Benny Demus: Representer of the Virgin Islands

By :- Janette Brin

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Benny Demus
Benny Demus
Benny Demus

POSH: When did you first realize that you wanted to be more than a DJ but rather an Entertainer and perhaps one of the most active VI Ambassadors?

Benny: I realized I wanted to be more than just a DJ about 4yrs into my career with Akon. I started to notice my other talents were going unnoticed the bigger I became as a Tour DJ and that started to really wear on me. I use my other talents as my balance. So I decided to start taking an acting class to become a better actor, I started making more beats for other artists, I started putting out my own rap albums and so on. It worked out because it showed other people from the Virgin Islands that you don't have to be one thing to make a name for yourself. U can actually be good at other things and showcase them.

POSH: Why have you found it so important to basically use your celebrity to help others?

Benny: I feel it's very important for me to use my celebrity to help others because there are many people in the world who need to be uplifted and motivated. When I was a troubled teen living on St. Thomas I always wanted someone to just talk to me, show me that I can do more with myself. There were a few people who did try to do it but they seemed to be on the same level as me so it wasn't too motivating. But now that I've accomplished so much and established myself as a name brand, now I know people listen to me when I speak so I use that to help and motivate and try my best to steer others in a better direction.

POSH: Do you think that as a community we underestimate the power of music to motivate and inspire our young people?

Benny: I honestly feel that there are many people in power in the Virgin Islands and in the Caribbean who don't look at music as a motivator. A lot of Caribbean Islands are run by older people who are stuck in their own ways and are afraid of change. I reach far more younger people with my music and presence than they do; yet I’m frowned upon because of my background, my past and my methods of getting my point across -- but I do things my way to get the results. For years we have tried their way and it does not work.

POSH: When I first came to know you, people would always refer to you as "Akon's DJ" - you were also very influential in the careers of such acts as Rock City aka Planet VI - but today you're so much more than that. How did Benny the Actor come to be?

Benny: Akon's DJ,  Eve's DJ,  Planet VI's DJ, Verse Simmonds' DJ,  all of that is great. I love DJing for every last one of those GREAT Artists but I am Benny-Demus and my name was being lost in the shuffle. I was always the man next to the man and in acting I get to be that individual. No matter if I’m the lead or the Co-Star or just an extra on set. I also always liked the idea of pretending to be someone else on film. So once film maker/director, John P. Wheatley, introduced me to my acting teacher, Dwayne Boyd, of Premiere Actors Network (P.A.N.) I knew this was the next step of my career. I just dived in and I really love it. I love being an Actor.

POSH: You have several projects going on including a recent movie project called "Island Song" - We've seen the poster which features you walking near the beach with a machete in hand. Appears to be a huge transformation from DJ/Rapper. Tell us about the concept behind this movie and why you decided to do a film like this? Who do you play in this movie? It's filmed in the Virgin Islands - is it a story based in the VI?

Benny: Island Song is a short film project I auditioned for over the phone. The director, David Massey, needed to hear my voice and hear how I deliver some powerful words. He loved it and offered me the role of "Zerai", a renegade islander who has removed himself from everyday society to live in the wild. He's not too fond of Drug Pushers, dirty Politicians and faulty Business Men and uses his own brand of crime fighting to bring them to justice.

The film is about a Radio DJ from LA named, Maurice, who handles dirty business for his friend who is locked up in jail. After a situation gets sticky in LA, Maurice is sent to the islands to oversee a Business Transaction. But that goes completely sour and an adventure ensues. The story of the film isn't based on the Virgin Islands. A portion of it just takes place there.

The movie was recently screened in LA at the Pan African Film Festival, what was that experience like? And what is next for "Island Song" - any date yet on a showing in the Virgin Islands?

The screening of Island Song in LA at the Pan African Film Festival was a very good experience for me. To be amongst other people who are doing the same things as u, have the same dreams and aspirations, seeing other films, meeting other actors and directors and writers. It was really a great experience. We won the Audience Award in our category of five films being screened. After the screening they asked for all actors, directors and writers to come to the front of the theater for Q&A and when I got the mic to say my name and the character I played, I got a standing ovation from the audience. That felt good because it shows that other people appreciate your hard work.

Right now David Massey is making arrangements with the theaters on St. Croix and St. Thomas to have Island Song shown there so the Virgin Islands people can enjoy seeing their islands and friends in a short film. I hope it can be done this year. This will be a really good thing to inspire others to become film makers and actors.

POSH: Besides the movie - what has you real excited right now?

Benny: I've been really excited lately because of all the things I’m working on already this year. I'm about to put out my 5th self recorded album called "Red Sands 2". I'm acting in an independent movie called, "Welcome to the Derrty Derrty", Anything Ill from Planet VI and I have created a new group called the "Island Boy Cartel" that also consists of Uptown AP of Planet VI, Kardinal Offishall from Toronto, Kissinger from Tortola and Prya from St. Croix. The album has been turning out crazy so far. I'm working on the 2nd "Home Grown Concert" with Tito Dowe that's giving our top artists from the Virgin Islands a platform to perform on and trying to branch it out to other islands. That has me excited too. And i'm most excited about Season 3 of my webisode movie, "Eeazy". It's already written by myself and Frank C. Matthews, who wrote the book, "Respect The Jux", that's in like every book store in the world. I'm doing my location scouting for scenes now. It's going to be a great year. Benny-D. Said It!!!

POSH: Since I've last seen you, I see you've taken time to grow a full beard - LOL! Was this for the movie or simply a new thing you got going on?

Benny: The Beard -- The beard came about when Akon started recording his new album. He said we both are gonna grow out our beards and not shave until the album is done. Well after a while I started to like my beard and didn't want to part ways with it so I kept it. I think it works for my look. Keeps me recognizable no matter where I go along with my Mohawk, which is now dyed Plum Purple for a new film I’m acting in. I might just go ahead and keep this one too.

Part of Benny D has always been about having your own sense of style. What are you feeling right now as far as style and fashion?

You know what, when it comes to style and fashion I just always had my own ideas to put out there. I usually do whatever I feel and people follow it. The best thing about me is that I’ve never been afraid to try or do things. The Mohawk was never a style done in the Virgin Islands. When I first came back home with it I remember people laughing at me as if I was walking through the mall wearing High Heels. Nowadays when I come back home it feels like the Mohawk is the new Fade haircut. Men and women have it. I smile at it now. I was actually brought to Liberia, West Africa by President Ellen Johnson Sir leaf and made a Global Ambassador to the country because I have been so influential to the people. She said that I was the first person to bring the Mohawk Liberia and now many people, men, women and children have been doing it. And the best part to that, besides being honoured by the President of Liberia, is that they don't call it a Mohawk...they call it a "Benny-D."

POSH: Where does your passion for creativity come from?

Benny: My creative passion just comes from inside of me. I've always wanted to create. I've always looked at everything in three or four different ways from everyone else. I would look at something and challenge myself to make it better or step it up. That goes for a film, a concert, being a club DJ, being a motivational speaker, a representer of the Virgin Islands, no matter what it is I just look at creative ways to make it better.

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