His upcoming EP, BANBA, is out May 18th on Innovative Leisure and its cover is reminiscent of the work of Jean Michel-Basquiat. His lyrics read like a cross between Jericho Brown poems and and Childish Gambino lyrics. All this merges together to create the Bee-Gee sounding genre of “disco-rap,” the genre made for the Chicago rapper we should be talking about: Ric Wilson.
Ric Wilson is a native to the Windy City of Chicago. He began his artistic career through the legendary YCA (Young Chicago Authors), the Chicago-based poetry organization that has propelled artists like Chance TheRapper and Vic Mensa.
At the young age of 22, Wilson has created a unique blend of disco with hip-hop. The fusion creates a product that can address the difficult issues in his world while simultaneously creating an album or song that makes you want to dance and be hopeful.
Antonio Villasenor-Baca: You have a really unique genre: disco-rap; how would you describe your sound? How would you describe disco? And how did you get into making it?
RW: I guess in a way you can say that like disco rap, if you look at the history of disco and like if you put it in terms of rap, uh disco before was like freedom rap in
a really weird way you know what I mean? But like freedom rap doesn’t always have to be about like black death, it can also just talk about black joy, black death or like not even, just like dancing, people feeling free. Yeah that would pretty much be like disco rap I would say. The term is not something that is self-proclaimed, someone else kind of proclaimed that on to me but it’s ok I like it.
AVB: Right and what were your influences how did you or why did you start making this specific type of music?
RW: I made this album called Soul Bounce and I was in the barber shop this one time and this like old black dude told me that like it sounded like disco rap I mean not disco rap he said it sounded like disco. He said, ‘that’s not rap that’s disco’. I was like oh disco? I remember it was disco. I thought disco was just like from the Bee Gees and fuckin’ like Saturday Night Fever and shit. Then I thought of disco as this thing that really started really cool- the radical like you know with black and brown queer folks in New York. So, I was like damn I wish this [was my music]. It actually comes from a really like radical place and this kind of aligns with my policy so I was like damn I kinda don’t want my music to represent something like this if it sounds like this you know? I mean that’s really cool. So that’s why I created Negro disco cause the album, the EP, I mean the EP before this, that was kinda like the ode to like shows, the black and brown folks that started disco they kinda got gentrified out and everyone forgot about them so that’s what negro disco was, an ode to that and I don’t know I guess like I do a lot of dancing at shows, when I do my live shows like I always have a kind of like facilitate and coordinate soul train what the crowd does so that the crowd ran soul train so the crowd’s soul training to like the songs that I’m doing it to, and I guess like just because it’s like me performing like that in sync kinda ties it together, the people follow like my disco rap, which is cool. It’s sounds like fun liberating around so I’m not really scared of that.
AVB: And so I’ve like seen the cover for your upcoming EP and your first one. I can see that you’re really into not just music but all different kinds of arts. How did you get into so many different art forms and how does like the visual art affect your music like Jean Michel-Basquiat?
RW: I was just, I’m glad, I’m like literally driving from Overland College I had a gig and I’m with a friend and I was telling him when I was growing up you know this was before like you know the viral era and everything was on MTV or if you heard a song it was on the movie so like I always feel like visuals play a real crucial part in like music or just like bringing music to people bringing new music to the people and it always sticks harder with the visuals um and yeah so that’s pretty much why I like to try. I probably put a lot of emphasis or like I’m super extra with my like cover art cause I wanna like, I wanna paint this picture of how I want you to receive my like actual music you know what I mean? I want you to receive it in a certain way so I kind of make sure I represent visuals a certain way. Exactly how I want you to receive it. If that makes any sense I don’t know.
AVB: Yeah yeah totally and so now getting into specifically the lyrics. Your lyrics are different from a lot of contemporary mainstream hip-hop and rap. Why did you choose or why do you choose to write about such real world situations in your experiences as opposed to I guess a lot of themes in other lyrics from other hip-hop artists?
RW: It’s just like I’m into hip-hop but the hip-hop I was taught was supposed to be a voice, a mouth piece for the movement and then you can like, just because you’re a mouth piece for the movement you can also have like songs that are about partying and like having fun because you can have fun and be free too. But I grew up like in this program called the Chicago Freedom School and I was reading the Pedagogy of the Oppressed and I was 15 or 16 so when it comes in terms of like me writing rap you know I’m always, I’ve always been rooting from it into like an actual like organized community in Chicago so I guess that’s probably why like also I’m around the people all the time so it was kind of hard. I don’t know its not that my raps aren’t intelligent raps but I feel like that I don’t know I’ve just always, I feel like you should talk about something when you’re like making a song.
I mean that’s always the songs that stick with me, the songs that are about something. And it can even be about bullshit but make it bullshit about something. So when I write my songs a lot of stuff is like you know stuff that’s like personally affecting me you know? I talk a lot about like issues, Black American issues in America which is like just being Black and American and a lot of shit that just like affects me so its all just singing the stuff that just comes to mind.
AVB: Just because it’s kind of what’s looming over the music industry right now as a Chicago- based rapper, and I saw your tweet as well, what has been your response and take on Kanye West right now and his history?
RW: Oh my god you, saw my tweet? I mean I don’t know why everyone’s so, I don’t know why everyone’s so surprised Kanye said he supported Trump, he said he would have voted for Trump last year in like I think it was 2016 in November he said he would have voted for Trump, I kind of knew where he stood back then it’s not really a surprise to me. And he’s doing Kanye. I don’t know the shock value. I don’t really know what’s going on but it is what it is and that’s all I have to say about that.
AVB: Getting into the EP, what can we expect from it? I guess what are the themes what do you talk about what do you want it to do where do you want it to go?
RW: I don’t know you know like you make music and put it out. I used to always have a plan when I put it out for now I have a team that’s helping me with that plan. It’s helped me come up with a plan to adopt it you know so now my job is to make the music and put it out I’m just excited to see it out, I don’t know what the plan is. Hopefully, I really wanna play Afro Punk like Atlanta so I’m gonna put that in the atmosphere I really want to play Afro Punk in Atlanta like this, all the like late late summers so hopefully that happens. I don’t really have, I got a headline show June 2 and I’m just gonna try to sell that out and then I’m going to think where to go, you know? I don’t really get my hopes up for too much stuff but I’m really excited when stuff happens you know so.
I try and stay afloat that’s how you keep your sanity with this fucking music shit, you don’t get your hopes up for anything, so don’t get your hopes up for stuff when you feel like somebody owes you something or like something that’s supposed to happen isn’t happening you know? So..
AVB: Is there anything else that you want to add about yourself or the EP that’s coming up?
RW: Nothing much. I think Basquiat inspired my EP somebody wrote about that shit- how Basquiat inspired the EP cover. All the orange are live forms, they’re my friends standing next to me and I don’t know I’m just excited to put it out this is the first time I actually have like I mixed.., a lot of people don’t know that I like I shot the whole project and mixed it and co-produced every single song. A lot of people don’t know so this is the first time that it’s gonna be a full project that I well yeah project that I have really co-produced so I’m excited about that and to see how people receive that and it’s kind of slower than most of my other stuff like the stuff that’s coming out is gonna be a little bit slower than most of my other stuff so I’m excited about that too, to see how people kind of receive it because I’m rapping a little bit more I’m playing in my voice a little bit more versus like having the fact that beat I’m like playing with my like I don’t know using my voice as an instrument a little bit more in this project so we’ll see how they receive it.
AVB: Right and just real quick because you brought it up, you said the album cover was inspired by Basquiat are the paintings in the back yours or?
RW: No no! My friend Julian Gilliam. He’s a really really dope painter and all those paintings are actually unreleased paintings. They’re unreleased paintings of his that he’s been like working on for like three, four, or five years and that’s the first picture or any publication they’ve ever put that shit out in, in the cover art of this BANBA EP. So shout out to Julian and he’s gonna have like his first show and just like, he’s gonna sell those mother fuckers for like forty, fifty thousand dollars and I thought that was really cool that he actually like used those as like a back up space, just the background of the stage design for the EP cover.
By Antonio Villasenor-Baca