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Willie The Kid Interview

October 2, 2008

Since reciting Rakim’s rhymes as a kindergartner, Grand Rapids, Mich. emcee Willie the Kid knew he was destined for greatness. He’s already helped secure that success by making the right networking moves: a working relationship with mixtape heavyweight/T.I.’s official turntablist DJ Drama and fellow mixtape DJ/producer Don Cannon helped him nab a deal with their Aphilliates Music Group (AMG), and his older brother La The Darkman is a long time affiliate of the Wu-Tang Clan. But friends in high places can only do so much, and Willie’s shown the talent and work ethic it takes to make it happen. His witty, punchline-heavy bars have held their own alongside the likes of Young Jeezy, T.I. and Jadakiss with his appearances on Drama’s Gangsta Grillz: The Album last year, and he’s got several solo mixtapes under his belt as well. Even though Willie has relocated to Atlanta with a degree from Clark Atlanta University, he still realizes that he’s been given opportunities that not many people from his violence-laden hometown, nicknamed “Gun Rule,” get to experience. With his major label (AMG/Asylum Records/Atlantic Records) debut Absolute Greatness, which hits stores this week, he plans to do what MC Breed and The Dayton Family did for Flint in the ‘90s: permeate Hip Hop’s established geography and put on for his city.

What can we expect from the album, Absolute Greatness?
It’s crazy. It’s a mixtape album [in] the official Gangsta Grillz format, [and] the live music including features from Bun B, Flo Rida, Gucci Mane, Yung Joc to La the Darkman to Rock City. It’s a lot of love of the tracks. The beats are crazy, the feeling is good, it makes you happy, it makes you think, makes you dance, makes you move, make you think about the war and all the conflicts and issues going on, it’s definitely imperial quality street music.

How was it working with Bun B on the album?
Exciting. He’s been putting in the grind for a really long time, so he is a real humble guy who has a lot of experience and knowledge. It was definitely an honor and privilege.

Speaking of Bun-B, you have shared the booth with some other very talented artists like Weezy and T.I. As an up-and-comer, do you ever feel pressure to spit to a standard?
Nah, Willie the Kid goes 100 all the time. Anybody want to go and check me out on MySpace, YouTube, or go to the websites and download the mixtapes. I always go 100—whether it’s me and 50 other MC’s [or me by myself], I always do my thing. Always. It’s exciting, like LeBron James sitting back or Chris Paul sitting back and watching Jordan do his thing and watching Kobe Bryant do his thing. When they get their turn to graduate from high school and go straight to the league and play with the big boys. It’s like with anything you know you have to come hard, earn your spot and earn your stripes. Everybody has gave theirs and I respect everybody. Everybody put it down, it’s definitely inspirational and motivational, but I’m going to do my thing like LeBron.

What keeps you motivated?
It would have to be the love that is the number one thing. I just love it; I’ve been doing this since I was in kindergarten or first grade. It always had an impact, the Hip Hop artists, the music, the movement, the attitude, the swag and everything. This has always been my life, I’ve always loved it, the thrill of being in it and letting the world hear my music are the things in the game that keep me doing it.

I’ve heard that Rakim was one of your favorites growing up?
Oh yeah! I’m like a young Chris Paul, you’ve got to respect Dr. J. His attitude and approach toward the music, how serious he took it; how he showed creativity with his music and at the same time he was an inspiration in many ways. A lot of time people don’t use the maximum of the potential they need to. I think he is one of the people that really took and utilized the potential and took the music to something special while also teach people and that is what’s important.

Do you feel like you have Grand Rapids on your back? What do you think that means?
People say that all the time and I always wished I had stopped them and ask them, “What does that mean?” But people say I do and I feel like I do sometimes and I’m excited about that. I don’t care what I’m doing, I could provide an opportunity for everybody at home to come into the game saying I’m from Grand Rapids and people know about it. Or when people go down to college or somewhere and say, “I’m from Grand Rapids,” people know about it. People will ask, “Are you from Grand Rapids? Do you know Willie the Kid?” It’s kind of like how Wu-Tang made Staten Island a prominent part of Hip Hop once upon a time. A lot of people didn’t know about Staten Island until Wu-Tang came out, because they put it on the map. Ever since I first started rapping I was into making a name for Grand Rapids, outside of where it was. I guess you could say it’s on my back, and I’m proud of that.

Now you are based in Atlanta. With so many careers jumpstarting down there, what do you feel the move did for you?
Moving to Atlanta is actually what got me where I’m at as far as my career in the mainstream. That is where I met Don Cannon, that’s where I met DJ Drama, that’s where did my first mixtape, everything happened from here. In Grand Rapids everybody knew me and it was cool, but that is a place where you can be the best and it really don’t mean anything. I love the south, I love the movement down here; before I got here it was just getting bigger and bigger. After I came I really got the peak of the maturity in the south movement in the present time, so it’s all good.

How was the experience graduating from Clark-Atlanta University? What has being rapper with a college education done for your arsenal?
This rap is expansive but you have to understand at the same time you have to be who you are first. When you do this Hip Hop thing, you have to be a stand up guy first, you have got to be crowned a human being first as a man then move over to being a rapper, going to college or even going to jail, any life experiences. You’ve got to be a person then move over to being an artist.

What about the perception that being educated means you’re “Not hard”?
They can do what they want to do; I never claimed to be hard anyway. While they say what they want to say, I just do my thing. I’m smart with the street smarts and book smarts whatever. I’m in the industry so all these things, help me get where I am today. I don’t care about being hard, I don’t believe in none of that. That’s the mythology about rappers; I was born in an era where you had N.W.A and A Tribe Called Quest. It’s all about the music, I don’t believe in that you have got to be hard theory.

Now that you’re all over the country, do you find it hard to get past the notion of people only thinking of Detroit when they think of Michigan?
When I first started to grind down here in Atlanta, they would ask where you’re from, and I would say Michigan and everybody said Detroit. Over the years the more I got into my hustle and the more exposure I got, I would start hearing that less and less. People know now, “Gun Rule,” okay. Alright this dude is really doing his thing, Willie the Kid, he’s from Grand Rapids. As I came out more and more, people started to look past Detroit. Shout outs to the D, but this is a good thing for me and where I’m from.

What do you say to these up-and-coming cats out of the western-side of Michigan wanting to follow in your footsteps?
I don’t have a problem saying that Detroit is the heart of Michigan, no matter what anybody tells you. The D is where the Motown movement is, the D is one of the biggest cities there so you have got to respect Detroit and what it has put down over the years representing for Michigan. Grand Rapids is a whole other beast. I am telling everybody out there from Grand Rapids to Muskegon to Kalamazoo to Holland to wherever: brothers are just as talented, brothers got the same opportunity and have to grind hard. The No. 1 rule is grind hard; it’s work. People come and they see me with the girls, jewelry, and champagne and they looking for the entertainment, but at the same time, this is a career you have to take seriously. It’s like going to law school to be a lawyer or going to medical school to be a dentist, sometimes you have to pay 100 percent to get yours. A lot of people forget about that you can be a part-time or a full-time, but you can’t be a spare time. Take it seriously. Grand Rapids is just as important as Detroit, or Kalamazoo or Benton Harbor or Muskegon. Whether it’s Saginaw or Flint, I think Detroit paved the way for all that. But now its Gun Rule time, and Willie the Kid is the future of that.

1 Comment »

  1. Governor Slugwell says:

    Willie The Kid Puttin On For GunRule and GunRule Gone put on for WTK.

    ONE LOVE
    GRANDRAPIDSHIPHOP.COM

    October 3rd, 2008 at 4:57 pm

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