Willie The Kid Interview
|Artist:||Willie The Kid|
|Next Project:||Crown Prince (Dec '08)|
|Twitter:||Willie The Kid on Twitter|
|Website:||Willie The Kid's Website|
Hip-Hop “hot spots” such as New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Atlanta are able to provide a platform and foundation for new artists attempting to break into the industry. Unfortunately, the same opportunities are not as readily available in smaller cities like Grand Rapids, Michigan. For rapper Willie The Kid, however, geographic location would not be a pitfall to the start of his career.
With his bags packed, Willie headed south to Atlanta, hoping he could make some connections and sign a record deal. Escaping the drugs, poverty and violence of his old neighborhood, the “Crown Prince” eventually latched on with DJ Drama’s Aphilliates Music Group and has since received a deal with Asylum. This November, the Midwest native will release his debut album.
In an exclusive interview with DJBooth‘s DJ “Z,” Willie steps inside the booth to talk about his trek from Michigan to Georgia, being compared to a certain Chicago rapper, why his music is like “tofu with special sauce,” and if in fact his “beef” with Lil’ Wayne has been laid to rest.
Listen to the Interview
Willie The Kid Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a Crown Prince. Originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, but currently making a name for himself out of Atlanta, Georgia, please welcome Aphilliates Music Group artist, Willie The Kid – how you doin’?
Willie The Kid: What’s goin’ on? Good to be in the DJ Booth. It’s the source of the sound, man. That’s where it comes from: the booth. I know what it is.
DJ Booth: I appreciate you takin’ the time to join me. Willie, your transition from Michigan to Atlanta must have been great during the winter, ‘cause I’m in Chicago, and I know I’d love to spend my winters in a warm climate.
Willie The Kid: Yeah, man, it’s definitely real – that’s one of the many things that is good about livin’ in Atlanta. Now when I go back home, it could be the spring or whatever, I got on a jacket and I’m freezing cold. They say, “They spoiled you down in Atlanta, n*gga – the weather made you soft!” It’s a good problem to have, though.
DJ Booth: Obviously, Willie, weather’s a big difference, but let’s talk musically. What, musically, is the biggest difference between staying in Michigan to record and start your career, as opposed to what you did do, and that’s head down to Atlanta?
Willie The Kid: Atlanta has a new energy for me, comin’ from where I come from. It’s cold where I’m from, in more than just the weather. It’s a cold, stiff environment, real serious. Atlanta allowed me to tap into that bounce, man, that feel-good. We got our moments at the top, too, at the same time, it’s a party goin’ on in Atlanta. The whole industry is focused on Atlanta, lookin’ at what we’re doin’. It’s a good time, and I caught it at the perfect time. I moved down here right before the wave came the way it is now; everyone’s down here recording and making moves. [It definitely] added more diversity to my sound and broadened my horizons as far as directions I can go in my music. It’s a party goin’ on, and I’m glad to be a part of it.
DJ Booth: Isn’t that the truth. Willie, as a Midwest native whose career’s being guided by an Atlanta record company and Atlanta DJs, do you consider your music regionally diverse, or regionally exclusive?
Willie The Kid: I believe in quality music, man, and I don’t think that regions are sufficient to put barriers on quality music. I think regions are something that we started within hip-hop, to start givin’ credit to different parts of the country, but music goes across the board, no matter where you’re from, no matter where you’re at, no matter where you’re goin’. I don’t want to get trapped in Atlanta, because I’m from the Midwest, but my family’s from New York originally. I’ve been diverse, and I’ve been exposed to different types of sound, different types of music. [I have] family in Tennessee, as a matter of fact – when I was young I used to be in Tennessee all the time. That’s what got me down to Atlanta in the first place: my family livin’ down South, and me goin down and visitin’, I wanted to go to the South. But when you’re talkin’ about quality music, you can never mention things like region. That boxes us in; quality music goes global. So it’s definitely exclusive, what we’re doin’ here.
DJ Booth: Well, I’ll tell you what: break out of that box – I agree completely. For anyone who is not from Michigan or Atlanta, or they’re unfamiliar with your name, your sound, your style, what does Willie The Kid bring to the proverbial hip-hop table?
Willie The Kid: I bring artistry to the music. I bring a clear picture of what’s goin’ on in our community, what’s goin’ on in our society, but at the same time, I keep it all 360 - the good sh*t, the bad sh*t, the rewards, the consequences, everything. I bring the feel-good party element. But before all of that, I want to bring the art. That’s what I think we’re startin’ to get away from more and more with the music, but that is the heart of it all: the artistry, the lyrics, the content. I realize the impact of music; we’re startin’ to get to the point where we’re losin’ connection with how important this music is, and how it can change people’s lives, provide opportunities for people.
DJ Booth: Willie, as a young, motivated artist, it’s clear to me through this interview there’s a lot that you want to talk about that’s not being discussed in hip-hop music heard nationally. But you know as well as I: record labels don’t like to release music that does not play to a certain ear, that they feel is the majority of the listening public. So what are you going to do, to make sure that the heart and soul that you put into your music is not lost, when going about the creative process?
Willie The Kid: That’s a real good question. You gotta be able to relay a message, and put your heart into your music, but it has to sound [appealing], you know what I’m saying? It’s like food, for instance – you give people something good for them, but it’s gotta taste good. Like, tofu, people might not think it tastes [good], but you gotta put a little sauce on it and make it taste better. If I got some broccoli, I might put a little cheese on it, to make it more appealing from the start. I think the labels, they don’t have a problem puttin’ out music with a certain message; their problem is making sure it has that appealing sound, and that appealing feel. I think that’s what we’re doin’ here at Embassy Entertainment/Aphilliates Music Group: we givin’ you that quality street music, and it sounds good and it’s good for you, both at the same time.
DJ Booth: Okay, so you’re sayin’, Willie, you’re gonna spice it up for me.
Willie The Kid: Spice it up, man! But it’s still going to be good for you though; I’m not gonna give you no garbage, it’s not gonna be no junk food – this is real, healthy food that’s good for your system, good for your mind.
DJ Booth: Okay, well I’ll take some of that broccoli; you can keep the tofu.
Willie The Kid: All right! [laughter] Straight up.
DJ Booth: Willie, your introduction to a more mainstream audience came late last year, on DJ Drama’s single, 5000 Ones, in which you were alongside Nelly, T.I., Joc, Jeezy, [and] Twista. Describe the impact of your placement, not only on that song, but also on DJ Drama’s album, Gangsta Grillz.
Willie The Kid: It was actually an opportunity that was bigger than me. It was an opportunity for us to present to the world Affiliates Music Group/Embassy Entertainment as a company, and a legitimate label to put out artists. I just represented the beginning of the onslaught that’s about to happen. My placement on Drama’s album was just the presence of my whole company, my whole movement, what I represent, me bein’ their representin’ my company as a legitimate powerhouse, and future leaders of this new musical
DJ Booth: If someone’s listening right now, up to this point in the interview, they’re thinkin’, “Man, Willie is just the luckiest man in the world. He’s in a good position, he’s done a lot of great things to get to this point right now.” But it’s not that simple. Your bio indicates that you have dealt with a lot in your life – tragedy, you’ve triumphed over a lot of adversity – detail what you have gone through in order to get to where you are today, which is singed to a major label, and about to officially kick off the start to a successful career.
Willie The Kid: The biggest adversity for anyone – and people should realize this, whether you’re a musician, you’re an athlete, whatever you do – is gettin’ over yourself. Whether you’re not focused enough, disciplined enough, just lazy, don’t have the right idea about the way to go about it, you have to get yourself together first. That’s the biggest, biggest, biggest problem. I didn’t just wake up and Drama was at the foot of my bed like, “Come on, let’s go put an album out!” It didn’t happen like that. I grinded in Michigan for a long time, under the umbrella of limited exposure. I’m from Grand Rapids; there’s no record labels’ office buildings there at all. No A&R’s comin’ there to look for talent. I remember when I was real, real young, the major acts didn’t even come – you [had] to go to Detroit to see LL Cool J or somebody like that. For me to grind my way out of that situation, on the business side, and get to where I am today, it was a road uncharted, damn near. Where I’m from, it’s a real serious neighborhood, it’s a real serious place. A lot of people don’t make it beyond that. A friend of mine just moved down to Missouri recently, twenty-six years old, and that was his first time ever leavin’ the city. I couldn’t even imagine that, but that’s a reality where I’m from. It’s a lot of things goin’ on [like] poverty, violence, drugs and crime, and I don’t use those things as an excuse, ‘cause there are outlets to get over them, but it’s not every day that somebody [from] where I’m from make it to where I’m at today.
DJ Booth: Willie, while growing up, knowing that you wanted to do this music thing, at any point did you think, “There’s no way I’m gonna be able to do it; I won’t have the outlet, I won’t have the possibility to make it?”
Willie The Kid: Honestly, no. I never felt like that all of my life – never. Even when it was cloudy and wasn’t nothin’ promised to me, things were lookin’ down. I had those kinda days here in Atlanta as well, sittin’ right on the couch next to DJ Drama, feelin’ like it may not be a better tomorrow for us. We recently had a situation with the feds last year. Anybody that’s ever experienced anything like that’ll have an idea what I’m talkin’ about – it always seems like it’s the end of the game for you. That’s an actual feeling. But even through all of that, I’ve never felt like we wouldn’t be able to continue on, we wouldn’t be able to prosper, it was the end of our rope – I’ve never felt like that.
DJ Booth: Well there’s a thin line between confidence and cockiness, my friend, and it seems like you walk that line on the confidence side. We’re going to go into a special segment called “By Request.” We gave our readers the opportunity to submit questions. The first one comes from Brian from Connecticut: on your newest DJBooth feature, The Real, members have compared you to Lupe Fiasco, how do you feel about that assessment?
Willie The Kid: It’s definitely not a bad thing at all. Lupe is my dude, he’s a good brotha, I appreciate what he do musically. He’s from Chicago, so that’s like two hours from where I’m from, it’s the same region. I can see the comparison. I think they’re hearing the cadence, the complexity. I’m sure they hear that. I take it as a compliment, actually. But at the same time, before Lupe hit the scene the way he did, when I was little, comin’ up, they said I sounded like Nas. And that just let me know, we all just [are] human beings, “Tastes like chicken,” you know what I’m sayin’? That’s how we associate our understanding of things, that’s how we grow to appreciate things.
DJ Booth: Yeah, and in five years another MC’s gonna come around, and he’s gonna be compared to Willie The Kid.
Willie The Kid: Right, right, they’ll say, “He sounds like Willie The Kid!”
DJ Booth: [laughter] Exactly. Next question comes from Jazzy, from Detroit Michigan, and she wants to know, what is the deal with the beef that you had, or still have, with Lil’ Wayne?
Willie The Kid: Oh, it’s not no beef. People [call it] beef; I wouldn’t call it beef at all. It was a situation that was goin’ on, with myself drawin’ some comments made by Lil’ Wayne. I said some things on my record in response to that. I wasn’t tryin’ to start [a campaign] against the dude or nothing like that, I was just sayin’ what I felt at that time, when I was makin’ my music. If it went no further than that, that’s cool. I said what I said and I meant what I said, and that’s where it starts and ends for me.
DJ Booth: Last question comes from Mercedes. Mercedes is from Jacksonville, Florida, and she wants [you to] name another artist in the industry who’s similar to you, who’s on the come-up, that you enjoy listening to.
Willie The Kid: I really, really, really like a lot of La The Darkman. I wouldn’t say he’s on the come-up in the sense that he’s a new artist, but he’s definitely been layin’ out a career and a legacy since like ‘96. He’s my older brother by the way. He put out an album, Heist of the Century, back in ‘98 – crazy, classic hip-hop album – and he’s been grindin’ all the way to the top ever since.
DJ Booth: Lot of family competition, I assume. Do you guys have some rap battles in the house?
Willie The Kid: Nah, nah, nah… [laughter] We still go back and forth like we did when I was young with other kids around the way, but never with each other, never like that.
DJ Booth: So maybe like a tag team battle, you and your brother versus two other MCs in the neighborhood? That sounds like fun. Well, of course, all this leads up, Willie, to your debut album, Crown Prince, which is set for release later this year. I need to know: how many albums before we officially anoint you as industry royalty?
Willie The Kid: I’m shootin’ for the very first one. ‘Cause I’m inspired by the greats. I’m inspired by the people who’ve done it the best, and the people who’ve paved the way for me to be able to do it today. Like when Nas dropped Illmatic, it changed the world. Outkast came out with Southernplayalistic, it changed the world. I’m really into that. I’m really into makin’ my first word my best word, thinkin’ about what I say before I say it. The album is ten steps up from all of that – I’m holdin’ all the best stuff for the LP.
DJ Booth: Well, the world and the music industry both need some change, and it sounds like if you’re behind that change the music industry and the world will both be in a good situation.
Willie The Kid: Honestly, I hope so.
DJ Booth: Give everyone a website, or a MySpace page, so they can find out more about you.
Willie The Kid: Yes sir; check me out, my MySpace, of course, is myspace.com/thewilliethekid, gangstagrillz.com. I’m actually workin’ on my second album right now, as we speak; my first one is already done.
DJ Booth: Willie, I thank you so much for takin’ the time to join me inside the DJ Booth and wish you nothing but the best of luck, my friend.
Willie The Kid: Absolutely. Thank you, man. I appreciate that, Z.