Fonzworth Bentley is better known as the guy who converted thugs to clean-cut chaps on MTV’s From G’s to Gents. Some also remember him as Diddy’s old umbrella-wielding personal assistant or maybe even for shaking a leg in Big Boi’s “The Way You Move” video years ago. But few recall that Kanye West signed the Morehouse alum to G.O.O.D. Music as a rapper in 2005. His debut album, Cool Outrageous Lovers of Uniquely Raw Style or C.O.L.O.U.R.S. was slated to drop in 2008, but was delayed after several issues.
But this year Bentley’s hues will shine bright. Calling VIBE from his home in Atlanta, the E1 Music artist talks about what the holdup was, why people didn’t believe and hopefully hitting the studio with Kanye in Hawaii soon. If his schedule allows.
VIBE: People have seen a lot of you, but really don’t know you. Will you album help?
Fonzworth Bentley: I met a young lady at the Super Bowl and she said, “Every time I see you, I get a different impression of you. I’ve really enjoyed your journey. But a lot of people don’t know much about me. This is going to be an extremely transparent body of work. There have been some incredible mountains that I’ve had to climb. It’s a soundtrack to the movement. It’s eclectic.
You’re style really doesn’t blend well into what people know rappers to be, even as diverse as the game is becoming.
I believe that we’re all wonderfully and purposefully made. So often, there are many distractions and pressures that get us to go this way or that way, trying to fit in and be cool. But the reality is when you take the time and really understand who you are and whose you are, you gain a confidence in that uniqueness. One of the things that this game has always loved about me is that I’ve always been myself and never tried to be anything I’m not. It’s being celebrated. Yeah, I’m different. But we’re all different. The record will ultimately inspire folks to be confident in their own uniqueness. That’s what we need.
Back in 2008, you had a few singles, “Laid Back” and “Everybody” with Kanye West and Andre 3000. Why has it taken so long for the project to release?
A lot of artists support and love what I’m doing artistically. But the labels didn’t understand or believe. I went and played that record for, you name them, and I played it for them and pitched them my ideas. They looked at me like I was crazy and said it was impossible to get done. After Sony Urban dissolved, different folks did deals at different places. I had to give the game a phenomenal, historic moment. That was the first time Andre 3000 and Kanye had ever been on a record together. I had to let people know that I’m here, I’m working and this is going to happen. It was still G.O.O.D. music, but I had to put that out to secure distribution. Folks think that when you’re on TV, it should be easy. It’s not.
And I’m sure since you’re not the typical rapper, it was a bit tougher to find and open mind.
Another part that people need to understand is that I am a rebel. I have a rebellious point of view. But people don’t look at it like that, because the status quo is so potent. People think it’s rebellious to say, “I’m dropping out of school.” Or “I’m going to jail.” Or “I have baby mommas.” That’s not rebellious! That’s the status quo, brother. I’m sitting here writing the etiquette book. I’m telling kids to go to school. There are folks who don’t want to see this point of view come to light. How could you say “No” to something as exciting and as impactful as that “Everybody” video? I shot that with my own money, got a new director from USC film school named Dion Watkins who had never shot a video in his life.
So what can people expect from you this year?
I’m working on a mixtape. I didn’t want to. But I’m working on one so that I can get my art out there and give people something to ride to and understand what to expect from me. And I’ll be putting out a DVD and the record at the same time. They will get Cool Outrageous Lovers of Uniquely Raw Style this year.
Is Kanye still on your team?
Oh yeah. Without a doubt. He was trying to get me to come out the Hawaii last week. That’s where he’s recording. But my schedule wouldn’t permit. I’m going to try my best to get out there before February’s out.
So it’s going to be a Bentley summer?
Why not? [Laughs]. —Brad Wete