, the sounds of Mr. Revival lie somewhere between Outkast, Three 6 Mafia, and G-Funk. Make no mistake though, Benny’s music, much like his overall aura, is unlike anything else that exists.
Among all this activity and commitment to character is a rather dark subtext. Well, more like texts. Every September Benny releases a chapter of his ongoing autobiography. GREEN-EYED DEMON has lived on Instagram for the last four years. It’s written in a style similar to that of his regularly scheduled posts, is non-linear, and switches back and forth between the first and third person. It’s not easily accessible, as each chapter has its own Instagram account with little promotion from the author himself. It’s also not for the faint of heart. Right from the jump, the reader is met with a graphic depiction of sex and a flurry of racial and sexual epithets. This all sets the tone for even more racism and carnal desire throughout, in addition to detailed accounts of adultery, child abuse, and domestic abuse. Anger, remorse, and guilt seep through the cracks and give the reader an intimate (in all senses of the word) and revealing look at an otherwise puzzling individual.
The first chapter explores the concept of innate sinfulness, which is reflected in its title, “ASMODEUS PRESENCE.” Asmodeus, for those unaware, is said to be the “king of demons” in several religious sects including the Catholic and Orthodox Catholic churches. Feeling the influence of Asmodeus within, Benny grapples with whether his troubled past was more a result of nature or nurture. The detailed look that Benny gives into his life is bleak and depressing. It raises many questions regarding his personality and the reputation he’s created for himself. Perhaps these stories are cathartic in their telling for the narrator, helping to quell his inner turmoil. The stream-of-consciousness and overly explicit but authentic vernacular evoke a sense of power and vindictiveness. And yet, amidst his tirades there are glimpses of a righteous demon. In the second chapter, “INFIIRMITY GRIP,” Benny describes a scenario in which he angrily defends his white mother’s marriage to a black man (Benny is biracial) against his racist cousin. In “CRIPPLED SEED,” Benny expresses his sympathy for the disabled which stemmed from growing up with two siblings with unique mental disabilities.
“ALL I DO KNOW IS THE MAJORITY OF COMPANY I KEEP .. ARE DISABLED .. HANDICAPPED .. ALWAYS BEEN THAT WAY .. FEEL SO VERY CONNECTED TO THEIR SITUATIONS,” he says.
One may also surmise that GREEN-EYED DEMON is an attempt by Benny to connect with others in the wake of so many severed relationships in his personal life. It’s not the only attempt either, evidenced by his relationship with prolific weird Twitter star Bill Ratchet. The two are not shy to shout each other out on social media, and Benny has even gone so far as to do so in his music. Their bond is a genuine display of appreciation and acceptance that spits in the face of toxic masculinity. This is the kind of relationship that suggests there is hope for humanity. Depression is a real and serious side effect of social media’s broad veneer. It’s apparent from both of these figures’ online activity that their private lives hold dismal truths. What Benny and Bill have in common (besides their initials) is a desire to love and be loved for that which lies far beyond a song, tweet, or mask.
Benny may be deeply committed to obscurity and exclusivity (he doesn’t follow or retweet anyone), but in a social landscape where clout has capitalistic implications, it’s likely that it’s all part of his plan. For all intended purposes, that plan is working. Benny likes to keep people confused because it keeps them thirsty for more. It keeps them desperate to be graced by his otherworldly wisdom.
“I think he’s aware of his internet fame and just wants to keep feeding the people Mr. REVIVAL because it’s came to the point where we almost crave it, and he knows it. Essentially, we are all Benny’s puppets but at the same time he is ours,” says Skrongmeat, another memer extraordinaire
Skrongmeat is one of the few people who have documented Benny (rather nicely too), and who has also been shouted out by Benny himself. In addition, he’s also one of the only portals out there to a now extinct form of the guy, one who actually took a poop in his garage and tweeted it to Florida rapper Pouya (NSFW, obviously). By the most bizarre twist of fate, Pouya retweeted it and thanked him. If shock value was his initial goal, it’s pretty hard to follow something like that up. Still, years have passed and Benny continues to stick to a simple formula that has viral written all over it. It’s honestly a little strange that he hasn’t had his 15 minutes of internet fame, but at the same time that could signal the downfall of his carefully curated gonzo brand. The social media underground is a gold mine of appropriation by the mainstream. Benny isn't interested in sharing his delectable slice of the pie. If he was then surely more people would know about him. At the same time, it’s rather inconceivable to think that anyone that high up on the social scale could even make sense of what he’s doing.
What exactly is next for Benny Revival? Based on the consistency of his music and social media, he shows no signs of slowing down. Despite the thematic darkness that he evokes, Mr. Revival is a beacon of light for those who share in his frustration and for those just looking for something more—whatever that may be. To label him a rapper, an influencer, or a storyteller would not even come close to doing him justice. Benny revival is as multidimensional as they come, unable to be defined by the mere byproducts of his utter strangeness. He is the anti-everything, and yet his unconventionality comes from a place of raw honesty and self-expression. As perplexing and unsettling as he is, Benny is simply exposing many a truth of the human condition. Under all those masks and behind all of the arcane language lies someone simply trying to make sense of the crazy, unforgiving world in which we all live.