Comprised of Joshua Idehen (vocals, spoken word), Shanaz Dorsett (vocals) and multi-instrumentalist Tom Leaper, the London-based trio Benin City have received both national and international attention for a sound that meshes Afro-pop, hip-hop, spoken word and electronica in a seamless, club banging fashion. Interestingly, the trio’s forthcoming sophomore effort Last Night is slated for a April 6, 2018 release through Moshi Moshi Records, and the album reportedly is an ode to London’s nightlife and club scenes with the trio commenting on what their hometown’s nightlife scene has meant to them while expressing anger, frustration and weariness over a rapidly disappearing scene.
Certainly, as a New Yorker with some of my favorite venues and bars seemingly every few weeks, it leaves larger universal questions– what does it mean for your hometown and its culture? With nightlife being both an escape from the daily grind and its increasing horror, and a way for weird kids to find a supportive, loving, alternative family, it leaves some universal questions for anyone who loves nightlife and/or clubbing — namely, what does it mean for my city culturally and spiritually for these places to disappear because of gentrification? With a significant portion of the nightlife scene, they’ve found the supportive and loving family that has eluded them their entire lives, where do they find that sense of belonging and purpose — if their favorite club or bar closes?
With each individual member of Benin City spending the past decade of their lives in London’s nightlife scene as artists, ravers, bartenders, bouncers, bar backs and scenesters, drinkers and partiers, the album’s material emphasizers a larger sense of inconsolable loss. As the trio’s Joshua Idehen explains, “London nightlife has been our way out, our release, our daily escape. We’ve been clubbers, barmen, part / full-time drinkers. We’ve served cocktails and downed shots. We’ve found ourselves on dancefloors and lost our dinners on nightbusses. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve engaged in dumb drunken squabbles and we’ve found ourselves in strangers’ houses. We’ve danced to songs we didn’t know the name of. We made landmarks out of hidden corners of London: Passing Clouds, Ghetto, Trash Palace, Plastic People, Vibe Bar, Cable, Crucifix Lane. Those places, and the stories they held are gone for good as London becomes pricier and ever more grey. On this album are some of those stories: this is an ode to London’s nightlife.”
Last Night’s latest single “All Smoke, No Fire” consists of a minimalist, propulsive and club banging production featuring stuttering beats, an eerily repetitive and chiming synth line and an enormous yet sinuous hook over which Idehen and Dorsett rhyme about prototypical club situations and while noting that there’s a sense of needing nightlife to survive with one’s dignity and sanity intact even if the bouncer is an asshole or someone spilled their drink on you; but underneath that there’s a sense of anger and frustration over another beloved place disappearing forever.
Directed by Shaun Grant, the recently released video foe “All Smoke, No Fire” features nighttime footage of the London area and friends of the trio meeting in front of closed clubs, beloved landmarks and libraries, with the some of their friends speaking about the loss of their scene with a poignant and devastating honesty.