For those of you out there who follow all the latest happenings within the Hip-Hop world, this young cat needs no introduction, for all the rest, meet Alex Wiley, a multi talented 21 year old MC from Chicago, who like many of his peers has been killing it for a little while now… most recently setting the game ablaze with his extremely solid mixtape “Village Party“. We got a chance to catch up with the young wordsmith for a quick chat. Here’s how it went down.
What’s good Alex? So l wanted kick things off with the classic “so where did your moniker come from” question, but unlike 99% of mc’s you actually kept your real name! How come?
When I first started rapping I wasn’t a rapper and I felt dumb asking people that I knew, like my friends, to call me something new that I just made up. So I didn’t do it.
What inspired you to first start rapping?
It’s weird cause the first ones were so fucking funny that trying to say that something inspired me is funny. It just seemed fun. The first couple songs were meant to be joke songs. It was meant to be funny cause I was so not a rapper to my friends, it was just funny to have a song on the internet. And then it grew from there. Luckily my best friend was a real rapper already. Basically I fell in love with making music. Music was always a really big part of my life, I spent hours per day at home listening to music. I was just really good at it early on. I was better than people who were doing it for a while. It was cool.
Your project “Club Wiley” had some very rare features from the likes of Bronsolinio, Chance, Vic, Freddie Gibbs, to name a few… Whereas with “Village Party” the spotlight is much more on yourself. Was that a conscious effort? How can you explain the transition between the two projects?
Yes. It was a conscious effort to own the project more. The growth from Club Wiley to Village Party, I was super hard and super critical of myself. When I was listening to Club Wiley I wasn’t trying to sugar coat it for myself. I had to literally separate myself form it and be real with myself. What kind of artist do you want to be? What do you want from this ultimately? Not now, not 6 months from now, 10 years from now, where do you want to be and what do you have to do to get there? One question spawned another, and I went deep down the rabbit hole on how I wanted to do this shit. I realized with the music I didn’t necessarily need to imagine a person and speak to them. I could make music that was meaningful to me and trust there would be people that knew what I was talking about and relate to it.
On that note… “Vibration” is the jam! Could you tell us a bit more on what it’s about and how it came to life? And most importantly, how long is “high for way to long”?
So about that first line, “I’ve been high for way too long”, basically it was day 3 of not having a sober moment. I got to the studio already kind of high, got offered more weed, smoked some more weed. The beat had been on loop for 20 minutes and I realized I hadn’t written anything yet. I’d been laying on the couch super stoned… Because of my A.D.D. I’ll be like innocuous and I realized I’d be staring off for way too long. It was fucking 3 in the morning my manager wanted to go home, I knew I had to get started on that shit. I started the song that way cause it was the first thing I thought of, I just had to start the verse off.
That was the first thing that came to my head. I’m high as hell. I’ve been high too long.
It was damn near the 1st song I made really knowing what I was going for content wise. The song’s not about anything in particular. That’s what I do in a lot of my songs, sum myself up in verse form. Tell people about myself, being super descriptive on how I view things, my opinions on stuff. Basically the song is me, literally – its’ a stream of thought for me. Me saying a bunch of stuff, this is how I feel about this. It’s about my flows and hitting my flows having this super structured delivering and filling it in with poignant sentences. I’m trying to have hard hitting sentences in this song structure. That’s my thoughts for that song.
There’s been a real resurgence and energy around the Chi-town scene of late. What’s your take on that?
Questions like this are weird to me… It’s obviously tight that people are taking an interest in what the artists in my city are doing. But I don’t necessarily look at myself as just a Chicago artist. I’m Alex Wiley, I’m 21, I’m from Chicago but my music isn’t just made for Chicago. It’s weird to always define rap music by the city it comes from and that’s supposed to determine what it’s supposed to feel like or sound like. It’s dumb to me. No one cares what city Steven Spielberg is from. No one says that Andy Warhol makes very Pittsburgh inspired art. But I get asked how Chicago’s influenced my music all that time. Not that it hasn’t. It has, it’s weird people try to define rap music in particular so geographically. It’s not that people are so different here than cleveland, than Toronto, Miami, even London…
Who are some of your main influences?
Kanye West and Kid Cudi. I think those are two you would see from hearing the music. The most overt ones. Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Cream, Lupe Fiasco on “The Cool“. I listened to that the other day. To me it’s the best writing from a rapper that exists. It’s my favorite project. As far rap music, the pinnacle of rap music to me is Lupe Fiasco “The Cool“… And Little Dragon on Village Party in particular.
It seems that these days, every rapper on the come up is part of a “collective” and has some sort of deep underlying message behind them. But (unless I’m mistaken) you ride solo?
You are mistaken… I’m actually part of The Village Collective with Kembe X, Jean Deaux, and Isaiah Rashad. We’re doing our own thing right now, we’re all working towards it. It’s not beneficial for us to be all over each other right now. We need to do our thing for a while. With me and Kembe, we’re about to be housemates for the winter in LA and make an album.
Oh right! That’s a heavy roster you’ve got there… So I heard about how you would like to venture outside of music at some point in your career, notably into acting… Tell us a bit more about
I’ve been asked if I would be open to acting and I’ve said yes. But I’m not actually interested in acting. I’d like to write things. While I’m not opposed to acting, it’s not something I think about other than when I’m asked about it. I’d love to write skits and sketches. I’d like to write a sketch comedy show and write it with my friends. The Chapelle show is almost as big an influence on my music as some albums. The Chappelle show is a big part of my life low-key. Chappelle was the equivalent of mixtape lane. You could go to school and have an inside joke with everyone your age. The same way you could reference a song from Drought 3 and everyone knew what it was, even if you hadn’t talked about it.
If you were a cartoon character, who would it be?
Apu from The Simpsons.
Where do you see yourself at 40 years old?
I honestly can’t even picture how my face is gonna look at 40. I’ve tried to and I literally have no idea… I have not even a youthful face, but the shape of my face gives off a kid vibe to people… Hopefully I’ll be very rich and very respected. Hopefully I haven’t lost the respect of people that like my music. And hopefully I’m balling out of control. It’s very hard to age gracefully in rap.
True story… So what about the near future? What’s next for Alex Wiley?
Village Party visuals and new music.
Thanks for talking to me! #LondonCalling
Much love to Alex for taking the time to answer our questions, to the big homies over at Closed Sessions for hooking it all up, and last but not least the talented Andrew Zeiter for the clean cut snaps.