New artist spotlight: Rap artist Bonda battles the odds


Media production junior Benjamin Onda, also known by his stage name, “Bonda,” battled years of addiction until returning to his passion for rap in the hip-hop industry. | Courtesy of B Luce

Saying his life was a living nightmare would be an understatement, media production junior Benjamin Onda said. His freshman and sophomore years at the University of Texas in San Antonio brought life-like demons that even his raps couldn’t smack away — craving addictions to drugs like hydrocodone, marijuana and Xanax, as well as alcoholism.

“Every day, you wake up and you’re depressed because you’re a slave to the substance. Every person knows someone who has been affected by drug addiction and alcoholism,” Onda said. “Everybody knows somebody that’s an alcoholic and a drug addict.”

Mornings weren’t always gloomy. Onda was a smart kid who scored high on an IQ test at five years old. Despite his ADHD, discouraging high school experiences and alarming seizure episodes, he never let his passions die out. These passions included playing hockey for Cy Fair’s Houston Rage, which provided an outlet and support to his good natured upbringing.

High school, however, was the place that sounded off Onda’s new affinity for marijuana and alcohol, a love that escalated once he set foot on UTSA grounds.

Compounded with Xanax and repetitive alcohol consumption, Onda’s love for his friend’s Vicodin prescription took form. The rest was a recipe for disaster.

“I was literally hooked from day one. I liked the feeling and the itch that it gave me. So much that it got to the point where I was taking all of his Vicodin,” Onda said.

“That went on and progressed for two years and for every single day, I was consuming about 160 milligrams of hydrocodone. It took me to such a dark place that my family didn’t even know about any of it. It was like a lie that I was living for years.”

Yet Onda still didn’t let go of his passions — aside from playing hockey, hip-hop was his biggest passion of all. He recorded some unreleased tracks with a few of his UTSA friends, with subject matter pertaining directly to his actions. Even with his growing enthusiasm for music, Bondo’s poisonous relationship with drugs didn’t lose grip. Although he acknowledged his own potential, Onda admitted he didn’t take himself seriously.

A friend’s call to his parents and a 40-day stay at a treatment center located in Kerrville couldn’t break Onda free, either. He landed back at square one after four days of being released.

“After I got out, I went through another six month stunt. I spent about $40,000 on pills and weed,” Onda said.

“Then one night, I guess you can say it was a divine intervention. I called my dad and was honest with him. I told him that I needed to come home. He supported me, which was a blessing.”

Since coming back to Houston, he transferred to UH and took up a major in media production to build on his talent for making music videos for underground artists. Then along came the birth of Bonda — a nickname that stuck as a kid and Onda’s new rap alias. Onda’s good friend and manager Nick Catley knew he had talent and encouraged Onda to head to the studio to drop bars. This time, Onda didn’t second-guess himself.

Hosted by E.T.C.H. Entertainment, Bonda released his 14-track mixtape “Bondanomics” a little more than a year ago and used it as a platform for making a statement, which were swift and poignant, and Bonda’s recent venture on an all-original LP entitled “Visions of Winning” is on the rise. Bonda said that live instruments on production and booming features, like Doughbeezy and Marcus Manchild, give life to this new project filled with stories of his battle with drug addiction.

With just two more songs to lay down and a release slated for around the holiday season, Bonda also asserts that this eleven-track album will inspire people to think differently about their life situations.

“This will allow people to sit back and re-evaluate their surroundings, and if that’s the case, then I accomplished what I set out to do,” Onda said. “I want people to know what’s important in life. When you die, the amount of money you have or who’ve you been with will not matter. Materials don’t matter. Your life will be judged strictly by how many lives you’ve affected. Your legacy will be defined on that.”

As of today, Onda has been sober from all drugs and alcohol for a year and two months. He continues to fight on, with his music as the one thing that has kept him going.

“That’s my driving force in me right now, even if I have to sacrifice my social life as far as going out to party and meet girls,” Onda said. “Ninety-five percent of our peers are doing that on the weekends, and I can’t do that. It can be a struggle for me being a younger person at 23 years old, but I’ve seen the bigger picture. I know what I’m doing and I know where I’m going with the steps that I’m taking right now to get to where I want to be.”

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