Sibling rivalry is as old as the bible, causing family beef since Cain and Abel fought and died over one-upping each other to God. But how does it work in the music industry where the holy texts of 2014 are created and blasted onto the mighty internet daily? What’s it like to have a famous older sister while you’re starting from the bottom with your band, like Lykke Li’s brother Zacharias? What are the benefits of an unsigned, but explosive older brother who just happens to look and sound exactly like you, like Taylor Bennett, younger bro to Chance the Rapper? And what if your little step-sister got famous over night and hooked you up with an opening slot on her world tour like Grimes did for Jay Worthy? Here, three stories of being the still-aspiring sibling.
“We could have easily become the band like, Oh they got famous because of Lykke Li,” her young brother Zacharias Zachrisson said through Skype, “but she didn’t really have anything to do with the music that came out.”
He drums and writes lyrics for the Swedish psych rock band Tussilago. It’s lush and full-bodied like much of Lykke Li’s music, but more on the dreamy, surfer boy side of the spectrum. Listening to Tussilago is kind of like grabbing onto a Harry Potter portkey and zapping to a calmer, safer, warmer place. They’re currently working on editing and mastering their debut album, on which Lykke might sing. Other Swedish friends have been helping the group out much more than big sis, though, like the guys from Miike Snow and Dungen, another famous Swedish rock band. “What really has she done?” Zacharias asked himself, “She posted two videos on Facebook. That was like 20,000 hits during a night so that helped us a lot,” he said.
I call her and ask her a lot of questions about the industry. She knows a lot about that and we are such rookies.
She also hooks them up with insider industry information. Possibly the biggest benefit of having a more famous and experienced older sibling. “I call her and ask her a lot of questions about the industry. She knows a lot about that and we are such rookies,” he said as the rest of the band nodded in agreement.
And she lent Zach money to buy a new drumset. But are they actually close or has the music gotten between them? “No, I couldn’t say we’re that close. She’s away a lot and sometimes we don’t speak for a long long time. We’re kind of different, but we love each other still.”
I get on the phone with Jay Worthy a couple hours before he’s scheduled to have dinner with his little stepsister Grimes. Jay’s dad married Grimes’ mom when he was in ninth grade and they went to high school together, “We was homies by the time I was in twelfth grade and she was in tenth grade,” he said.
Somebody was like, ‘You’re on Pitchfork.’ I didn’t know what the fuck Pitchfork was. I was in the hood at the time.
He was working on music way before anyone knew Claire Boucher as Grimes (“My dad was like, ‘Yo, you gotta take her seriously’”) and at 18 he moved from Vancouver to Compton to work with Game on the Black Wall Street movement. That soon fell apart but in 2011, Visions exploded and in a Pitchfork interview, Grimes mentioned her big bro, “My oldest stepbrother is a rapper. He’s called Jay Worthy. He’s pretty tough, pretty crazy… We want to collaborate.” Jay jumped right back into the music game releasing melodic, instrument-heavy rap, “Somebody was like, ‘You’re on Pitchfork.’ I didn’t know what the fuck Pitchfork was. I was in the hood at the time,” he said. “That’s when I got hip to this shit and dropped my first little mixtape.”
Jay jumped right back in and started making a name for himself around Compton and South Central LA, went up to Fairfax and was introduced to the local heads like Odd Future, released a mixtape with DJ Mustard, and is about to put out a string of concept mixtapes featuring Mike G, Chuck Inglish, and YG. He’s focused on his own music now, but his little sis Grimes is one of the reasons why he decided to push forward with music. “She brought me on tour with Visions. That’s when I started taking music seriously and changing my life around,” Jay said.
“I think its cool because people see that we fuck with each other because we’re so different to the public eye, but she knows the real me,” Jay explained. “For the most part I’m pretty chill and I think that’s where we connect.” For him, she’s opened up his reach and scope to include Pitchfork and worldwide Grimes fans, but is this a two way street? Has Jay’s career helped Grimes? “She’s a big artist and I’m just starting my shit right now, but maybe in the street. Shit. Maybe I give her some street credit.”
Taylor Bennett picks up the phone and his voice is uncanny; I’ve heard it on Acid Rap, a Justin Bieber album, riding shotgun with James Blake. I can’t help myself so I say the obvious, “Wow, you sound exactly like Chance.”
“Yeah, that’s my brother,” he deadpans, not quite happy that’s the first thing I brought up. Chance The Rapper is only 20 years old, but Taylor’s younger—18 to be exact—and he’s already selling out shows in Chicago off of his debut mixtape The Taylor Bennett Show. He’s got a second called Mainstream Music coming this spring.
Up until about a year ago he was just my brother. We’ve always rapped, we’ve always freestyled with each other, so it’s not really about trying to stand out.
The story so far is very similar to Chance, but Taylor adamantly denies any overlap, competition or even connection with chance musically. “Up until about a year ago he was just my brother. We’ve always rapped, we’ve always freestyled with each other, so it’s not really about trying to stand out. It’s just trying to be the best rapper ever. Develop your skills to match your greatness,” Bennett said, working hard to separate himself from his big bro, without being too obvious about it. “I just do as much as I possibly can with my music. It’s all me,” he added.
“He’s a talented artist and he definitely kind of brought some attention towards me, but without the level of writing and the product being as good as it is, it wouldn’t sell right,” Bennett said, but the access to privilege is there. The Save Money fountain of talent are also Bennett’s “older brothers,” even though he’s not part of the crew himself, and he’s spent time with Twista ever since Chance linked up with the Chicago legend for “Cocoa Butter Kisses.”
Taylor doesn’t send Chance his music early for opinions and feedback, but is quick to say there’s no competition, “He has the same agenda like me which is to just be the best possible artist that we can be. We’re not going against each other, we’re going against the world.” But with all the positives of not only being related to an overnight superstar like Chance, but also looking and sounding like identical twins, there are undeniable negatives. “Do you have any questions that don’t relate to Chance?” Bennett asked about halfway through our chat. But for now, the spotlight is on Chance. Let’s see who signs first.