–words and interview by Jake Krzeczowski. (Originally Appeared for Ruby Hornet)
Alex Wiley has been working hard lately. The Southside MC has been busy for the better part of 2012 garnering followers through a steady flow of videos and songs online and collaborations with Kembe X and a host of other Chicago artists. Wiley is now looking to drop his own solo project, one that has gone through several changes throughout the last few months. What originally started as an EP under the name Village Up, has transformed several times during endless recording at SoundScape Studios, where I recent met and spoke with the budding emcee. To be sure, Wiley was due for a nap. Luckily, I was able to catch him just before he curled up on the couch, exhausted from a long day.
That Wiley sleeps at all may be the most surprising thing. The high-energy emcee can be found around town rapping in a Santa suit like he did onstage at Chance The Rapper’s AcidRap Live show at The Metro November 23, or chopping up philosophies on the intricacies of the perfect taco bar, which he has plans to unveil somewhere in the near future. A glance at Wiley’s robust Twitter feed could make anyone wonder if the kid sleeps at all. Since releasing #MoPurp with Chance and Kembe earlier this year, a video for which has garnered over 75,000 YouTube views in just under six months, Wiley has set about making his mark on the Chicago scene and beyond and is nearing the release of his debut project, Club Wiley, which has spanned almost a full year of his progression and is set to drop early 2013 via the indie label, Closed Sessions.
RubyHornet: How did all this get started for you?
Alex Wiley: My friend Kembe was rapping and shit, and I used to go to the studio with him and we started making these joke songs whenever he was done recording what he had written. We would just call it Swag Village because we just made really dumb songs and put them on Facebook. I just kept doing that and just started rapping over old “Electric Relaxation” and Nas beats. It was just like a weird progression, it was really slow. When Kembe’s mixtape was about to come out, this kid Genesis was harassing like every blogger with it and it found it’s way to Alex at RubyHornet and Andrew at FakeShore first. Once we started getting local blog posts, it just progressed and my friend Calez got on 2DopeBoyz and then we did a song and that went up, and then all of a sudden people were kinda taking us seriously as rappers.
RubyHornet: What’s the transition like, going from another kid to being taken seriously in Hip Hop?
Alex Wiley: I dropped out of school at like 17, and I used to intern at a couple boutiques around town and that was probably what I was going to do for the time being, working at some little store. Then I just got to rapping, and it was cool and once I started doing it I just really, really like doing it.
RubyHornet: With everyone coming out of Chicago, how do you stay different?
Alex Wiley: I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about it a whole lot to be honest. I think me and my friends have just been in a good situation and we are just ourselves, and get good enough feedback to where we can keep doing it. I don’t think our particular side of the Chicago scene has a whole lot of competition and shit going on. I think everyone’s just themselves and people will fuck with it, or they won’t so much.
RubyHornet: Do you feel fortunate to be part of the rising scene in Chicago?
Alex Wiley: This is amazing. I mean, there are people who have been doing it way longer and have way more material out that are still trying to put it all together. I just feel like I’m in a good situation with local people that I fuck with, but that we can still get the job done on a non-local level. I think it’s cool, I do feel fortunate to just be able to come by and be in the studio like this and work regularly.
RubyHornet: What do you credit that to?
Alex Wiley: Man, I don’t know. I’m just thinking how I got to a point where a label would even want to fuck with me. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to be honest. I mean it’s cool, I’m just fortunate to be where I’m at. I feel like it’s on me now, you know? It’s not going to be where I didn’t make it because my situation was fucked up, it’ll be because people don’t really like my music, but I don’t really see that being the case.
RubyHornet: Do you feel any pressure from that?
Alex Wiley: I haven’t had the experience of putting something out where people were just like “this is terrible.” So I don’t know, I feel like I can just do what I want to do, and people are going to fuck with me on some level. yeah, I don’t think so.
RubyHornet: What’s the relationship like with SaveMoney and Chance and those guys?
Alex Wiley: I went to grammar school with Chance, so I knew him since I was like five and then went to high school with most of the rest of them. So I’ve just known them for awhile, I have songs with a few of them and I fuck with them.
RubyHornet: How big was it for you to get on #10Day?
Alex Wiley: I wanted to be on it just because I knew how good it was going to be. I don’t think any of us knew it was going to crack the way it did. I had heard a couple records on the album and had been sort of subliminally asking Chance to be on it for awhile. When he came to the studio to do “MoPurp” and this other song, “Spaceship”, we did both of those in one night. He played me a couple records and I was like, I guess it wasn’t so subliminal, I just asked him, but jokingly because it was still his decision. He called me like three weeks before 10Day was out basically and was like “I want you to add a verse to ‘Windows’” because “Windows” was already out and he said he wanted me to add a verse to it and give it a little more bounce. So we just did that, and I think it came out cool. That tape, I think, is like a Chicago classic.
RubyHornet: Tell me a little about your label situation with Closed Sessions.
Alex Wiley: Man, it’s cool. I just think what we have in store is cool, like our plan for this shit, just where we’re trying to go. I think it’s just going to be very interesting to watch. If we do it right, and I think we will, I think it’ll be something to really watch because I think we’ll be getting at this shit that only major artists get at and still be doing it our way while still keeping it indie.
RubyHornet: What does Chicago mean to you?
Alex Wiley: I don’t want to leave. I feel like other rappers want to get rich and move to LA or some shit, but I really like it here. I think you can hear it in my music that I’m from Chicago and this is what I’m about. I feel like Chicago, all the people that are hot here, you can just hear they’re from Chicago, they’re popping because they bring that Chicago shit.
RubyHornet: What do you want listeners to take away from an Alex Wiley record?
Alex Wiley: I want them to just inherently like it as a song. I’m not trying to make music that’s preachy or making people think too deeply. I just want people to hear it and like it and just be pleasing to the ear. I just want people to like it and fuck with it. I just want people to feel it.
RubyHornet: What can we expect from Alex Wiley moving into the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013?
Alex Wiley: Just like a barrage of shit coming in January. We got videos, several more singles, it’s just a whole bunch of shit. We’ve been saving records for a long time. People think that because I’ve only dropped a couple songs in the past couple months that I haven’t been recording, but I’ve been recording a lot of shit for the coming weeks. I think it’ll be a good gauge of whether people will fuck with my tape too, because a lot of these songs didn’t quite make the project but they still kind of had that sound. I’m really eager to see if people fuck with it, I think they will but you never know what happens.