Winfield is a long way from Compton, but the message of youth angst in African American culture resonates with Kris Bentz.
As a teenager growing up in Lake Country after relocating from Saskatoon with his family, Bentz began to develop a passion for hip hop music during the early 1990s, listening to the likes of NWA, Public Enemy and Dr. Dre.
“When I moved to B.C. I started to listen more to hip hop music and it really took an uptick when I moved to Vancouver after graduating high school,” Bentz said.
There he became more submerged in the urban music culture.
“It was a lot easier to access the music and I thought it would be awesome to make a living at it.”
Bentz said he developed a love for both the music and rap lyrics, which he calls a form of poetry that creates abstract images, even if life in Compton shared little in common with the rural Okanagan.
But Bentz had another passion, health care. It offered more long-term security, so he enrolled in a naturopathic college in New Westminster.
During his next four years of study, Bentz didn’t shutdown his creative, musical side, penning about 25 songs of his own.
After graduating, his contacts in the urban music scene enabled him to hook up with producer Q-Theory to perform a track on his compilation album Design By Chance.
“The album was received very positively in what was then the electronic music genre (that was) developing back at that time in 2006,” said Bentz.
It was starting to hit online and the release of the CD was about to happen when (Q-Theory) took his own life.
“He was suffering from depression to the point of being suicidal, and that sidelined everything. Nobody could believe it but that music experience gave me some insight into the power of online marketing of music and the direction that was headed.”
Bentz returned his attention to his health career, developing a practice both in Vancouver and Kelowna that focused on working with corporate executives, musicians, actors and athletes to find healthy ways besides drugs to maintain their required high energy and creative career needs.
“I kept writing songs during that time but I knew I would have to elevate my game in order to compete in the urban music genre, which is highly competitive.”
Bentz has now reached a point in his life where he wants to go all-in on forging a new career as a hip hop artist, calling himself Dr. BENTZ and working on a new album with the support of well-known hip hop producer David Snow and other artists such as Wiz Khalifa, G-Unit and YMCMB to both work on those 25 original tracks he wrote and to develop new music as well.
He said he went the all-caps version for artistic name because “it just had more pop to it.”
While many have predicted hip hop’s demise, Bentz feels the genre is continuing to evolve, returning to its politically conscious roots after getting sidetracked by the gangster rap and celebrity drug phases.
For Bentz, that means writing about sky-rocketing real estate costs, lack of affordable housing, income inequality and corporate greed.
“Hip hop is a reflection of urban culture. If you analyze urban art, it keeps changing and evolving as new images are presented for painters to capture. I think hip hop is the same way with music, painting new pictures of what is happening in our world, our city and all around us,” he said, referring to himself as writing “next level hip hop” songs with a synthesizer-dominated progressive music beat.
“You are seeing artists like Kendrick Lamar and Drake taking hip hop back to that social conscious era, where they talk about real life issues that are more tangible. They are giving people more emotional content that will resonate and connect on a personal level.”
The first single from the album, Rising Up, has been released online and others are expected to follow in anticipation of the CD album release.
“I think 2019 is going to be a significant career year for me music-wise. (I) have the new single out now and others will follow during the course of this year,” he said.