It’s springtime in Michigan. Birds aren’t chirping. Flowers aren’t blooming. Snow is falling. A caveat that I shouldn’t go outside, yet rather continue hibernating with my endless array of frozen pizzas and Fuller House episodes. The Tanner girls are all hot now, even Kimmy Gibler is smashable, but I digress.
It’s a late Sunday evening and I’m currently mulling about actually going out in the cold to finally finish this interview; lamenting each and every step of impending progress, because that’s what millennials are good at. Seasonal depression had vice gripped me by the ball-sack back in January. It’s still snowing in April. Fuck this, I thought.
Alas, my assignment and I were finally both free, and there was work to be done. I had been sent to interview E–Will, a Grand Rapids rap recording artist, weeks and weeks ago. Besides chopping it up for a hot second at Hip-Hop 4 Flint at The Intersection, we had kept missing each other due to scheduling conflicts and general life shit that always tends to interfere with the things you actually want to do. I had arranged a meeting at Eastown staple Mulligan’s Pub, a gathering spot for creatives and degenerates alike. E–Will was always nonchalant about the missed meetings, as was I. This made things easier off jump.
I have been working with musicians in some way, shape or form since 2010, and for lack of better words, there’s alot of dick’s out there. I never know what to expect. He texts me as he’s pulling up, so I exit the building and wait outside the entrance, shivering like a bitch as the cold winds arctic blast slaps my face, while my hands fumble in my pants furiously excavating my pockets, trying to locate a lighter. I eventually succeed in that grueling endeavor (#1stWorldProblems) as E–Will walks up. Slightly baggy jeans, solid black tee, crispy snapback, and shiny cuban linked gold chain drape his stocky frame as I quickly murmur inside my head, “godammnit, this guy is fresher than me right now.”
godammnit, this guy is fresher than me right now.”
Before I could speak, realizing I don’t even have cigarettes, he without hesitation asks “You smoke Newports?” I accept his offer while we acquaint ourselves for a second time. During this short period of inhaling cancer, the usual locals and miscreants pass by on foot. One of them strolls up, a mainstay toothless man known endearingly as “Kenny”, who frequents the area to collect empty cans. I’ve seen countless people dismiss and even berate Kenny. E–Will gives him daps, asks how he’s been and bestows him a cigarette and dollar, no questions asked. I think to myself again. “Alright. This guy is genuine. This will go smooth. Let’s do this shit.” We head inside the dimly lit bar, where “The Walking Dead” is playing on all the TV’s instead of sports, and everybody except us looks like they got dressed in the dark.
To the casual listener of GR Hiphop, or hiphop in general, how would you describe yourself off rip?
My name is E-Will, I’m from Grand Rapids Michigan, the Southeast side, off Dickinson and Kzoo area. I started doing music when I was 17. I mean I started rappin’ when I was 15 but I didn’t start recording until 17.
What made you start taking music seriously? I’ve heard you say in some of your songs that it’s like therapy for you. Is that the sole reason?
I always played football up through my freshman year of college. Once I stopped playing football, I didn’t have any way to take out any aggression. I figured I could do that through music. Once I figured that out, it was just like, ‘Yeah, this is what I’m good at.’
You’ve been at it for a little while. I understand that your 3rd project is coming out soon, yes?
So, I’ve dropped, this is my (pauses) 5th project. I’ve dropped 3 on hnhh.com, and over time, something happened, they deleted them, so technically, yeah, this is my 3rd joint.
Blogs are weird like that, and anyone that says “pay for play” ain’t real is full of shit, in my opinion.
I was so sad, people were hittin’ me like ‘you, I can’t find none of your old shit!’ So I’m like damn, 50 songs or so are gone, but this 3rd one is coming soon.
When are you shooting for a release date for that?
My next show is the 21st, so I’m shooting for the 29th of April, and that’s called “Affinity”.
How does this project differ from your old material?
It’s just growth, being more confident. I’m definitely more comfortable as I’m writing, in my performances, and just overall quality in sound. I have my own sound and I’m still developing it.
Speaking of sound, to me you always kind of sounded like Meek Mill and that’s not a diss, just saying besides banging Nicki Minaj and touching her butt, nobody want’s to be Meek Mill right now. What I mean is as far as the boisterousness goes, rapping like you just stepped barefoot on a Lego.
Hahaha, I get that sometimes, I guess it’s cuz my voice is higher, but my energy is out there fo sho. I grew up on Pac, and in high school I listened to a lot of Ace Hood.
Nice, “Bugatti” still gets me hype when I party with white girls.
Yeah, I mean that, “Gutter”. I had his first album, mixtape, everything. If I could collab with anyone, it would be him.
Speaking of influences, you have a few tracks on your Soundcloud like “Grammy Family Freestyle”, “Right Now” with B. Sykes, “6Sixteens” where it’s evident you can actually rap. Most artists put themselves in a box, you’re either a street rapper or a lyricist; is that something you take pride in, or something that just comes natural?
So much. I alway really took pride in that. And even being able to get down the different styles of music, like always, I love music in general, so yeah, definitely trying to be lyrical and still give people somethin that, I wouldn’t say catchy, but just sounds good.
Rap and pop culture go hand in hand. Since following you on Facebook, I’ve noticed you’re always posting some hilarious stuff. Memes of all varieties; sports, TV, hood shit. I’m a firm believer in keeping up with the times does nothing but help your music and or lyrics. How do you feel about that?
Oh yeah, definitely. I’ve always been the class clown, it’s just natural for me. I just like to make people laugh, and if something currently relevant ends up as a punch line in a song of mine, that’s cool too. Like the chef boy r dee mixtape, hamburger helper, whatever that shit was. It was fire. Might have to drop a bar about that. (laughs)
“Watch The Stove” had me buggin too. Genius marketing. Gimmicky, but genius. Lots of talented artists everywhere really seem to struggle with that aspect. We’ve yet to see one artist from GR make it BIG. Willie was close but still never a household name. Your “And What” video garnered over 3k hits on Youtube, your most viewed thus far. That’s gotta be positive for you, right? I also noticed you were getting your Drake on a bit in it. Are some people surprised you can sing too?
Oh yeah. Alot. I’ve always liked harmonies and melodies even if I could never really sing that great. Before Drake, Eminem did that shit, like that joint he made for his daughter, he really couldn’t sing but it SOUNDED good. It was weird. So I always been intrigued.
Is there anything in particular you’d like Affinity to accomplish?
Ideally more blog posts, more albums printed. Just this is.. it’s owned by me and the producer of it, we just worked out some shit, we just gonna push it. Like, it is a mixtape, but it’s not. Those lines are really blurred nowadays. So I’m gonna release it, and it’s gonna be free. I haven’t put out a free cd in years.
Nowadays that’s where the Market has gone. I mean as a music lover I hate to say this, but I don’t remember the last time I bought anything. Maybe Slaughterhouse in like 2011. There’s too many options now, with Spotify, Apple, Tidal, Google, What-Ever-The-Fuck.
Right. So it’s about to me, just building the fan base. Continuing to do that and make music that I love and that people wanna hear. If you gotta good fan base, they’ll play for your shows. And that’s where the money is right now, honestly.
One song you have called, “Liquor 4 Pain”. What does E–Will like to dr-
Hennessy. On the rocks. Easily. Everytime. Monday through Sunday. I don’t do too many shots unless it’s out of the bottle.
I’d buy you some Henny for your time but Mulligan’s doesn’t play that shit. Mulligan’s only carries the type of drinks people that don’t take frequent showers like. You know, PBR and cheap Whiskey. Anyways, you have a lot of weed references in your songs. Are you one of those smokers who has to have them crazy strains named weird shit like “Cotton Candy Butt Sex” or are you just down with whatever?
I do have a favorite strain. My homie grows it. It’s called Cheese Quake.
Cheeeese, Quake. It’s two different words. It’s a strain of skunk cheese, and some other shit, and yeah it’s good as fuck. And no I don’t really mind the names. Smells and feels, ya know what I’m sayin? That’s how I get down, I’m not super technical or whatever, I just wanna get fried. But I don’t smoke the regular. No reggies with the headaches.
OK. So you’re from here, born and raised. Say you just fired up an L of that Cheese Quake. What’s your favorite local eatery to get your grub on after?
Oh, fuck… um… It used to be Sandmanns, but that’s no longer here! Fuck, man. Local homegrown join, I’m probably rocking with Jamaican Daves.
I’m big on seafood. Show me some fried catfish and I’ll dance like pixie Dave Chappelle. What was that joint that was on Wealthy and Diamond, Burton and K-zoo?
With the Kool Aid!
Oh them Wing Heaven joints?
Yeah yeah yeah yeah!
That used to be the shit. Fuckin Mike sold the franchise and then it kinda got divied up between some different people. Then some white people just bought one and that’s that. A lot of people took that Kool Aid idea and ran with it on some bullshit. I definitely miss them. Wing Heaven used to be on point.
Right, well, I’ve lived in this city for only 7 years, and I’ve seen ALOT of changes, certain blocks look nothing like they used to, how do you feel about the gentrification going on right now?
The gentrification is crazy. I was just outside talking to Twiz about that. Now that we’re getting so big, it’s crazy to see it happen. They’re literally killing Eastown. Like, you come to Eastown for the diversity. You can come here and be anybody, and everyone accepts that. It’s all walks of life. You can come here and it’s cool zuc you might talk to someone that you might have never talked to before, besides being here. Now they’re changing that. They’re about to move the hood to Kentwood, and it’s already happening.
Yeah, there’s new apartments going up everywhere it seems. Always on some bullshit $1600 for a tiny 2 bedroom and call it “market rate”.
No one is gonna pay that except rich kids and people that ain’t from here. Downtown is killin’ it right now too. It’s cool, to an extent, some development is good. When cities grow, it could work out, but in Grand Rapids it’s so conservative here, I’m 80-95% sure it’s gonna work against us in the hip hop community.
Absolutely. I’m from the east side of the state. bars, clubs, whatever, out there, they play hiphop. They play rap. We were moshing to Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz and freak dancing fat girls in white pants to T-Pain. I moved out here and was like, wow, they play nothing but EDM and Top 40. The most “hip-hop” you get is fucking Flo-Rida. I don’t know anybody that likes Flo-Rida except except a bunch of “Becky’s and Stephanie’s”
It’s 2016 and they still play Apple Bottom Jeans, Boots with the fur out here! It’s really a bad representation of the music that this city is trying to represent. it sucks, but, that’s who runs this city.
It’s 2016 and they still play Apple Bottom Jeans, Boots with the fur out here!”
Conservatives run the city, but women run the world. Every rapper has had a braggadocious moment on wax about pounding some vagina. You have a line, in particular, that exclaims “I Rodney King that pussy”
*Bursts in laughter* That was my friend’s mom’s favorite line bro.
I want to go on the opposite spectrum of that. What is your most embarrassing sexual experience?
HAH! Aww man… umm… umm…
I’ll tell you mine while you think. I was at The Drink Ultra Lounge back when that was still open. The original 80’s night, downtown. I went home with this Mexican chick and craft beer hadn’t taken over yet in GR so I was drinking ratchet ‘Incredible Hulks’ and shit back then. Anyways, we get back to her spot and she’s like “roll up” and tosses me a rello. I’m young and dumb at this stage in life so I’m agreeing just to agree, like “bet”, thinking I’ll smoke this blunt then hop on the train to Pound Town. Well the blunt knocked me the fuck back, I don’t mix alcohol with anything ever so I got the spins like a mother fucker. I played it cool even though I was sick as fuck. We start to bang then she pulls me out and starts giving me head. At this point all the motion of sex and being dizzy as fuck caught up with me. I puke all over her hair and her bed. She’s dismayed and disgusted, initially, but after cleaning up still offers to mop me off again. Talk about the real MVP. I politely declined and passed out naked til she kicked me out at 7 AM. I have many more stories where that came from.
*Laughs* I’ma do you one better. Aight so, this chick, she’s bad, bro. I was working at Z’s in 2012, She’d always talk to me, touch my head and shit. One night she kissed me and I end up going to her crib after work. She stayed at the Globe. She answered the door butt boot ass naked bro, everything was perfect. I’m hitting her, it’s good, I get to hittin her from the back, I look down… she gotta fuzzy booty though!! I lie to you not bro. I was mad as hell dog. Ass hair everywhere. Like obscene amounts. It was horrifying.
Damn, son. Alright, I want get the image of vomit and ass hair out of my head, so back to Affinity. Is it local producers you’re working with, or people that you collab with on a regular basis?
I’m only doing one producer right now. It keeps a certain sound and feel through the whole CD. I actually didn’t even like him at first. He sent me a few beats and I was like ‘NOPE’. 5 months later he sent me more and I liked all of them. He reminds me a lot of myself when I was his age. I think the nigga’s 19. He’s just passionate.
As far as rappers go, J Rob is on there, Just Fly is on there, my homie, Dreamer from Flint is on there. Lady Ace maybe on there if it works out.
As far as the local scene goes, there’s not too many venues in GR that allow hip hop performers, and the ones that do have kinda remained stagnant as far as the names and faces go. What is your opinion of that and where would you like to see the scene go?
Um… I hate it, honestlly. to be completely honest I hate it cuz it’s not enough but at the same time I remember when I did my 1st show when I was 17 and itit was at Toscanos on Division. There was like, nowhere to perform back then. They wasn’t even doing Billy’s shows like now. So I’m grateful, but we still need more. The Death House ya know… my brother Sykes runs a part of that, and I think we need more shit like that ya know… warehouse shit. In Detroit they do that shit, and it’s lit everytime bro. So we need to do that. I want to see more of that.
At these shows, like the ones at Billy’s, P Scheme, Founders, where ever, you have the mainstays, you have the Suports, the Dante Copes, the Vensons, The AB’s, the Convos, ect. They’re all more “hip-hop”centric, per say, extremely talented but sometimes shitting on mainstream music in their personal opinions and flavors.
Haha. All the time bro! Fable just did that shit today! Said ‘Fuck Post Malone’. I fuck with Post Malone. I’m not a huge fan but I listen to his stuff.
Man, white guy with corn rows and a grill. I get why that might irk some people. ButPost Malone just made it on Kanye’s new album. I’m sure he’s not sweating the haters. My point is, do you sometimes feel blackballed from certain shows or venues because you have a different style then what’s typically performed in said venues?
Sometimes, I’ve been invited to plenty of peoples shows and they all show me love, but I’m sure I haven’t done certain ‘art gallery’ shows because of the style of music I make. Which is fine. I don’t want to perform in an atmosphere that isn’t gonna want to have fun with me. It’s cool though, people come around and I can make all styles of music. I see it, and I notice it, but it doesn’t rub me the wrong way. My key thing is getting out of the states. A lot of cats get stuck here and there’s nothing wrong with that. They love the culture. I’m just not looking for the same thing. There’s whole other kinds of worlds out there. I’m 24, I can’t be 30 in Grand Rapids and still trying to rap.
Do you feel the scene is divided or do you guys get along for the most part?
Yeah we get along, I think the thing is we tolerate, for the most part. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. It’s a business at the end of the day and anywhere you work or deal with money to do what you gotta do, you’re gonna deal with someone that you don’t fuckin like. I think we do a pretty good job for the most part of tolerating eachother.
We could be the best musical/hip hop city, in the world.That’s how confident I am in Grand Rapids, Michigan.”
I’ve rocked stages or worked with a lot of the artists here. And just myself growing too, I respect everyone nowadays. It wasn’t always like that but I’ve grown a bit. There’s lots of talent here. My producer, Brenden Coe, he’s probably the most talented producer in the city. Underrated as fuck. Wuzee, man, He’s incredible to me. He just be saying some shit that gets everyones attention. I’m not a hater. I just see shit for what it is. I just think everybody coming together is way far down the line. I hope to see it happen while I’m still in the city. I wanna see cats from the hood come to different shows, and vice versa. Cuz I get to go to both sides. I’m cool with Dante, Venson and them. I’ll go to a show and kick it with them, and go to a hood show at Cocktailz or somethin the same night. If we could all come together like that… We could be the best musical/hip hop city, in the world.That’s how confident I am in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
E–Will has a live performance promoting his new mixtape Affinity April 21st at Sahara Hookah Lounge, downtown Grand Rapids.
Guadalupe Olgine Jr. Is a contributing writer to SkipFiction as well as Detroit Metro Times. For leisure he enjoys feeding the homeless and swimming with dolphins. Look at pictures of his misadventures on IG and read his musings on Twitter @Whoo_MI989