The past decade gave rise to platforms in which artists create and promote their work independently of labels and managers. Truth exists online for its own sake, with each of us choosing to exhibit or evade identity, to take a profit or a loss.
Coming up at the height of the Internet age, BennY RevivaL curated a cryptic persona that could only exist in a time of SoundCloud rap and Twitter virality. He poses in various locations in full costume or a sweatsuit and a mask. He’s a loner, he says, so most of these photographs are taken by strangers. Captions of eschatology and personal anecdotes are fully capitalized, punctuated only by ellipses. Mr. RevivaL remains completely anonymous—his hands are the only exposed area of his body.
He swears it’s not for show, though, that he’s not hiding anything, that his music and his posts are indeed tied to his true identity. The feeling he gets from wearing a mask is what he imagines others feel when putting on earrings or a watch. To show his face and post it online would fall in the category of selfies, which he says he's not about.
BennY RevivaL is about prophecy. He’s got a sharp awareness of biblical scripture, evangelizing in songs and captions. Mr. RevivaL’s religion is straightforward: he studies the word of God, prays, and repents. He denounces anything occult: chakras, astrology, and mysticism are satanic to him.
“Anything kept in secret I hate and I despise,” said BennY RevivaL, “I despise keeping knowledge and wisdom and your opinions to yourself.”
As such, BennY RevivaL’s music is remarkably candid. Over high-tempo house-funk beats, BennY documents a cycle of sin and repentance. His tapes interpolate biblical scripture with hip-hop’s classic tropes of sex, drugs and delinquency. An air of shame hangs over every verse.
In his 2018 album HIV Positive, he faces the diagnosis of a chronic illness, reflecting on the consequences of sexual depravity. LAURA chronicles his conversations with an imaginary friend from a house on the prairie. NORTH FLORIDA hits close to home as Mr. RevivaL explores Jacksonville’s culture and crime in a spirit of love for the city.
His North Florida upbringing informed this religious anti-occultist complex. He spoke to Folio on the way that the Bible Belt constricts the holy scriptures’ core, and how notable Jacksonville preachers are less than righteous in their rise through the ranks.
“I feel like if you were really reading the word and meant it, you wouldn't have those handshakes, you wouldn't be wearing those rings,” he conspired, “There will be no true gospel coming out of a place that is involved with things that have nothing to do with the gospel. I’m here to expose it because I was involved.”
Though he’s quick to condemn others’ sinful ways, Mr. Revival isn't a saint himself. He showcases his sins in song, “as if Jeffrey Dahmer was praying through what he was doing,” he told Folio, “And letting you know what he did was wrong instead of trying to justify it.”
“I don't want to bring anybody to hell. I want to display myself and tell you not to be me. I'm gonna tell you the ending to this story, and the ending to BennY RevivaL living like this is hellfire and brimstone, and that should be the only thing on my obituary.”
“If I die like this, know I'm in hell burning,” said BennY RevivaL, “But I want to go to heaven.”
BennY has dodged several felonies – he lives a life of crime that started in his early youth, when he said he started seeing demons. He was troubled growing up and attended five different Duval County high schools as a result. Mr. RevivaL told Folio that he surrounded himself with people who are in prison now. Growing up in the segregated south, being around criminals throughout his life, he sees wickedness in this city and its murky waters.
“A lot of people were murdered and chained coming through the St. Johns River. A lot of bodies right now as we speak are dumped and not found in that river. I know personally,” he said with a chuckle, “I’ll leave it at that.”
BennY’s love for North Florida is palpable beyond the baggage and the curses. Jacksonville shaped everything from his speech to his style. He’s turned down almost every press opportunity, but agreed to an interview with Folio because it’s Jacksonville-based.
“People like me, that talk like I do, don't make it that far in life. Let alone anything entertainment or Hollywood. So me getting interviewed by Folio is very special,” said Mr. RevivaL.
A character so outlandish with such undeniable talent would surely be picked up by a label and sold as a product, one would think, but he’s not after money or notoriety. BennY admitted that he could be very wealthy right now, but turned it all away to live authentically in service to God – again, BennY RevivaL is about prophecy.
“I believe it that sincerely, to where I'll turn away money and I'll turn away opportunities for what I believe,” he said.
BennY RevivaL’s internet presence outside of his personal accounts, forums, and blogs is minimal. He doesn’t follow anyone on his social media accounts to limit public information on him. He releases music across several SoundCloud accounts on a principle of non-aggression: in his words, “Mr. RevivaL forces nothing and shows the utmost respect.”
He was featured on Blood Orange’s 2019 album Angel’s Pulse. The R & B icon referred to BennY as one of his “favorite artists ever.” Last year, he was featured on the B-side of Frank Ocean’s vinyl release for In My Room. These collaborations are the only works with BennY’s name on them that are available for purchase.
“Anything you’ve gotten from me was free,” said BennY, “I don't follow you, I don’t sell you anything, I don't have a song on Spotify. Other artists that I worked with put it out. I don't have no music videos out, I don't have no books out, I don't have anything for purchase from Mr. RevivaL.”“Please don’t get mad at me for something I gave you for free,” he continued, “Cause I ain't going nowhere. It don’t matter if I'm 60 years old, this music is gonna pump, these pictures are gonna pump.”
The following interview was edited for clarity. Mr. RevivaL's style of writing was left as he typed it.
Your music is deeply personal, but it’s not tied to your real-life identity. Is anonymity a strategy to protect or release your ego?
ANYTHING I EVER WRITE OR SAY IS INDEED ONE HUNDRED PERCENT ATTACHED TO MY REAL IDENTITY .. NO SERIOUSLY .. THERE IS NO ALTER EGO OVER HERE .. BennY RevivaL IS THE TRUTH .. NOT MY TRUTH .. BUT THE TRUTH .. ANYONE THAT HANGS AROUND ME LONG ENOUGH OR ALREADY HAS WILL SAY THIS IS FACT NOT PLEASURE .. EVERYTHING THAT Mr. REVIVAL PUTS OUT INTO THE WORLD IS WHAT HE REALLY BELIEVES & REALLY DOES FOR THAT MATTER .. THAT KIND OF EXPLAINS MORE TO WHY A DARN MASK COULD HAVE ZERO EFFECT ON ME MENTALLY .. ALL OF ME IS WHAT I SPEAK & WRITE .. NOTHING ALTER & DARN SURE NO EGO .. IN REAL LIFE I SPEAK LIKE THIS & TALK LIKE THIS .. BOLDLY ABOUT DIFFERENT TOPICS MOST ARE INTIMIDATED OF .. NO COSTUME OR MASK I WEAR HAS EVER SCARED SOMEONE LIKE MY MESSAGE DOES .. BUT BACK TO THE MAIN QUESTION I GUESS MY ANSWER IS YES & NO .. HELL I CAN NOT JUST SAY NO BECAUSE HERE IN THIS ANSWER I SAT HERE & SPOKE ABOUT MYSELF IN THIRD PERSON .. REMEMBER .. WHEN SAYING SOMETHING ABOUT Mr. REVIVAL PUTTING STUFF OUT INTO THE WORLD THAT HE REALLY BELIEVES & REALLY DOES .?. SEE .. HOW THE HELL CAN I SAY THAT THEN TURN AROUND & SAY THERE IS NOT A SMALL PERCENTAGE OF ALTER EGO RELEASING GOING ON OVER HERE .. SO SILLY .. NAH BUMP THAT .. THAT SEEMS SO PRIDEFUL & MYSTICAL WHICH I DETEST BOTH OF THOSE THINGS .. MY FATHER MADE ME AS ONE IN HIS IMAGE .. NO CONFUSION INGREDIENTS ADDED .. THEREFORE I WILL STICK TO MY FIRST RESPONSE AS THE FINAL ONE .. NO ALTER EGO RELEASING GOING ON .. THANKS FOR BEARING WITH ME THROUGH THESE LAST TWO QUESTIONS .. WE GONNA MAKE IT TO THE END HONEY .. HOLD ON ..
Does anyone know your real-life identity?
SEE .. MY IDENTITY IS REVEALED TO EVERYONE .. ANYONE I EVER PULL UP ON IT IS IN BARE FACE .. HERE I AM .. IF YOU WANT A MASKED FRIEND GO GET AN ACTION FIGURE OR A TEDDY BEAR .. THAT IS OF COURSE NOT MY THING TO SPEAK THE WAY I DO & THEN HIDE WHEN CONFRONTED OR CALLED UPON .. SEE .. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY ZERO ULTERIOR MOTIVE WITH MY DRESSING & MASKING UP .. IT IS NOT A GAME WITH ME OR AN ATTENTION SEEKING PLOT .. JUST MY REAL STYLE .. THIS STUFF IS AMAZING TO ME & I AM AMAZED BY IT SO OF COURSE I WOULD ADD THAT ELEMENT TO ANYTHING I DO .. IT JUST SO HAPPENS THAT I PLAY DRESS UP DAILY .. WHETHER IT IS SOMETHING RELAXED OR SOMETHING LEFT FIELD .. IT IS WHAT WAS FELT THAT DAY .. SAME GOES FOR ANY MASK CHOSEN .. IT IS JUST HOW I WAS ROCKING THAT MORNING WHEN GETTING DRESSED .. COME SHOPPING WITH ME .. SIP TEA SIP COFFEE .. COME HIKING WITH ME .. COME GROCERY SHOPPING WITH ME .. MY IDENTITY IS REVEALED .. LOOK AT A PICTURE OR VIDEO OF ME .. WELL THEN OF COURSE YOU ARE ONLY GOING TO FEEL OR SEE MY STYLE .. WHICH IS COSTUMES SWEATSUITS & MASKS .. SO SILLY .. NONE OF US KNOW EACH OTHER .. WHY SHOW EVERYONE WHAT I HAD FOR LUNCH OR WHO I AM FIGHTING WITH OR WHAT BILL IS DUE .. SWEETHEART OUR STYLE & OUR CREATIVITY IS ALL WE NEED TO WITNESS FROM ONE ANOTHER ONLINE .. IDENTITY IS REVEALED TO ANYONE WHO CARES FOR IT .. BUT BE HONEST .. DO YOU REALLY WANT IT .?. CALL ME BACK ..
How does hiding your face affect your psyche?
ME DOING SOMETHING LIKE PUTTING ON A MASK IN PUBLIC OR PRIVATELY FEELS EQUAL TO AN EMOTION FELT BY SOMEONE PUTTING ON A WATCH OR EARRINGS .. MY WHOLE EXISTENCE THINGS LIKE THAT SEEMED QUITE NORMAL .. IF DONE CORRECTLY & WITH RESPECT OF COURSE .. NEVER WOULD I ENDANGER OR PURPOSELY FRIGHTEN A CHILD OR ANYONE FOR THAT MATTER WHO NEVER CONSENTED FOR MY MASKED PRESENCE .. SO SILLY .. WHEN MASKED UP IN PUBLIC I AM IN MY OWN CIRCLE .. MY OWN SQUARE .. AVOIDING EYE CONTACT & ANY GESTURE THAT WOULD MAKE ME FEEL INVITING .. YOU CAN BET I STILL GET DIRTY LOOKS SOMETIMES OR STRANGE LOOKS TO BE FAIR .. BUT THEY CAN NEVER SHOW TOO DEEP OF OFFENSE BECAUSE IT WAS THEIR EYES FEASTING WHEN INSTEAD OF WALKING AWAY .. ALMOST LIKE THE FEELING OF WATCHING A BRUTAL KILLING OR FIGHT ON VIDEOTAPE .. SWEETHEART YOU ARE INDEED THE ONE WHO PRESSED PLAY ..
Name your musical and cultural influences.
GOOD & THE BAD .. GENIUS & THE DISABLED .. SAINT & THE SINNER .. LITTLE TO NONE OF THESE ENTITIES THAT MOST CONSIDER AS CULTURAL INFLUENCES DO I EVEN PAY ATTENTION TO .. ESPECIALLY IN POPULAR ART .. MODERN OR CLASSIC .. AT ALL LIKE SERIOUSLY .. GIVE ME A CLEAR BLUE SKY DAY IN THE MORNING & THEN BY NOON IT IS HAZY FROM LINES LEFT BY AIRCRAFT .. THAT INSPIRES ME .. GIVE ME A FOOD PRODUCT THAT HAS THINGS IN IT WE NEED A DICTIONARY TO INTERPRET .. THAT INSPIRES ME .. GIVE ME CASES WHERE PEOPLE ARE FOUND ORGANLESS IN DITCHES .. THAT INSPIRES ME .. ARTISTS .?. NAH .. SPIRITUAL BOOKS .?. NAH .. PROPHECY FULFILLED .?. NOW THAT IS ABSOLUTELY INSPIRING & INFLUENTIAL ..
What does Jacksonville mean to you?
NORTH FLORIDA SHAPED DARN NEAR EVERYTHING FOR ME .. FROM MY STYLE TO MY RELIGIOUS PRACTICE .. SO SILLY .. BUT NO REALLY .. NORTH FLORIDA SHAPED IT ALL FOR Mr. REVIVAL .. NOT JUST DUVAL .. BUT ST AUGUSTINE .. MIDDLEBURG .. CALLAHAN .. YULEE .. FERNANDINA .. WALDO .. STARKE .. GREEN COVE .. THE WHOLE FIRST COAST & ANYTHING BORDERING OR SURROUNDING IT .. BEING OUT OF THESE REGIONS REALLY LETS ME KNOW HOW ATTACHED I AM TO HERE .. FROM THE VIBE TO THE FOOD TO THE LINGO .. FROM THE DRESS CODE TO THE PREJUDICES THAT LIES DEEP HERE ON THE FIRST COAST .. IT IS IMBEDDED IN ANYONE WITH ROOTS HERE I BELIEVE .. SOME OF THE OLDEST HISTORY IN ALL OF AMERICA RESIDES IN THESE PARTS .. WHICH COMES WITH A WHOLE LOT OF BAGGAGE & WHOLE LOT OF CURSES .. SAY NO MORE .. JACKSONVILLE COME GIVE ME A HUG ..
Which one did you like best: Jackson, Sandalwood, or Paxon?
JACKSON BY FAR .. I WAS TROUBLED IN HIGH SCHOOL & LET ME TELL YOU .. THERE IS ALOT MORE TO GET INTO OUT EAST & ON PEARL STREET THAN ON ST JOHNS BLUFF .. SO SILLY .. WELL THAT IS .. IF YOU WERE INTO WHAT I WAS INTO DURING THAT PERIOD OF EDUCATION .. I WENT TO WOLFSON FOR 3 MONTHS BEGINNING OF MY FRESHMAN YEAR .. FIRST REPORT CARD IN HIGH SCHOOL WAS D D F B .. RIGHT THEN I KNEW THINGS WERE CHANGING FOR ME MORALLY .. SWEETHEART I RARELY GOT MORE THAN ONE B IN MIDDLE SCHOOL & DEFINITELY NOT IN ELEMENTARY .. HIGH SCHOOL WAS WHEN THINGS GOT DEMONIC TO SAY THE LEAST .. NEVER MADE IT PAST TENTH GRADE .. SANDALWOOD CAME DUE TO ME BEING KICKED OUT OF JACKSON .. WAS ONLY ONLY THERE FOR A FEW MONTHS BEFORE BEING KICKED OUT DUE TO ATTENDANCE .. JACKSON WAS BASICALLY MY MAIN HIGH SCHOOL & WHERE I STAYED THE LONGEST .. OH .. PAXON WAS NEVER ATTENDED .. MY OLD MAN HAD THE KEYS TO BOTH THE MIDDLE & HIGH SCHOOL GYM DUE TO HIS JANITORIAL BUSINESS PRACTICE ..
HIV Positive tells a poignant story of sexuality, chronic disease and repentance. Would you have released something so raw without an alias?
ONCE AGAIN .. THERE REALLY IS NO ALIAS .. I SAID WHAT I SAID & MEANT EVERY WORD .. NOW IF YOU TAKE THAT AS IT BEING A TRUE STORY ABOUT MY LIFE OR SEXUALITY OR REPENTANCE THAN IT IS TOTALLY UP TO THE LISTENER .. DEFINITELY SERVED ITS PURPOSE & THAT TAPE IS A ONE OF ONE .. DID NOT KNOW HOW AMAZING OF A CINEMA THAT COULD BE WHEN I MADE IT .. IT WAS A TOPIC THAT I DO NOT THINK MANY CAN SAY THEY HEARD MUCH ABOUT IN MUSIC .. JUST TAKE A LOOK AT ANYTHING TITLED FROM ME MUSICALLY & YOU WILL SEE WHAT IS BEING SAID & WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN MISSING .. WHEN IT CAME TIME FOR ANOTHER LOWERCASE SERIES THAT DEALT WITH LIFE & DEATH .. HIV Positive CAME INTO PLAY .. THAT MOVIE NEEDED TO BE TOLD IN MUSIC .. IF ONE CAN WRITE LYRICS ABOUT IMAGINARY WEAPONS & MONEY .. IMAGINARY LIFESTYLES & LOVE .. WELL NOW IT IS MY TURN .. COULD HAVE SWORE [sic] THAT IS WHAT CINEMA WAS .. Mr. REVIVAL IS JUST CAPABLE OF TAKING IT TO A LEVEL WITH UNCOMFORTABLE TOPICS LIKE WHAT WAS SAID IN THE FIRST ANSWERED QUESTION .. OH .. HOW ABOUT I EMBODY A CASE OF HIV FOR 2018 MENTALLY .. FIRST SENTENCE SPOKEN ON THAT TAPE EXPLAINS WHAT I WAS DOING .. MY FATHER BORE EVERY SIN & EVERY SICKNESS FOR US .. THE LEAST I COULD DO IS MAKE AT ATTEMPT AT TAKING ON ONE OF THOSE THINGS .. AS YOU LISTEN TO IT THE MESSAGE IS CLEARER & CLEARER .. MY FAITH IS CONTAGIOUS WHILE THEIRS IS UNDETECTABLE .. GENIUS IF YOU ASKED ME .. WHICH IS WHY IT WAS MADE .. SWEETHEART THIS EXPLANATION IS DRAWN OUT BUT REALLY WANTED TO MAKE IT CLEAR THAT ARTISTICALLY I AM SPECIAL .. WHETHER THE VIEWER SAYS IT IS SPECIAL NEEDS OR A SPECIAL BLESSING .. WAS CREATED TO SAY THESE THINGS .. ABSOLUTELY NO DISRESPECT TO THE COMMUNITY OF PEOPLE DEALING WITH THAT DISEASE .. HONEY THIS IS JUST HOW MY MIND WORKS .. MOVING WHEN THE SPIRIT TELLS ME TOO ..
How does your life of sin inform your work?
HONEY I AM THE GREATEST SINNER ALIVE .. ALL OF US ARE CAPABLE & UNDERHANDEDLY WILLING TO BE SICK IN EVERY WAY .. DAHMER OR GACY IS IN YOU .. JEZEBEL OR DELILAH IS IN YOU .. PUT THE CHRIST IN YOU TO OVERTAKE ALL OF THAT FOOLISHNESS .. TRUST ME BABYDOLL .. OR NOT .. CARRY ON WITH YOUR BAD SELF THEN ..
Your work carries a wavelength of occult mysticism. What informs these religious themes? Do you partake in any spiritual practices?
OCCULT .?. MYSTICISM .?. SPIRITUAL PRACTICES .?. RELIGIOUS THEMES .?. WELL WELL WELL .. ALL OF THOSE THINGS I DESPISE & SO DOES MY FATHER .. QUIT GOING EVERYWHERE .. QUIT TOUCHING EVERYTHING .?. WHO TOLD YOU THAT YOU WERE NAKED .?. ALL THOSE THINGS DID .. TRYING TO BE A GOD WHEN WE COULD NEVER CARRY THAT CROSS .. SEE .. ANYTHING HIDDEN & KEPT IN SECRET WHEN PERTAINING TO WISDOM IS BORDERLINE BLASPHEMY .. NO SMALL PERCENTAGE OF NO ONE DESERVES ANYMORE THAN THE OTHER .. THAT GOES FOR WISDOM AS WELL .. KEEP THAT ENLIGHTENMENT TO YOURSELF THOUGH .. TELL THE WHOLE DARN STORY .. YES YOU GET BY WITH THAT HANDSHAKE BUT WHAT DOES IT COST .. ETERNITY IS MY ANSWER .. YOU ARE IN BODAGE WITH THAT ATTITUDE & WILL BE RECYCLED IN HELL FOR PRACTICING MYSTICISM INSTEAD OF TRUE GOSPEL .. YEAH I SAID IT .. SEE .. I HOPE TO BE MORE CUT & DRY IN THE FUTURE .. ANYONE THAT EVER COMES ACROSS ANYTHING I DO OR DONE NEEDS TO KNOW FIRST HAND .. NO SAGE BURNING NO OCCULTISM & ABSOLUTELY NO MAGIC IN MY CORNER .. THIS DISTANCE IS MUCH DEEPER THAN SOCIAL .. SEE .. I REBUKE & BIND THOSE REALMS .. SWEETHEART THAT IS NOT YOUR DEAD AUNT OR DEAD UNCLE COMMUNICATING WITH YOU .. THAT IS A FAMILIAR SPIRIT .. SUGAR PLUM THOSE SPIRITUAL PRACTICES YOU PARTAKE IN WILL OVERTHROW YOU LIKE IT DID OUR ANCESTORS .. GET IN THE WORD .. LOSE CULTURE & WHAT MOMMY & DADDY INSISTS YOU BELIEVE IN & SEEK TRUTH .. A NEW REVELATION IS BEING REVEALED DAILY .. THAT IS ALL I WANT ON MY DAY TO DAY & WHENEVER ANYTHING IS RELEASED FROM ME .. WHETHER IT BE A SIMPLE PICTURE FROM A CELLULAR DEVICE OR A TUNE FROM A SIMPLE SOUNDCLOUD ACCOUNT .. MY DESIRE IS THAT YOU REALIZE IDEAS OF MORTALITY WILL NEVER EMBODY ME & I PRAY THE SAME FOR YOU .. NO REALLY I DO .. BLESS YOUR HEART ..