Benny Bizzie — “I have felt really fulfilled by helping someone and seeing them grow”
Benny brought a wealth of experience as a self-made grime and RnB artist to the Co-Pilot scheme
Starting out in grime
Benny Bizzie has been in the music industry for two decades and in that time has never stopped learning. He started his career at a moment when garage was morphing into grime and artists like Dizzee Rascal and Wiley were gaining attention. Benny grew up in North London and in his youth collaborated with artists from his area, the likes of Boy Better Know.
Despite being a grime artist, he was raised in and around the church so had a grounding in African music and RnB. Benny developed something close to a split personality: a rapper but at the same time writing soft melodic RnB tracks for brilliant singers who weren’t necessarily songwriters.
He spent 10 years of his life playing those two parts, meeting new producers and trying to build his own career from the ground up. Unfortunately, Benny suffered a breakdown in 2014 which was related to his mental health. Over the next four years he did not release any music and only in 2019 did he realise something had to change and he reached out for help.
Help Musicians were one of the few organisations that supported his process of seeing a professional, receiving help and recovering, and the charity have been a part of his life in the years since.
Becoming involved with Co-Pilot
It was post-recovery when Benny saw a tweet from the Ivors Academy about the Co-Pilot scheme with Help Musicians and thought it was right up his street. Not only was it a way of giving back to the charity after they had helped him, but throughout his career he has tended to act like a mentor to other musicians.
This scheme was a way to formalise the mentoring he had always been doing unofficially – if he could impart some of his experience and offer value to his mentee then that could be extremely positive.
Benny remembers the initial chemistry session with his mentee Christof went well. It was an opportunity to “listen to one another, see if our values were aligned, what his intentions were and how can I facilitate that.” Benny was relieved that things worked so smoothly between the pair of them.
Guiding a mentee
Benny recognised Chris’ drive and self-motivation as similar traits to his own mindset, but crucially wanted to be a sounding board for his mentee. He was keen for his mentee to find balance: take time out to reflect and, critically, celebrate your achievements. Hopefully this has made for a more enjoyable experience for his mentee.
When he started to organise and structure the Co-Pilot sessions, Benny felt it would be a good idea to set boundaries in terms of communication. The pair spoke every 4 – 6 weeks. Benny recognised Chris was a hard-working person so wanted to set him tasks that were challenging and not to be finished immediately.
They used a shared Google doc to note what was brought up in sessions, set goals and provide updates. Chris was able to tick challenges off and write about his experience — this was a useful reflective document. Chris could email Benny about anything urgent but there were clear boundaries set.
Learning to be patient
When asked what was the most valuable lesson he had learned from the Co-Pilot experience, Benny paused before replying: “Patience. I have learned to be more patient because I’m holding space for him and his career, his vision. You can easily get in the habit of wanting to interrupt that because you’re coming from a mentor perspective. I have to take myself out of the equation – this is Chris’ career, it isn’t the Benny show.”
Benny highlights an interesting paradox of being a mentor, that “as much as I don’t want him to make mistakes, I still need to allow him room to make them.” He was conscious that being too rigid with Chris, and offering advice like ‘this is how I did it, so this is how it should be done’, would only stop the organic element of mentee’s natural development.
Confidence and fulfillment
The other key things Benny gained were confidence and leadership skills. People might assume a mentor to be confident to begin with but Benny is an introverted person. Co-Pilot has allowed him to interact with someone else for a long period of time and build confidence and trust, developing his leadership skills over 6 months.
Benny has already been signposting people to the Co-Pilot programme, friends of his who “are mentors even though they don’t know they’re doing it.” He has been encouraging them to apply because not only is it a chance to develop your own leadership skills but there is a sense of fulfilment from giving back.
Reflecting on the eight sessions Benny said, “I have felt really fulfilled by helping someone along their journey and seeing them grow. It’s been a key point in Chris’ life and I was able to support him. It sounds simple but that’s something I will miss, a feel-good factor.”