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When Benny Cassette sold his busted Mazda to buy the same beat-making machine he spotted Kanye West using in videos, he had no idea how to work it. He also had no idea that one day he’d be playing the beats he made on it for Kanye West.

But there it was, the golden ticket: A booked flight from L.A. to Paris landed in Benny’s inbox one morning in 2013, courtesy of the music industry’s Willie Wonka, Kanye West.

“With $120 to my name, I’m at Ye’s house in Paris. I hit play like, this is it. God put me through these crazy, long ass years of the journey to get to this moment. This is the moment that’s gonna erase any doubt, fear, any second guessing I may have lingering inside of me,” Benny says. “And that is exactly what happened.”

Yet even after West personally signed him to his G.O.O.D. Music label and asked him to hole up in France and help out with the Yeezus production, Benny knew he couldn’t coast. He swore he wouldn’t be the guy nobody cared about until it was time to reminisce over the 10-year-anniversary of Yeezus.

“I was the new hot guy, but I really saw how easily I could become a casualty,” he says. “I knew I had to make some stuff happen or I’d be the guy who worked with Kanye for a year and you never heard from again.”

No chance of that now. To say Benny “made some stuff happen” is an understatement. With credits from genre-bender Miguel, soulful hippie Allen Stone and powerhouse label Top Dawg Entertainment’s SZA and Isaiah Rashad to current work with Grammy-winning country darlings The Band Perry, he’s built a diverse, vibrant production resume. But since the release of his gut-wrenching single “Empires,” which Rolling Stone praised as being “emotive like Sting,” the singer has also been hurtling toward recognition as an artist. Culled from a surprising source—letters he wrote to everyone from ex-girlfriends to his grandmother—Benny Cassette’s Broken Hearts and Dollar Signs is poised to shift the musical landscape with its slick production and unflinchingly honest, heartbreakingly vulnerable lyrics.

Growing up in L.A.’s Latino neighborhoods as an Italian-American, Benny was bused to all-black schools and reared by his Spanish grandmother, who cajoled him to sound more like her favorite singer, Julio Iglesias.

“I had to speak one way at school, speak Spanglish in the hood, and speak Castilian Spanish with my Grandma. Pops was around when I was super young and listened to jazz and classical stuff. In the neighborhood, Art Laboe was a superstar. On the bus, all rap. The skater kids would listen to new wave,” he explains. “I had all these different references from growing up in these different cultures that I could pull from organically.” 

In his teens, he fell in with a youth performance group. “I got addicted to performing and using that to connect to other people in a way I’d never connected before. That’s when I knew I needed to figure out how to make music and do this for a living,” he says. “Then I was like, how do I get good at this?”

Considering he couldn’t sing, play instruments or make tracks, it was tricky, but he was determined. Selling his raggedy car and buying the beat machine, he put his head down and a year later was polished enough that he began selling his neighbors beats. 

And then his grandmother got sick. He dropped everything to care for her, but things went from bad to worse when all at the same time, she passed away, Benny broke up with a girl he loved and realized he was dead broke.

“Right before my grandmother passed, she said, ‘Mijo, go do your music,’” he remembers. So he made three “therapy songs.” He thought they were cool and still knew a couple people in the industry, so he passed them along. They wrote back immediately, gushing.

A publisher heard the tracks and dragged Benny to a party where he met an A&R executive. The A&R called and asked him to come to the studio, and a couple days later, Benny was, much to his disbelief, back in the music business.

Three years later, Benny is releasing his own highly anticipated project. Comprised of letters he wrote while lonely and on the road last year, the innovative Broken Hearts and Dollar Signs is a stunning, cohesive collection that leaves as unique and indelible a footprint as its creator does.  

But there it was, the golden ticket: A booked flight from L.A. to Paris landed in Benny’s inbox one morning in 2013, courtesy of the music industry’s Willie Wonka, Kanye West.

“With $120 to my name, I’m at Ye’s house in Paris. I hit play like, this is it. God put me through these crazy, long ass years of the journey to get to this moment. This is the moment that’s gonna erase any doubt, fear, any second guessing I may have lingering inside of me,” Benny says. “And that is exactly what happened.”

Yet even after West personally signed him to his G.O.O.D. Music label and asked him to hole up in France and help out with the Yeezus production, Benny knew he couldn’t coast. He swore he wouldn’t be the guy nobody cared about until it was time to reminisce over the 10-year-anniversary of Yeezus.

“I was the new hot guy, but I really saw how easily I could become a casualty,” he says. “I knew I had to make some stuff happen or I’d be the guy who worked with Kanye for a year and you never heard from again.”

No chance of that now. To say Benny “made some stuff happen” is an understatement. With credits from Miguel’s slinky “NWA” and soulful bout-to-blow newcomer Moxie to piano-driven ballads for Mary Lambert and current work with Grammy-winning country darlings The Band Perry, he’s built a diverse, vibrant production resume. But since the release of his gut-wrenching single “Empires,” which Rolling Stone praised as being “emotive like Sting,” the singer has also been hurtling toward recognition as an artist. Culled from a surprising source—letters he wrote to everyone from ex-girlfriends to his grandmother—Benny Cassette’s Broken Hearts and Dollar Signs is poised to shift the musical landscape with its slick, Ye-approved production and unflinchingly honest, heartbreakingly vulnerable lyrics.

Growing up in L.A.’s Latino neighborhoods as an Italian-American, Benny was bused to all-black schools and reared by his Spanish grandmother, who cajoled him to sound more like her favorite singer, Julio Iglesias.

“I had to speak one way at school, speak Spanglish in the hood, and speak Castilian Spanish with my Grandma. Pops was around when I was super young and listened to jazz and classical stuff. In the neighborhood, Art Laboe was a superstar. On the bus, all rap. The skater kids would listen to new wave,” he explains. “I had all these different references from growing up in these different cultures that I could pull from organically.”

In his teens, he fell in with a youth performance group. “I got addicted to performing and using that to connect to other people in a way I’d never connected before. That’s when I knew I needed to figure out how to make music and do this for a living,” he says. “Then I was like, how do I get good at this?”

Considering he couldn’t sing, play instruments or make tracks, it was tricky, but he was determined. Selling his raggedy car and buying the beat machine, he put his head down and a year later was polished enough that he began selling his neighbors beats.

And then his grandmother got sick. He dropped everything to care for her, but things went from bad to worse when all at the same time, she passed away, Benny broke up with a girl he loved and realized he was dead broke.

“Right before my grandmother passed, she said, ‘Mijo, go do your music,’” he remembers. So he made three “therapy songs.” He thought they were cool and still knew a couple people in the industry, so he passed them along. They wrote back immediately, gushing.

A publisher heard the tracks and dragged Benny to a party where he met the A&R of G.O.O.D. Music. The A&R called and asked him to come to the studio, and a couple days later, he called back and said, “Kanye wants to sign you and is gonna fly you to Paris.”

With the groundbreaking Yeezus under his belt, Benny now is releasing his own innovative project. Comprised of letters he wrote while lonely and on the road last year, Broken Hearts and Dollar Signs is a stunning, cohesive collection that leaves as unique and indelible a footprint as its creator does.

“I was eating ramen and couchsurfing two years ago,” he says, a note of incredulity creeping into his voice.

Clearly, fairy tales still have happy endings.