Boston and Massachusetts although less well known than Philly for Hip-Hop Culture, and like PA., just outside the Tri-State Area, it still has a rich Heritage in Hip-Hop, and in true Kool Skool style, we thought we would take a trip on Roads less travelled in the shape of Boston Based Producer/MC Will C.
WILL C. "Mr. Magic Down The Dial Project"
Will C. is not an artist that can be easily categorized, and its pretty obvious he wouldn't want to be either, His take on Hip-Hop is a complicated Fusion of Traditional tools, obscure Sci-Fi, creative risks, video editing and classic DNA used in an extremely unorthodox manner, however it does not result in some bogus Broth. His vision has been recognized by Brick Records home of Reks and Termanology, and many of modern East Coast Undergrounds finest, and has been involved in many collabos as Producer or MC. Although Will is on a Label, he approaches his Art with an almost Indie mentality, editting his own video projects, and recently was involved in the Grass Roots Pabst Blue Ribbon Collabo Project 7", an ode to the Blue Collar Beer of choice. That said he also has undeniable Foundation Kudos, by assisting the late Great Mr. Magic in archiving his personal collection of Radio tapes from his Legendary WBLS and WHBI radio show. So without further ado, we introduce Will C., Modern Man or Breakbeat Machine of the Future?
Greetings Will C., many thanks for your time, for those readers who are not so familiar with your work, Where are you from, and how did you first become exposed to Hip-Hop Culture?
First off let me say peace to The Kool Skool, thanks for having me! This is Will C coming out of Boston, MA. I grew up about an hour and change north of the city and moved here full time when I was eighteen to attend Berklee College of Music. School lasted less than a year, but the area has remained my home for six years now. Hip hop has been a major part of my life dating back as far as I can remember. It was the soundtrack to my brother's life, so shout out to Eli for that. He's always been an intimidating and commanding presence to many. His booming voice would be on the other side of the wall, locking in with verses from Ice Cube, A Tribe Called Quest... the artists of the day. It was always there. He got locked up in the mid 90s, right around the time the music was starting to truly grab hold of me. Before I knew it I was a young kid honing a craft, consuming more and more.
Many people know about Boston MCs like Ed O.G., Esoteric, Jaysaun, Termanology, ">Criminal Scientifik (R.I.P.), Akrobatik, Mr. Lif, Krumbsnatcha, Guru (R.I.P.), etc to name a few. What is the Boston scene like?
Boston is an amazing place with many exceptional hip hop artists. I think very highly of the talent in these parts. I moved to Boston for two reasons; the artists residing here, and the record stores. I grew up listening to all of the artists you mentioned, and each of them are individual personalities, and talents, very unique and different from one another. I've had the pleasure of becoming friendly with, and working with a lot of people you mentioned above, among others. To me, that's a testament to the city and its stand up personalities. If you be yourself and have a genuine love for the art, you will be met with support. For example, let's talk Ed O.G. He's a hip hop legend, without a doubt. The first big rap name from Boston to do it all... major label, Yo! MTV Raps, the works. The homegrown hero is also one of the most down to earth individuals on the scene. Always saying what's up to everybody, showing respect, and maintaining a sense of humor. It would be easy for an individual in his shoes to get away with being an asshole, but he sets an example in the way he carries himself.
What does it mean to you to be a Bean Town Representer? What makes Boston MCs different from say an N.Y. or N.J. MC?
I think, to represent a city you should genuinely appreciate and have an understanding of that city's history, at least with the genre of music you are active in. With that being said, I don't think I'd live in Boston if it didn't have a track record of upper echelon material that strikes a chord with me. Most importantly, I want to be somewhere where there is friendly competition that drives me to excel and come up with material I may not have otherwise. I take pride in representing Boston, but I wasn't born here. I would never champion it on a level of fraudulence. I love the nature I see in Maine, the ocean I flew over in Hawaii, the mountains I saw in Colorado, and the people I met in Tennessee. Dig what I'm saying?
Absolutely! You seem to have a very "Golden Era" focused style. Is the Old School mentality still important to you in 2011, if so why?
There are certain production techniques, concepts, styles and blueprints that were introduced during rap's golden era that resonate deeply with me. I've never artificially forced myself to infuse my sound with any of those techniques, it just happens that way. My individual "sound" is a result of my personality, from my social tendencies to my thought processes and new musical ideas, paired with all of the influences I've admired, studied, picked apart and reassembled throughout the years. If I'm obsessed with a drum program on an old school rap record, I'll analyze it by myself until I feel I understand how it can be reworked in 2011. If I'm knocked out by a harmony, I'll listen to it over and over until I can play the individual parts out on a piano and reinterpret it into a new melody. The yesteryear mentality is important to me though, because it's mostly music from the Sixties, to early Nineties that I immerse myself in... I love countless records from that vast time period.
Will C. Photo by A. Garcia
One of the things that really made you stand out to The Kool Skool is your interesting, creative and original fusion of Old to New School. How important is it to you to represent the real elements of Hip-Hop, hitting MPC Pads, scratching, MC skills, etc while not being in a stuck in the past?
All of the elements and techniques you mentioned wind up on my tracks because I love what they can do to a record, especially when paired together and used in innovative ways. As an artist, you have to use the tools that allow you to bring a vibration you hear in your head out of your mind and into the world. A lot of times I go for a big, full sound that crosses into the lo-fi atmosphere when the drums are down sampled or crunched, the chops and loops come from vinyl and the verses aren't recorded in a state of the art facility per se. A lot of artists and listeners appreciate that sound too... I think it's apparent that I'm not alone here. There are so many ways to create fresh new sounds that I don't worry too much about being stuck in the past. I try to always stay on top of things and avoid using recycled ideas and loops the same way someone else did before me. It's not about an elements "check list" that you rattle off to keep it real or anything. If you don't know your history that well and are blindly trying to follow a formula, chances are you will sound dated, looping something EPMD used twenty years ago and left wondering "Who's EPMD?" when somebody calls you out on it. That's not me.
Played Out Old School "Only 14.99 Euros!"
I hear that! As you have grown as a person, how have you been able to express yourself independent of the traditional "Old School" imagery and styles?
Oh man, that's kind of funny to think about. There was a time when I was entering my teenage years and listened to old school rap almost exclusively. When I wasn't allowed to bring my Walkman on a school field trip I thought I was being cool saying to my mom, "I can't live without my radio!" She didn't catch the LL [Cool J] reference and I remember the look she gave me. I was far removed from the time period and place where new innovative records by Run-DMC were dropping, but I would wear a red-with-black striped Adidas track suit, like the ones they're wearing on the back of their first album, to junior high school dances. My friend would wear the reverse color scheme track suit and we'd show up in the same car. I certainly fondly remember my dedication and obsession during those early years, and there's is no doubt that those times and experiences shaped a large part of my musical foundation, but I no longer exclusively listen to hip hop to that degree. It is definitely a piece of a much larger puzzle now, but I will never ever ever be one of those people who declares it's dead, no longer cool, or any of that. I will always keep it in rotation and have countless classics I refer to on a daily basis, because they bring me joy. I think a lot of people begin to branch out and prick their ears up for more sounds as they get older. That was definitely the case with me, and I'm so happy I can genuinely enjoy, not just tolerate or appreciate, a greater deal of music now. Another experience that helped open the floodgates on a whole other level was when I began producing records. Some artists and albums I keep in heavy rotation were discovered when digging for pieces to sample.
Your other influences seem to be 70's T.V. and Sci-Fi. What are your top 5 Sci-Fi films and why?
This is definitely true, although it's not entirely limited to the 70s.
1. Flight of the Navigator (1986) - This one is about a kid who falls down a hill in the woods near his home and gets knocked out. When he awakes and returns home, strangers are living there and he's freaking out. Soon he finds out he's been missing for several years but hasn't aged. His younger brother is now his older brother. Then Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex & The City) and a UFO voiced by Pee Wee Herman show up. I like it because I can... relate to it.
2. Bolshoe Kosmicheskoe Puteshestvie (1974) - A Soviet sci-fi film that is apparently a screen adaptation of a play by Sergey Mikhalkov called "The First Three, or the Year 2001." It's about the first three kids, two boys and one girl, to go on a mission in space. I love it for the visuals.
3. D.A.R.Y.L. (1985) - I love this one because he's a mystery AND a miracle. Just watch the trailer -
4. Logan's Run (1976) - Not gonna lie, mostly for the soundtrack and Farrah Fawcett / Jenny Agutter.
5. Star Wars (1977) - This is a given! Well known and celebrated for a reason.
There are aspects of modern Hip-Hop Culture that are almost dictated by a sort of Peer Preassure. It almost forces artists to speak on and represent certain subject matter, even express themselves in a "Cookie Cutter" format. Do you feel freedom to do what you want and say what you need?
Yes, I do. The people I surround myself with, including the Brick Records crew and family and friends, are honestly more interested in seeing where I'll go, not where I'll stay. There is absolutely zero pressure from my label to conform. I think there is an understanding that I don't look, sound, or feel like the B-boy prototype or even the Brick Records prototype. I'm only interested in being myself and it seems the more I isolate myself from what's happening, the more I am what's happening.
Your beats and remixes are really smooth, the Intelligent Hoodlum- Black and Proud and Top Billin' and Audio Two remixes you did are really fresh! When you approach Remixes how does your creative process start?
Thank you man! The approach definitely varies, but the rule of thumb on my end is to never to release a remix to the public unless it's switching up the original in a pleasant way. Remixing well known songs can polarize listeners, and I can certainly understand that. I'm never delusional when I remix something... that is, I never have a naive sense that I'm improving on the original. The goal is to share a song in a new light, never an improved one. The Top Billin' remix introduced melody to a song that never really had one, unless you want to count the melodic repetition in the way Milk delivers "What more can I sayyy, top billin!" and other lines. In my remix, there's a piano melody and of course a different drum program, and I felt it worked. The Black and Proud remix is a good deal faster than the original, which is something I like to do. If suddenly a verse you know so well is being kicked a little more uptempo, it almost has a new sense of urgency and energy to it, and I think people subconsciously tune into it in a new way.
Intelligent Hoodlum- Black and Proud (Will C Mix) from Potholes Blog on Vimeo.
You have done quite a lot of collabos with other artists, how did they come about? What was it like working with Esoteric for example?
All of my collaborations have been with people I know and have had a chance to genuinely build a friendship with. I'm not counting my recent appearance on "Mister Jason Has a Posse," though, 'cause that has almost 30 emcees on it! Esoteric and I have known each other for many years now, and he has always looked out for me. I met him before I had a record out, and he truly put me on a couple years later, when he made me a guest on two tracks from his Esoteric Vs. Japan: Pterodactyl Takes Tokyo album. The tracks were Wrestlelectro and Heroic Trio, the latter also featuring KARMA from God Complex. Wrestlelectro actually grew out of the song's title. We were both really into the way the imaginary word "wrestlelectro" sounded, and I know each of our verses were at least partly inspired by the title alone. That and the Jane, Stop This Crazy Thing MC Shan 12" that was hanging up in my room at the time. We later connected on Synthetic Genetics from my debut album, Evil in the Mirror, and we'll have something new together for first quarter 2012.
Working with Biz Markie came about in an odd way. I was briefly introduced to him first when I was 19. A mutual friend had him call me to talk about trading tapes of old rap shows... Cold Crush, Force MCs, Fantastic, that stuff. Then a couple years later I was reintroduced to him through Sean C. of the Vinyl Reanimators, another mutual friend. Sean and Biz would talk about and trade music with each other, and eventually one day I'm sure something like "Will, pick up line 1, it's Biz" was shouted to me from Sean down the hall. That led to No Mardi Bells on my Down The Dial project. Sean was also instrumental in me meeting one of my idols, Mr. Magic. Athough the actual introduction was orchestrated by Fly Ty, when he shouted to me "DO YOU KNOW WHO THIS MAN IS??" I knew, and it was only a month or two later when Ty jokingly said to a friend of mine, "He knows more about me than I do!"
WILL C. "Down The Dial Project"
Would you say your an MC 1st or Producer? Which do you enjoy more?
Definitely producer first. Chronologically I was an emcee first, but I ultimately see myself filling the producer's shoes in the future more than the emcee's. I've written lyrics and performed them on my albums, but even then I feel like that's just an instrument I'm playing, a piece of a larger production... the featured instrument on some of my tracks.
If you could who would be your top 5 Collabos and why?
1. Brian Wilson - His compositions have moved me in such a heavy way. I am fascinated with his life, his personality, and above all, his immense catalogue of music that has been able to strike a chord and connect with people's emotions, from ultimate happiness and innocence to devastating sadness and loss, and everything in between. His innovative studio techniques and perspective on music has greatly influenced my own.
2. Carl Wilson - A phenomenal talent who passed in 1998. I don't even need to collaborate with him, I just want to be a fly on the wall during the Long Promised Road, Feel Flows, and Cool, Cool Water recording and mix down sessions.
3. Dennis Wilson - Because this cool brother would help me write a song that would make the ladies dizzy. Unfortunately he passed in 1983.
4. Mr. Magic - The only name on my list who I've been able to check off, and I am infinitely grateful for it. In high school I was organizing my collection of bits and pieces from his Rap Attack show, endlessly pondering where on earth back catalogues of his show might exist and scheming about how I could get my hands on them. A couple years later, I'm working with him on a project to pay homage to the Rap Attack, recording his radio spots in my house and preserving his personal collection of tapes from his WBLS and WHBI radio days. It was surreal and an experience I will never forget.
5. Marley Marl - I'd love to have an opportunity in my life time to be sitting on a chair in Marley's studio, either just chatting about some of his records, learning about some of his techniques, or even creating something together. He has had a tremendous influence on me and I've been listening to his music forever.
Pabst Blue Ribbon Collabo Project 7"
How did the Pabst Blue Ribbon Collabo Project you were involved in come about?
The PBR Pabst Raps project was the brainchild of the company's Boston regional representative, Rob Reilly, who approached me with the concept in its early stages. I was really into what he had in mind, so I hopped on board. I was also excited that he was going all out with blue-color 7" vinyl, clear polybags, stickers, the whole nine. A nice limited vinyl piece with a concept behind it. Together we found the right plant to press up the 7"s and made it happen. It was a very fun time, and the creative aspect of it was spontaneous. He shared with me his vision of somebody flipping the music from an old 70s Pabst TV ad, and I think it was the same day that I had chopped up the horse racing advertisement. Next up came Rocket Belt, and instrumental jam I put together while watching the visuals to an old Pabst commercial that featured a guy on a jet pack.
Although its possible that if some people were to look at The Kool Skool, they might think we are against Hip-Hoppers making money! All we are saying is that it appears that the Corporate world is dictating the direction of modern Rap Culture. Do you feel in your opinion there is any truth in that, or are we bugging?
I'd say you're right, but I have to ad that I am sorely out of touch with whatever is actually going on. I hate to speak blindly on things. I will continue to vastly ignore whatever is happening in the current mainstream realm of hip hop for probably the rest of my life. Too many dumb things started happening and I'm confident I'm not missing anything. It improves my quality of life this way. My hunch is that we can no longer blame it on the corporate suits only. The bulk of rap's new generation is was thrown off by the mistakes of rap's last mainstream generation, and now we have people face planting onto the flames of the torch they're carrying. I like a good pop record, a good mainstream record, but the keyword here is good.
For those readers who are not aware, you are signed to Brick Records, a Boston based indie label, how important was it for you to be down with a local label, and how did that situation come about?
It's not so much important for me to be down with a local label as it is to be down with a label with an exceptional discography, a philosophy I can relate to and a group of individuals I can get along with. That's exactly what Brick Records is to me. They only put out music they believe is quality, and knowing that their tastes have led to amazing releases from the likes of 7L & Esoteric, Insight, Reks, Statik Selektah, Termanology, and many more, it gives me a great, great feeling to forever be a part of their catalogue. Papa D and KARMA are true encyclopedias of all that matters in hip hop culture, and their combined knowledge and experience is a very powerful and beautiful thing. I have failed to mention Truth Elemental solely because I know him a great deal less, but anybody who speaks as highly of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's New York New York as he does is the man in my book.
I got down with Brick Records while I was at Berklee. I was introduced to a fellow student who goes by the name Raydar Ellis. He is an incredible talent and truly a great friend... one of my favorite people to build with and share new music with. He'll always be playing me amazing records he's made. Anyways, Raydar, who is now teaching at Berklee, was at the time prepping for the release of his debut album, Late Pass. When he told me it was dropping on Brick, my head spun. I told him he had to bring me over there, and he was very much down to help put me on. Like an idiot I lost contact with him for about a month after that, but when we reconnected, we hopped on the red line. That was the day I met KARMA. The chauffeur drove off and we never came back.
As an artist in your situation, how important is it for you, as an underground artist to be associated with a label at all?
Ultimately, it's not a make or break circumstance to be associated with a label if you're in my situation. I know that may sound odd after my last response, but what comes to mind right now is my friend Paris. Around a year ago, she sent me a new track of hers called The Story. I was blown away. If I remember correctly she had asked me if I had connections with any labels who might be interested, but I was afraid to put the music into the wrong hands and was fully aware that a lot of labels are fearful of artists who are not "previously established." Months later, Paris dropped a 3-song EP as a member of a group with her sister and friend. They go by KING and they continue to blow up, bigger and bigger. They recently opened up for Prince, and they've been featured practically everywhere that matters. Now, I may be mistaken here, but I'm pretty sure Paris used her mind to realize her artistic breakthrough and did it without a label. Art seems to have prevailed here, complimented by the power of social media and word of mouth. These days, things are definitely hard to read. I think my last response outlined why for me it's a great experience to be associated with Brick Records. But if labels don't support your artistic endeavors, it doesn't always mean there's something wrong with the art. Go for yours.
Is Hip-Hop still fun to you?
Without a doubt! Sometimes I think about the more innocent times when I was making music in my room after school, and every once in awhile there's a longing for that feeling. However, I very much feel that my creative process has entered a new realm of sorts, and it is getting to be more and more exhilarating. I'm starting to discover some exciting studio techniques. More than ever, the concepts and sounds are coming straight from my heart in a very pure manner. Everything feels locked in and there is a purpose to everything I release. It's a very spiritual feeling lately... I'm glad people will have an opportunity to hear the results in the near future.
Are you working on any new projects that you would like to discuss?
Yes indeed. I've been working hard for two years waiting for everything to fall into place properly. I've done a few guest appearances here and there, but overall I've been laying low as far as new releases are concerned. That's all about to change. In January, I'm dropping my first instrumental album. There's a concept to it that I can't speak too much on at this time, but I can tell you that it's going to garner a lot of strong and varied opinions. I love how it's sounding and every day I'm anxious to release it to the world. I would love to talk to you more about it come January when it's released!
Will C. Photo by Nick Cangello
In March, Eli's Prism is dropping. Eli's Prism will be the full length follow up to Evil In The Mirror. I produced the entire record and practically put myself out of commission in my quest to create the albums "sound." It's heavily inspired by nostalgia for moments and places we can never revisit again. It's a very layered and dense soundscape formed by a melting pot of all that comprises who I am. These two upcoming projects contain the greatest production and lyrics I've ever fully realized and I look forward to speaking to you more about it in the coming months.
We look forward to that, and when it drops lets definitely link up again! Lastly thanks again for your time and insight, is there anything else?
I'd like to thank The Kool Skool once again for having me, and I'd like to thank the fans out there who have listened to my projects. To the individuals who have reached out to me to show love, and to the people who delved into my material greatly, thank you so much. I have love for all of you, and I want my upcoming projects to shatter your expectations. Stay tuned!
Will C. "IMiss Mr. Magic" (March 15, 1956- October 2, 2009) Blog Tribute
Will C.'s Excellent Blog: http://willcwillc.blogspot.com
Will C on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/BillyDeeWilliamCee
Also check out The Kool Skool Interviews Tame One - Boom Skwad (Ex-Artifacts)