To be accepted by the masses in the Hip-Hop community in today’s climate, you have to earn your spot by demonstrating not only the required talent, but also the right attitude and branding strategy. But the most critical aspect of the game is your commitment to it. Something that the soulful-innovative rapper Willie J understands very well.
Raised in Belleville, Florida, Willie J is known for his creativity and doing things his own way. His catalogue is diverse and stands alone in a genre of music that has become somewhat repetitive. Everything about the rapper seems so organic and from the heart. And his self-coined genre of music known as Hip Hop Soul is bringing originality back into the forefront of rap music. Lipbusiness got a chance to sit down with Willie J to discuss his background and his music.
What inspired you to start rapping?
I took a real interest in rapping around the age of 16. I always had a knack for words, but never really knew what to do with them. At the time, a lot of stuff was going on in my life so I decided to turn it into poetry and eventually started to create songs which in return helped me relieve a lot of pain and stress. I was inspired by rappers like Tupac, Trick Daddy, Goodie Mob, Field Mob, T.I., and Twista.
Explain the genre Hip-Hop Soul.
Hip-Hop Soul comes from the wild site of a young boy. I was raised by a lot of old folks you know what I’m saying. When most people rap, their style is “gutta” or “hard.” I was raised on a lot of blues so I wanted to collaborate Hip-Hop and Soul to create a style people ain’t use to. I separate my music by putting soul in it and telling a story from the beginning to the end. I want to change the mindset of the listeners. Instead of teaching a child how to sell dope to get money, I want to teach them how not to sell dope and get money in my music. That’s what I got from music growing up. These days’, rappers are telling the kids to go rob somebody. I try to show the children a little heaven in the music, because they gonna get hell regardless. I give them a better option.
Recently on Twitter, you tweeted “Sometimes helping somebody else get ON will do more for your career than not. Reach out and like somebody else’s music.” Can you explain that tweet?
Just like you have different types of music, you have different types of people. I might make music that certain people may like, but there are other rappers who make music for other people. You don’t want to ever think that you’re better than somebody, because someone may like the music a person makes and that person gets signed, but you don’t. So you never know who you may talk to. They may be the next person up. You always want to treat everybody with respect and listen to their music, because you never know what you may pass on. Rap music is competitive, but I always separate myself from the competition with my music. I feel like I don’t have to compete with anybody so I’m going to support the next person doing their thing.
Are there any rappers in today’s Hip-Hop climate you listen to or like?
I listen to Sean J from Field Mob, I listen to T.I., B.O.B, Andre 3000, Lupe Fiasco, Wale, and Rick Ross. I listen to artist that tell stories in their music you know what I’m saying. Basically, that’s how I do my music. I’m gonna tell a story. So I just listen to more creative people.
What has been the biggest obstacle in your journey so far?
I would say having a family and trying to do music at the same time. I have children and when I leave them to do shows late night, they’re on my mind. I always put my family before anything I do no matter how important something may be to me. They are more important than anything I may have going on. They always come before my music. It’s hard to separate the two passions so I find a way to collaborate the two.
What was your inspiration behind the “Sunshine State” track?
Man I had so much inspiration behind that track. It mostly came from a lot of places I have been to in Florida and my experiences growing up, being on the wrong side of the track sometimes, and all the love I have got from Florida. When I made it, I was thinking how I can give something back to the people that will be around for a long time. I heard a lot of Florida songs, but they didn’t capture what Florida is really about. They gone tell you about the dope and the killing, but I wanted to tell people about the places in Florida and why I love it. I wanted to give love back to my people.
Have you done shows?
I have done a lot of shows. I’ve opened up for the Nappy Heads. I’ve done Floyds a lot of times and headlined it a few times. I’ve done a lot of shows in Tallahassee at Big Daddy’s, Floyds, and Potbelly’s.
How has your music been received amongst the people?
The people love my music and appreciate what I bring to the table. I got stopped one time by some people and they were like: Ay man ain’t you Willie J? When I said yeah, they started singing my song Sunshine State. They told me they loved my music and asked if I had any CDs on me. A lot of people who are fans of my music love me. It feels good to know that people appreciate your talent. I am happy to be able to do this. It’s a gift. It feels good to do something that most people consider to be impossible.
What outlets have you used to build your following?
I’ve been using my website www.williejmusic.com, soundcloud, and my social media sites. I have a team that hands out CDs of my latest music, but I also give CDs to people myself. I love to connect with people and talk with them. I go to parties, to studios, and I continue to branch out. I’m right there in the middle and can see the top. You can have all the talent in the world, but you have to have your business together. With the mind I got and the talent I got, ain’t no telling where I can take this. I’m going to mix the talent and the business and take it to another level.
Is there anything you want to say to the people?
I appreciate all the love and support I’m getting from y’all. Everybody who has ever supported me and stuck by me since the beginning I appreciate it. Especially my brother. If I don’t say your name and you’re reading this and don’t feel a certain way about it, that must mean I got love for you. Thanks to everybody in Florida and everybody in the South. Now we about to get the whole world.