The essence of the classic Hip Hop period was a mix of different topics in the black experience which is still, if not, more relevant and important in today’s world. For many, Hip Hop culture and rap music play an integral role in understanding and expressing themselves. One rapper in particular uses hip hop to build community. Paul Willis, a rapper and activist representing Sacramento, CA by way of Boston, MA, incorporates Hip Hop elements into lesson plans and projects that help lead youth to self appreciation and confidence through critical thinking and creativity.
Building community is what Paul Willis is all about. “In order to connect with other people, especially as an artist, you have to be self-aware and have an awareness and consciousness of the people and events that shape the world around you. If my music connects with others, then I get excited about the conversations once the music stops, and what that conversation then means for my communities” said Willis. I took a listen to Walkups & Alleyways, Willis’ latest joint EP with producer 006 and it’s proof that conscious lyricism mixed with smooth beats can still slap. I’m a sucker for chill beats and vocals that tell stories and take me through the artist’s life. Willis definitely delivers.
Paul Willis is a Hip Hop artist, rapper, and activist who was born and raised in Boston, MA, whose family is originally from Kingston, Jamaica. “We know that hip-hop has roots in reggae music, and it’s the consciousness of reggae and hip-hop artists that influenced me the most growing up. Listening to the dancehall music was a normal experience in my household, especially when my older brother and I got to high school, but it was the conversations around the messages in the music that were the most enlightening” said Willis. Some of Willis’ musical influences include Talib Kweli, Yasiin Bey, Common, Black Thought, Lupe Fiasco, Nas, Biggie, Jay-Z, Immortal Technique, Guru and Kanye. He notes that since moving to Sacramento he’s been really inspired by artists who are making global music. “Some of my elders here include World Hood, who are the founders of the Sol Collective, and Devon Evans, a member of the original Wailers. I was already aspiring to make music that connects with people across the world, and these are folks whose example I can follow,” said Willis.
Paul Willis aspires to continue to build community through Hip Hop, whether that be through rap or education. He currently works with Zero Forbidden Goals Promotions (ZFG), a community organization centered around the creative arts and writing. A major long term goal of his is to finish the hip-hop & education curriculum that he’s working on. It covers social justice issues, issues of cultural competency and how hip-hop plays a role in bridging cultures. In the short term, Willis is looking to release his 5th project later this year, and building relationships with artists around the world through ZFG’s #GuerillaPoetryMonth campaign. Paul Willis’ Walkups & Alleyways EP is available for download via bandcamp. More of his music can be found on soundcloud, and more info about his projects can be found on his patreon page.
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