Denver producer Wicjones has been working hard to make a name for himself in the city & 2018 is looking brighter than ever with the release of his debut project BHM: The EP. From soulful sample chops and smooth basslines to thoughtful wordplay with conscience undertones, BHM: The EP sets a mean example for what Wicjones has in store for the Denver music scene.
I had the opportunity to conversate with him about his latest project, his process, influences, and even Kanye West.
Luis: “Can you talk a little about what you've put together in your latest project?”
Essentially, for the month of February I sampled 3 prolific black artists per week & released them via SoundCloud. For the fourth week, I started plotting & wanted to kick things up a notch, so I started reaching out to artists to see if they'd be interested in doing a song for the record and they were all in! So that's where it all started.
Luis: “One of my favorite aspects of the project are the samples used. How did you go about finding the samples?”
Wicjones: "The samples, it was me finding random stuff. I was just going through a bunch of old black history month playlists so I could get a feel of all the sounds and I was just picking my favorites. Then, it got to the point where people started saying "oh well you should sample “this” person and “that” person and I started kind of following that more and just being random with it."
Luis: "So you were getting inspiration from all around?"
Wicjones : "Pretty much. yeah. I wasn't really too picky about where to go with everything."
Luis: "Did you start making the beats with the samples or did you add the samples after the lyrics, because the lyrics are pretty conscious too."
Wicjones : "I chopped the samples pretty much first. Most times, I like to get the melody before I add the drums."
Luis: "My favorite sample was in "whips and chains". I loved the way you chopped that vocal and turned into a chorus type of melody. How did that idea come about?"
Wicjones : "It just ended up happening that way. Connor initially wanted to leave it open like it is on the final product but I wanted it to have a hook. He came up with one that we both were on the fence about then after that, it just felt right to let the sample play out.
Connor Ray is one of the talented artists featured on BHM: The EP. His lyrical message along with his smooth flow is something Denver hasn't seen before. He is definitely an artist to look out for.
Luis: "He definitely flows in that song. He reminds me so much of J. Cole"
Wicjones: "Yeah man, he killed it. But that’s something we definitely hear that a lot. I like to look at it this way; The way he raps and talks about true shit kind of reminds people of J cole, but there's much more originality in it than that. I can hear J cole in him, I can hear Kendrick in him, etc. He's just an artist. He is focused on being an artist rather than being a rapper. I urge all rappers to be more artists than rappers because that's how you unlock different keys to this music shit.."
Luis: “That’s a dope way to look at it. What’s the feedback on the project been so far?”
Wicjones: "One of the dopest things I've heard about the project is, "these are all denver artists?" Like yes, all Denver artists and they all kill shit. It's so beautiful to hear. People are opening their eyes to the talent that's out here. I definitely give them their props cause they did the damn thing. As a producer & engineer, it was easy for me to do my part because what they brought to the table. I know what sounds sonically good to me, so when I heard something that I didn’t like, I would let them know & we tweaked it until we both loved it. I'm very open with the people that I work with because they know I’m only trying to do what’s best for the music overall. I just want to make great music with people who inspire me.
Luis: "I hear more classic hip hop influences than newer sounds in this project and in Denver, both production and lyric wise. Talk to me about that."
Wicjones: "With the Black History Month project, I wasn't going for any specific sound at first, it was just sample based. Nina Simone was the more trap sounding, and that's because the percussion that I chose to use. But the bass guitar made it sound less trappy, and i'm a big fan of bass guitar. But I wasn't going for the classic hip hop sound, I was just trying to make dope shit that felt good, and that shit felt great.
Luis: "So where do you come from? Who are your inspirations?"
Wicjones: "What's crazy is I had plenty of people that I looked up to when I first started out. I was looking up to Ski Beatz heavily. Dilla, I had a time where I wasn't listening to anything but J Dilla."
Luis: "I did hear some J Dilla inspiration in "the project"
Wicjones: "That's crazy. One of my homies, the dude that was doing the drawings for my project, posted something like "Oh, this is the new J Dilla" and I'm just like "whoa, pause homie, you can't just go out blurting that shit". But it felt good to hear from somebody who genuinely felt that way. I know many producers wouldn't agree, but it's just dope to see someone who's a fan of the work, feel that way."
Luis: "I heard the same thing too. I heard a combination of J dilla and Just Blaze."
Wicjones: "Yeah Just Blaze is definitely an influence too. He's a fucking legend. If you want to get me up at the club, one of the few songs that will always do that is "Public Service Announcement" by Jay Z.
Luis: "What about influences that are popping now?"
Wicjones: "I feel like my influences that are doing things now aren't people who are really in the mainstream spotlight, and I think that's why my sound comes off so different to many artists. I don't look up to Metro Boomin’ or DJ Mustard, etc. And that's no knock to anybody, cause they make some dope ass shit. I look up to producers like Symbolyc One, !llmind, and Jake One… Just look up their production credits, they’re are crazy. Those are my top three influences right now."
Symbolyc One and Illmind are producers that have worked with Kanye before. Their style have shaped some of Kanye's biggest albums like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Watch The Throne.
Luis: "Are you a Kanye Fan?"
Wicjones: "I am. I love Kanye. Graduation & My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy are two of my favorite albums ever. But I think most of his catalog if not all of his catalog is phenomenal."
Luis: "How do you feel about what Kanye has been tweeting?"
Wicjones: "It's Kanye being Kanye, especially when an album is about to release. He's just getting everybody riled up so that he can drop and have everyone talking about him."
Luis: "One last question before we wrap it up. What advice would you give to your younger self?"
Wicjones: "Get started sooner. That would be the first thing cause if I had started sooner, shit would be very different already. Someone in my life once told me, " the only difference between you and all these other people is that they're putting their work out there to be listened to and you're robbing yourself of that chance to do it". That always stuck with me.
Take a listen below: