On “Let the Money Stay” off of his recent EP, Masterpiece Theatre, Willie the Kid states, “I’m rather blatant, so blending in never been my strong point, point taken.”
The aforementioned statement describes Willie’s style of lyricism extremely well. His witty and complex but confident flow separates him from the large crowd of emcees in the rap game these days. Initially gaining popularity as a member of Aphilliates Music Group, a collective spearheaded by the world-renowned DJ Drama, Willie the Kid tasted success with his 2008 single “Love for Money,” which featured Trey Songz, Gucci Mane, La the Darkman (his big brother), Bun B, Flo Rida, and Yung Joc. This was followed by his debut album Absolute Greatness.
A few years later, although not a prominent figure in the mainstream eye, he continues to release solid projects packed with clever wordplay and eccentric beats. Just peep his catalog over the last couple of years: The Fly, The Fly 2, The Cure 2, The Crates and Somewhere. His most recent installment, Masterpiece Theatre, a seven-song collaborative effort with reputable producer, Alchemist, has received gratifying reviews as well. He was even named by Drake as one of 2011’s “Hottest MCs in the Game.”
It appears that Willie the Kid has discovered the formula to create timeless, organic music in an exceptional fashion. And this is something he doesn’t appear to have intentions of abandoning any time soon. At the end of August, he will drop his long-awaited installment Aquamarine. He also has plans of delivering two more projects this winter—his album, The Fly 3, and his short film, “The Fly.“
The Grand Rapids, Michigan native took some time out to speak about his upcoming projects, working with Alchemist, what artists gives him inspiration, and much more.
A shorter version of the interview is available on AllHipHop.com
Follow Willie the Kid on Twitter: @theWillietheKid
What can fans expect from your upcoming project Aquamarine?
It’s a project that’s theme-based with reference to the ocean, or the sea as a metaphor to life and the journeys that you take. It’s reflective of the things you go through in life, and staying afloat is the objective [with] reaching your destination of success.
It’ll be between 10 to 13 records. I have “Goodness Gracious” with Smoke Dza, “Marina” with Jon Connor, the “Mainstream” freestyle…those are records that you can expect to hear on Aquamarine. I got a record with my man Los from Bad Boy. It’s a real dope project. It’s about having fun, but at the same time it’s introspective on life.
Since 2012, on various songs you’ve mentioned that Aquamarine was “coming soon.” What’s been the hold up on the release?
Aquamarine, I recorded it maybe twice. I did it last summer in maybe two days. I recorded the whole project. I have “Goodness Gracious” with Smoke Dza, “Marina” with Jon Connor, and a couple other records that’s on the final one, but the other 60 percent of the project, I just trashed it. I didn’t like it. When I got into writing it, I wanted it to be more. I was doing it as a filler project, but it really started becoming something that I started falling into. When I went back in the lab to do it, we were messing around getting ready to do the Alchemist project, so I kind of got off from schedule. [When I] got back to Aquamarine, it was damn near Fall-Winter time. I didn’t want to drop a summer-based project in the winter. I just waited until it started to get warm again. I started writing in the spring. Here we are now, end of the summer and it’s ready to go.”
You’re planning to release a short film, The Fly, this winter. What will it be about?
It’s based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We shot it all there. It’s about a guy, a bartender, who bar tends at a local, underground hip-hop rap venue. He has a secret identity. Secretly, he’s this big rapper named The Fly. His identity gets uncovered through a love interest thing he was involved in. It’s basically a story about love and chasing your dreams and being courageous enough to follow [them], and facing the fears, risks and consequences that may come with it.
I wrote the film. I co-produced it. I starred in it. My man Kevin Budzynski, he directed it. He’s an Emmy Award-winning director. It’s going to be a really dope project.
How will people be able to view the film?
We’re working that out right now. Perhaps, what we’re going to do is pay-per-view through Vimeo, or maybe YouTube where you pay to watch it. It’ll be available on iTunes as well.
You’re also planning to release the third installment of your The Fly series this year. What can fans expect from that?
I’m dropping The Fly 3 and “The Fly” at the same time. The themes and the concepts that are entwined in the film will be the records from The Fly 3. Whether it’s the romance, the courage to chase your dreams, dealing with disappointments, or celebrating success, all of the emotions and the things that happen in the film will play themselves out song for song on The Fly 3. [It’s] going to be for sale on iTunes with the film. You can buy it packaged together or separately.
You recently dropped Masterpiece Theatre. What was the best part about creating the EP to you?
I think the best part was working with Alchemist, because Al is like a mad scientist. He’s a genius. He’s like a natural when it comes to making a whole other unique sound to this rap shit. It’s so natural for him. But further, even more so, he complimented my style without me having to conform it in anyway. I could be myself when I was working with Alchemist.
Have you ever felt like you’ve had to conform it in the past? I remember you doing songs like “A Love for Money” and that’s totally different from the records you make now.
I was signed to a label [Asylum/Warner] and they expected certain things. A label is like a store, and they sell certain products to certain types of customers. You have to be able to make the product that they sell. So, that was fun. We made money and did tours and had a good time making “Love for Money” and records like that. But at the same time, there was other things musically that I wanted to get into. There were other things as an artist that I really do and really feel more naturally than maybe “A Love for Money” type of record. As I satisfied my deal with them, you heard The Fly. You heard The Fly 2. You heard The Cure 2. You heard those projects that’s really like near and dear to me as far as what I really do.
Do you have a favorite song on the EP?
[It’s] discontinued, man. Like today, I might be feeling “Halal Tuna.” Then tomorrow, I might be feeling “Let the Money Stay,” and then later on that night I might be feeling “Gettysburg.” It changes. It depends, but I’m really proud of what we put together. Any given time I could love one or the other.
Prior to Masterpiece Theatre, you and Alchemist worked together on projects, such as your mixtapes The Fly 2 and The Cure 2. How’d you link up with Alchemist initially?
We did a project back in 2010 called Never a Dull Moment, me and my man Lee Bannon. Lee Bannon happened to take that project to Alchemist’s studio during a rap camp session—a lot of other rappers were there. Alchemist was there producing for everybody and everything, and they heard Never A Dull Moment. Alchemist told Bannon that he wanted to work with me. Really Bannon made the connection by letting me know Al was interested in putting some music together.
What I did was reach out to Alchemist via Twitter. I told him, ‘yo, I’m trying to potentially get you to do a verse on the project.’ It was The Fly 2 at the time. I sent him two beats from Bannon, and the beat he picked was the fucking “Toxic” beat. He sent his verse back, and that was the first thing we ever did together. And then from there, “Waste Not, Want Not,” for The Cure 2. I did a verse for a project he’s got coming with Evidence. The Step Brothers album. And we did the Russian Roulette project. I did a verse on there. All of that just basically led to us putting a full-length [project] together.
On several of your recent projects, such as Never A Dull Moment, Somewhere, and Masterpiece Theatre, you worked exclusively with one producer in particular. Are you a big fan of doing projects with solely one producer now?
(Laughs) I think I am now. It didn’t use to matter, but I think I am now. When I went to Atlanta, I linked up with Don Cannon and that’s how we were doing it. Don would do the whole project. We’d have like countless songs, just me and Don. But as we started expanding, I worked with all kinds of producers. I worked with underground producers and even some bigger names in the business. When I did Never A Dull Moment with Lee Bannon, he actually gave me the idea. He said, ‘I just want to start working with me and another rapper, and then doing whole albums like that.’ It kind of reminded me of how me and Don Cannon used to do. So we did Never A Dull Moment and from there, I guess I got that bug again. I wanted to go seek out different producers and work with them. It’s really an organic experience. You can exchange ideas just one on one. When you do mixtapes and you do albums and you work with six, seven, eight, nine different producers, you guys are collaborating song for song. That’s a really dope exchange. But when you work one-on-one, just you and a producer, you guys are collaborating for an entire project. That means every second of that project is a collective effort between two people. It’s pretty dope. I wouldn’t say I favor it over working with multiple producers, but I do enjoy working like that as well.
I enjoy the collaborations you do with La the Darkman. However, I haven’t heard any collaborations between you two lately. Are you guys going to be working on anything in the future?
Oh yeah, for sure. La is my brother. We ain’t going nowhere. It could never not be us. I just think right now, it’s certain things that I want to do artistically and it’s certain things he wants to do artistically. I’m doing mine and he’s doing his. Y’all might not hear it but we always record. By this time next year, you’re going to hear some of the shit we’ve been working on. It’s going to be a new Willie the Kid, LA the Darkman project coming soon.
Your sound doesn’t favor any other hip-hop artist out. Who inspires you when you’re creating music?
I’m a big Wu-Tang fan. I’m a big Jay-Z fan. I’m a big Nas fan. Growing up, that’s all I needed. I think me developing my style, it definitely came from listening to them, but maybe the last two to three years or so, the inspiration has been coming from what I’ve been going through in life—all of the joy [and] success. All of the moments. It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been turning that shit into inspiration. That’s been the music you’ve been hearing.
Who are some of the artists you’re listening to right now?
I’m listening to Max B right now. I listen to Max B a lot. Like a whole, whole, whole fuckin’ lot. My niggas be like ‘yo, you still listening to that same fucking CD?’ I got two CDs. I got the first Public Domain by Max B and I got another CD that’s got a whole bunch of random Max B songs on it. [It’s] like 30 random Max B songs on it. Those two Max B CDs will never leave my car. And it’s always a N.E.R.D. album in my car.
[Max B is currently incarcerated on a 75-year prison sentence for charges of conspiracy to armed robbery, kidnapping, aggravated assault, and murder. He’s known for his unique mixture of melodies with rap. Check out some of his music here.]
What’s next on Willie the Kid’s plate?
Just be looking out for this Aquamarine project coming out. It’s going to be absolutely nuts. And then we have The Fly 3 mixtape coming out. That will really wrap the trilogy of The Fly series. And then that will be accompanied by the short film, “The Fly.” You’re going to love it. Look out for that. Oh, and then me and Bronze Nazareth, we finished a project together called The Living Daylights. We’re gonna put that out maybe like January, top of the year. Winter time. It’s a snowy ass project. It’s good for the big coats, scullies and shit like that.