Alex Wiley was one of the first artists in Chicago I felt some sort of friendship with. Having been to Soundscape a few times to interview him/spend time with him in late 2012 while I was working on a story about the young artist signed to local independent label Closed Sessions, I knew to take things Wiley said with a grain of salt, and that if it was cold out he was probably posted on the black leather couch with his red winter jacket on. A self-purported rapper since he dropped out of high school to pursue his craft, Wiley has been at the center of much of the hip-hop music that has emanated from the post-drill scene that has taken over the city since Acid Rap dropped almost a year ago. Close friends with the likes of Chance The Rapper and Vic Mensa as well as fellow ‘Village’ members Kembe X and Jean Deaux-Wiley has watched as those around him have hit the national scene with varying expectation and buzz. His 2013 release Club Wiley was a different taste for Chicago, with large arching bangers that pulled from his hometown’s storied backgrounds in House and Juke aesthetics, even mixing heavy guitar into some of the runs on the record. What the project did was cement the 20-year-old MC as a voice to take note of, establish himself with a full, individual body of work that got the attention of the majors and has vaulted him onto voting for this year’s XXL Freshman list.
While the XXL list may be a year off yet, it has been absolutely entertaining to watch Alex consistently improve on his talent since Club Wiley’s release in early June. He burst into the new year with a vengeance, releasing a surprise four song EP that flexed on the 20-year-loop idea by bringing back a rendition of Master P’s classic “Make Em Say Uhh” alongside several easy to listen to records. Since then, Wiley has been on a tear, releasing a steady stream of loosies and b-sides as he prepares Village Party, his anticipated sophomore release. He announced the project by teaming up with another of Chicago’s quickly-rising artists in the Mic Jenkins piece, “Own Man”.
I’ll admit, I don’t like the artists I listen to go quiet. But for the few months of 2013 that it seemed Wiley was a bit absent from the game, it seems as though he was busy cooking up plenty and has proved that thus far this year. Currently working with Chicago producer The Odd Couple, I am fully excited for what is to come from Wiley in the next few months as he rides a wave of positive reviews of his trip south to SXSW last month into several west coast dates this month before he rocks Reggie’s with Vinny Cha$e, Mic Terror and Mike G as part of On The Grind Management’s show.
Yesterday, Wiley dropped his latest track, “Vibration”, the second single off of Village Party, which is expected this May and continues to shine a light on the development that Wiley and the team at Closed Sessions has been able to generate since linking up to found the label. The song is a furtherance of the full, multi-layered tracks that have come to be the mark of a Wiley record, with what seems to be a more complete understanding of keeping things interesting and upbeat from beginning to end. Wiley seems ready to break out of past perspectives and images, stating on this record, “I’m my own man, I’m a grown man, y’all ain’t my homies, I don’t think they understand.” Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper Wiley track without a bridge of epic chants etc.
Point is, keep an eye on this kid or else risk writing a piece like this months down the road. Wiley has waited patiently for his turn to take off from Chicago and, if he continues to follow this positive-movement trend that he has hit 2014 with thus far, I see no reason to not put a co-sign on the Village captain.