How my brother beat his demons and reclaimed his dream

Several years ago, when he was deeply entrenched in the shit of life, I wondered if my brother would make it to even 30 years of age. I used to wake up in the night in fright, worried that something had happened to him. I used to get calls from the cops when they’d pick him up somewhere around town, drunk off his ass, and I used to try to set him straight, but it never worked.


I didn’t understand it at the time, but deep down, Ben had a burning desire to right himself, and for whatever reason he really needed to hit rock bottom to realize how beautiful life can be. He needed to come to terms with his demons in order to find happiness.

No words can express how proud I am of him for pulling himself out of the gutter and getting his life back together, but I’m equally as proud of him for reclaiming his dream of becoming an MC.

Here’s his first official video, released last week (some explicit content):

Since the third grade, when he wrote his first song, titled “The Third Grade Rap,” he’s displayed some real talent for expressing himself through lyrics and rhymes, and since high school he’s been getting up on stages and giving it all he’s got.

I used to tease him about his dream when we were younger, used to tell him that a white kid from North Deering would never be a rapper, and when he was living on the streets from 40 ounce to 40 ounce, I told him he was nuts to still be thinking about the rap thing, and that he needed to just forget about that nonsense and figure out how to stay sober and employed.

Ben wasn’t having it though. Instead, he used his dream as motivation, as a driving force to do all that other stuff like finding the help he needed, putting the booze down, getting back to work and putting a roof over his head.

As his mind cleared and the pieces of his life started coming back together, he held onto his dream, and started working towards it with a focus unlike I had ever seen in him.


Anthony Marshall Photography.

I’ve worked with a lot of people battling addictions and struggling with homelessness, and anyone who I’ve seen be able to recover has done so because they found a purpose, some form of hope to hold onto.

The irony of it all is that, after seeing all the awful stuff that he saw and dealt with during his time on the unforgiving streets of Portland, his life experience allows him to delve into some really gritty, raw stuff when he’s up on stage or in the booth.


In a way, overcoming all that hardship made him a stronger MC, it certainly made him a stronger man.

That isn’t to say that I’m happy he went through all that crap, but I am so proud of him for making it back from the brink, and also for coming back stronger than ever before.

We are all the accumulation of our lived experiences, and when it comes to all the stuff that a place like Portland can throw at a person, there aren’t many who’ve been through more than my little bro.

There’s no one more Portland than him, you can feel it in the gravel of his voice, or the confidence of his delivery, and you can hear it in the lyrics of his songs.


Anthony Marshall Photography.

Now, after months of hard work (not to mention years of preparation), MC Benny Shorr has dropped his first official music video, and it fittingly features him walking through the streets of Portland, delivering his own brand of news, proclaiming to the world that he’s back, and he’s here to stay.

No matter what gets thrown his way.

Chris Shorr

About Chris Shorr

Chris is a sixth generation Portlander who loves all things Maine. He has worked with mentally ill and marginalized adults at a Portland non-profit, on a lobster boat in Casco Bay, at several high-end Portland restaurants, and at a local meat packing plant. He also ran for Portland City Council in 2013, wrote a weekly column in the now defunct Portland Daily Sun, and currently writes a weekly column in The Portland Phoenix.