It takes a lot of courage to be out and open in the hip-hop community, and yet Bennett comes off as fearless. It’s an attitude that’s carried over to the jubilance of his EPs and mixtapes, most recently Restoration of an American Idol that he released in Feb. 2017. You can hear similarities between Bennett and his brother -- they draw from the same pool of collaborators, like Donnie Trumpet and "iSpy" hitmaker Kyle -- and yet it’s the perspective and stance that differs.
Bennett is open and honest in his own way, intending to connect with his fans by being true to who he is. “I think a lot of times, in a lot of situations, all somebody needs to be themselves is support,” he says. There's a reason coming out doesn’t read as difficult for Bennett: His family was supportive, and his friends questioned him about why he didn’t tell them sooner.
And yet, hip-hop has a history of homophobia that runs to its roots, and he found himself braving hurtful comments from strangers on social media. “Somebody said, ‘This is why AIDS exists because y'all don't keep that s--t on one side,’” he continues. “People won't like you for being different. I also think a lot of those people think they can't be different. Eventually, you create an image and perception of yourself where you can't be that person, because if you’re not that person, then you're not being true to yourself and people don't know you. I think that's one of the big reasons I came out because my thing is, how can you support someone when you don't know them?”
The support has been overwhelming, particularly in hip-hop, given what he views as a turning tide in attitudes towards the LGBTQ community. He cites Migos, Lil Yachty and Young Thug as rappers that are turning stereotypes on their heads by “embracing being themselves and dressing the way you want to dress and talking the way you want to talk, and if you have a problem with it, then f--k you.” Still, he says, “I think hip-hop is pretty homophobic… But at the same time, you have to be yourself, and I think hip-hop is definitely getting towards the age where we're stepping out of the idea of being thugs and being this created stereotype that the system of America, I would say, has made us.”
For Bennett, bucking the idea of what someone should or shouldn’t be has been prevalent throughout his life. Hailing from West Chatham in Chicago, he always had a love of school, initially having dreams of becoming a forensic scientist but gravitated towards music, soaking in alternative artists like Regina Spektor and Death Cab for Cutie. He would rap with Chance as they grew up, but ventured out on his own in 2013, releasing his debut mixtape The Taylor Bennett Show and following it five months later with Mainstream Music.
Looking back on his musical maturation, he can see the progression from beginner to a more seasoned visionary. “I didn't expect to be a rapper, but it was my first attempt at trying to be a successful artist, and really making a project,” he recalls. To Bennett, The Taylor Bennett Show was rooted in storytelling, while Mainstream Music tried too much at once. Broad Shoulders, which arrived in Dec. 2015, brought him back to the beginning, but it was with Restoration of an American Idol that he feels like he truly came into his own.