Rising lyricist all about his words, culture and community
Benjamin “Spek Won” Addy is one of a kind.
Dressed in a dark grey T-shirt, capris sweatpants and red sneakers, he walks on stage as the intro to his song “Africa Forever” hums in the background. As it gets louder and louder he pats his chest, and lip-syncs to a Bob Marley speech sampled for the song.
After introducing himself to the crowd of screaming fans and peers, gathered at the Future Sounds event during this year’s Manifesto festival, he follows up with songs off his latest LP Sofa King Amazing.
Although the name Spek Won leans towards the clever and slightly cocky through its play on words for spectacular and wonderful, he describes himself humbly: “I am far less complicated than you’ll think I am.”
When it comes to his vibe and sound, he accurately describes it like this: “thought provoking … and tedious. I really take my time when I make songs so that they have layers and levels to them so every time you listen to me you catch something new.”
Fittingly, Spek asks audience members to “pay attention” during his performance. It’s a must in order to fully catch the poignant stories he tells in his poetic, chilled out rhymes, which he dubs “meditation music”.
On “Black Body”, for example, Spek paints a vivid picture of why police brutality is not exclusively an American issue and helps to draw attention to the fact that it happens in Canada as well.
The powerful video for the song incorporates Spek’s African roots and west end Toronto community. In some scenes, Spek and partner Shi Wisdom, who recently gave birth to their son and is featured on the track, are dressed in traditional Ghanaian clothing with a raw forest backdrop to highlight the beauty and power in their words, culture and melanin.
Written shortly after he learned of the killing of Mike Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, Spek says “Black Body” took him little time to get onto paper.
“I mean it just came straight from the heart,” he explains.
This honest, relatable storytelling is found throughout his music. The song “Rexdalien”, for instance, pays homage to Toronto’s Rexdale neighbourhood, one of the areas he, and the track’s featured artists Dey and Quentin Vercetty, grew up in.
“I want people to know that I care about what I say and how I say it.”
Often inspired by film, Spek says he aims for his lyrics to be the type that stick in a person’s heart – something the lyricist feels is less common in today’s music than when he was growing up.
“I want people to know that I care about what I say and how I say it,” he explains.
And it seems that they do.
Longtime friend of the rapper, DJ Soul Child says Spek’s energy is pure. “His work ethic is different, committed and honest.”
Entertainment personality and creator of The Known Unknown showcase in Toronto and New York City, Tika Simone, says as a fellow ‘Rexdalien’ she is proud of Spek and what he’s accomplished.
“It’s beautiful to watch him grow as an adult, father and a man,” says Simone. “I don’t know too many people who have come out of Rexdale and [have] done magnificent things.”
For the next few months Spek says he will remain focused on his newborn son, letting his fans marinate on Sofa King Amazing, but at the top of the year he will return to the studio ready to make music again.
Photos By. Chantal “Rose” Gregory © Urbanology Magazine