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New Album, aka Where do I Start!?

Creative Block

For the past month or so, it has been my goal to start work on a full new album to follow up on last year’s ‘Laying The Gauntlet‘. That project was aimed at being a conceptual one; I wanted to try and recreate the atmosphere of the Hip-Hop music that was so inspiring to me in my youth, and frame it as a modern radio show. In the time that has passed since then, I felt that although I did succeed in this goal, I only really scratched the surface of what my true connection to Hip-Hop is. Sure, I aired some feelings about the way Hip-Hop has gone now, and drew some musical lines back to producers like J Dilla, 9th Wonder, Nicolay, Madlib and the like. But attempting to mimic the sounds that certain individuals spoke to me with seems somewhat superficial. What I really should have targeted was the foundations that these artists built from – powerful kicks, soulful melodies, experimentation, individuality. Overall, if I’m honest with myself, ‘Laying The Gauntlet‘ is not the Hip-Hop roots homage that I set out to make.

 

So the question I now find myself wrestling with is: do I want to try broaching the same territory again, but improve on my previous effort, or do I try something totally new?

Though targeting my musical influences is still important to me, I’m finding that other aspects of life are dominating my psyche at this time. My personal progress away from the depression that has dogged my life for so many years yields lots of hope and ambition, but I still find myself drawn to the darkness and solitude that have become so familiar to me. It seems no amount of music in this ilk can fully express the bounty of emotion that has built up inside me over many years, nor can it help me to find what is truly at the core of it. I also find myself hampered by the other aspect of life that is currently clouding my vision: the desperate state of the world and this country; my contempt for the government that controls us; the media that influences us; and the ignorance of the masses who are so easily led by those two powers. The problem with this is that I feel I already approached this unrest, and the anger that comes with it, in the Snypa D Delic album ‘Bullet Tooth Snipes‘. I featured heavily on this album, and produced the majority of it, and I feel I vented a lot of my frustrations there.

Bullet Tooth Snipes, new album

Bullet Tooth Snipes

So where do I go with my new album? Having listened fanatically to Kendrick Lamar‘s ‘To Pimp A Butterfly‘ over the past 6 months or so, I envy the fact that he found such profound inspiration from travelling to Africa. As a white British/Irish man, there isn’t such a strong cultural identity for me to discover (at least, none that I’m aware of) that could provide such inspiration for my own brand of Hip-Hop. I find myself always looking inward for inspiration, driven by emotions and thoughts that are barely influenced by other people as I mostly live such a solitary lifestyle. Recent local events, such as the stabbing of a young man near my place of work, open my eyes to the suffering and loss others experience, but this has all been covered countless times by every Hip-Hop artist you could care to name. If I am to make new music, it needs to be just that: ‘new‘.

The search for some genuine inspiration for a new album continues as of this point in time. I am yet to find an answer to the questions that have plagued me since I first decided to work on a new project. My approach has been to start making beats at a high rate, in the hope that something might inspire me organically as I go. It strikes me, as I proceed with this, that most vocalists do not also make their own instrumentals, so I go on to think about whether it might help to search for beats made by other producers to use on my songs. Collaborations and features have been a strong presence in my previous Hip-Hop albums, and this is perhaps something that I would like to do differently this time around. Ultimately, I want every album I make to be a work of art, and I’m determined that I will one day produce my masterpiece. But at this early stage, I am yet to lay the first of my foundations for this new album…unless this process of wrestling for the right inspiration is an essential building block along the way.

I would love to know the thoughts of some other artists; what is most important to you when starting a new project? How do you go about finding inspiration? Either comment on this post or get at me on Twitter to let me know!

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When The Mixing On Your Old Music Sucks…

Mixing can be...challenging

If you’re anything like me – and I believe most producers are – you will be a bit of a perfectionist. And, unfortunately, on the journey towards becoming the producer you are today, you will have mixed some great songs to a not-so-great standard. When I sit and revisit some of the tracks I made 2-3 years ago, I lament the standard of my mixing and feel a strong urge to go back into the sessions and remaster them entirely with my now-improved production skills. In fact, I have been doing precisely that with my first solo release Volition, but at every stage I find myself asking

Why am I bothering to do this?

which leads on to asking

Should I be doing this?

This is an interesting question, which I will attempt to answer.

First of all, there will be many for whom this question is irrelevant. Those who had the budget to hire a professional for mixing and mastering their stuff right from the start, or those who had the foresight (and the time) to perfect their production skills before ever releasing any material: fair play to you people, you may as well skip reading this post. But for any readers who have found themselves with this same mixing predicament at hand, here are my thoughts…

mixing, mixing music

Those hours spent mixing are worth it!

YES, you should remaster your old material! Every bit of music you make should be, at the very least, POTENTIALLY superb. If it hasn’t fulfilled that potential, it just means that at the time you released it, you didn’t have the skills to attain it. So, when you do acquire those skills, you should put them to use throughout every bit of music you have ever released.

Your music is your commodity, as well as your expression of your creativity and musical genius. Potential fans will discover you on the basis of how good your music is, and once they do, they will search for more of your music, expecting it to be up to the same standard. If I were to discover a song featuring a singer who sounds amazing on that track, I will find out their name and search for more of their music. If I were to then find a self-released EP which, when I listened to it, had sub-par mixing, or the mastering wasn’t up to scratch, I’d be inclined to think “OK, maybe later on they’ll release some better stuff”…and then, chances are, I’d forget all about them.

On the other hand, if I were to perform that search and find an EP packed with great-sounding material (which comes from good mixing), I would download it, listen to it and become eternally familiar with the name and face of the singer. I’d check back periodically for new releases, follow the social network profiles, attend gigs near my area, and who knows what else! First impressions are absolutely vital in grabbing a potential listener’s attention, and you have no way of knowing which of your songs will be the first they go to when discovering your existence. If there is even a single song that you can reflect on, in the most frank way possible, and say “I could have done better“, you should revisit it and make it the best it can be.

Now, I hear the arguments right here:

Just because YOU don’t like the way the mixing sounds, doesn’t mean someone else might not pick it up and think it’s the best song they ever heard!

or

Keeping the rougher sound of your early songs will show fans how you have progressed and evolved into what your are now.

I acknowledge both of these arguments, and thus will only posit what I am saying as my opinion. To address the first concern, I would argue that you need to retain control of your brand, particularly in the times when your fan base is not large enough to point you in the direction they want. You know how you want your music to sound, and hoping that some curious listener might pick up on one of your ‘imperfections’ and fall in love with it is just too much of a long-shot when you don’t have many fans yet! Aiming for a high technical standard when in the early stages of winning new listeners is a much better way of turning the odds in your favour. If, further down the line, your large fan base begins to show a love for some sound that you yourself weren’t too fond of, that’s the time to pick the fans’ thoughts and run with them!

To address the second concern: no-one who has never heard of you will give a damn about hearing how you progressed to your current sound. When trying to entice your first fans, they will need to be won over by every single song they hear. If you remaster your old, inferior stuff when your skills improve, you can still keep hold of the original mixes and versions. Then if, later in your career, you have a fanbase that you know would love to hear how you progressed, you have a special something that you can offer them to make them feel the love! Adoring fans will be pleased that you are willing to open up to them and show part of the story that made you who you are…but music-lovers who have never heard of you need to be won over by quality, both technical and creative.

Of course, these are only my thoughts. I will not proclaim myself as an authority on the subject, and I’d love to hear any opposing views from listeners and makers of music! Please subscribe for future posts like this one, and either comment or hit me up on Will-Powerz Twitter if you have a point you wish to make on this subject.

Thanks for reading!

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‘To My Last Breath’ – the Valentine’s Day 2016 EP

So here it is…bet you didn’t see this one coming! Underground, South London rapper who spits about political unrest and rage against the establishment drops a sugary little EP about love and commitment. Well, it’s happening, so deal with it! ‘To My Last Breath’ may, to some, seem like an attempt to cash in on the Valentine’s Day hype, but really it’s more about using Valentine’s as an opportunity to get out some unreleased songs that have been floating around for a few years now. The Will-Powerz persona is an all-round human being, and all-round people feel love and compassion more than they feel discontent and anger. Every one of these songs has meant a great deal to myself, and to someone else, at a certain point in our lives. It is my hope that they can mean something to some of those who decide to listen to them too.

The idea of seeking to cash in on special days throughout the calendar is not an unfamiliar concept to artists of all kinds. Many YouTubers, singers, filmmakers, TV impresarios, theatrical types and even artists try to make use of Christmas spirit, or Easter tidings, Halloween hype, April Fools shenanigans; you name it, the world tries to cash in on it. I feel the pull, as an undiscovered artist, of doing this – it is important to do whatever one can to get noticed. But I am determined to never undermine my own integrity in doing so. I do not preach that love and relationships are what a person ‘should’ be pursuing, or that people who are single on Valentine’s Day should feel inadequate in any way; in reality, I am single myself this February! But I have written songs about being in love when that feeling has been present, and what better time of year to put those songs out there than Valentine’s Day? Of course, I’m hoping they might get noticed in this context, but these songs were about very real feelings and emotions when they were conceived; they are not superficial creations whipped together for the sake of putting out a Valentine’s Day release!Will-Powerz

This is, for me, where the line of integrity is drawn. If an underground rapper doesn’t want to undermine his tough guy image by writing a love song, then fair play to him. But if he does release a love song with genuine heart and creativity to it, it should be taken on merit and judged as an extra dimension to his persona; not a ‘sellout’ piece. A person sells out when they cobble together some meaningless piece of trash for the sake of releasing it on a special occasion. It undermines their integrity if it lacks substance and is without any form of genuine heart or soul. I promise that every word in this EP, when it was written, came from the bottom of my heart, and I am proud to release it at a time of year when many people are thinking about precisely this sort of thing. I hope you all enjoy it!

The album is available for free (name your price) on my Bandcamp page (or click the player at the top of this post). Just click ‘Buy Now’, enter your desired price (£0 is fine) and get your download link!

All that being said, the romance and love are not emotions that are at the front of my mind at this moment in life. I am glad to have released these songs, but now my focus will shift to working with new talent that is arriving at LR, and on putting together a new Hip-Hop album for later in the year that will hopefully stand to represent more of my true heart and mind as I prpceed with life! Stay tuned by subscribing to my blog/newsletter, and by connecting with my social links, which are as follows:

Will-Powerz Facebook, Will-Powerz Twitter, Will-Powerz SoundCloud

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Bullet Tooth Snipes: Music for the Revolution!

Will-Powerz's first project of 2015: the new Snypa D Delic album 'Bullet Tooth Snipes'

Will-Powerz’s first project of 2015: the new Snypa D Delic album ‘Bullet Tooth Snipes’

 

After a very productive first year of existence, myself and my fellow Latent’s Records managers Tim and Ali needed a small lull in the releasing of material for every facet of the record label. Between the three of us, we have built a significant online presence for LR and its affiliated webzine Krazed Mag. In 2014, we have:

  • Developed, and created ongoing content for, the official Latent’s Records website and Krazed Mag
  • Laid the foundations for a creative community for independent artists of all types in Krazed Mag
  • Expanded the Krazed experience with regular podcasts and newsletter updates
  • Created a footprint on social media with our Facebook pages and Twitter profiles, as well as the recently launched Instagram account
  • Expanded our roster to 12 acts/artists in styles ranging from underground Hip-Hop, to Grime, to Acoustic, RnB and Pop, to Psychadelic Rock and even Thrash Metal!
  • Released 14 studio albums/EPs
  • Begun sharing music with listeners through services such as YouTube and Sound Cloud
  • Established a rich corner of Bandcamp, from which consumers can purchase, or download for free, every musical release
  • Distributed albums through iTunes, Spotify and other commercial music services
  • Had two of our acts appear on online radio shows, with their music getting regular airplay
  • Had acts perform live shows around London

I personally released 3 of my own projects, almost entirely self-produced and written, constituting a total of 33 songs. In addition to this, I was producer on 9 songs from the debut releases of Gareth Paul, Snypa D Delic and external artist Whale from Nigeria. I provided vocal features for Lovutta, Snypa D Delic and Gareth Paul, and was involved in the mixing of almost every one of the releases for the year! Whilst simultaneously writing blog content for Krazed Mag, building my own website, attending events, handling promotion matters, designing album covers, implementing all the album releases…basically, I was very busy!

But the lull is now over, as our first release of 2015 is about to land!

SnypaGFLRBullet Tooth Snipes is set for release on April 10th, 2015, and will be the second release under Latent’s Records for rapper Snypa D Delic. It will be a potent mixture of Grime and hard-hitting, underground UK Hip-Hop. With No More Mr Nice Snipes having been a debut release that was a great introduction to what Snypa can do, both he and I agreed that for this second release, we would aim for some concept that would add a deeper dimension to the project. As he selected instrumentals that I had prepared, including some from my own albums Volition and The Noble Truth, the direction his writing took him almost spawned the concept automatically. This album would become a musical expression of discontent with the state of the United Kingdom; aggressive, revolutionary and just downright pissed off! This tone carries through the album, always retaining a sense of purpose and genuine cause to be angry – we were conscious at every stage of the potential for this tone to descend into mindless aggression.

The challenge, on my part, was to produce the album in a way that differentiated it from the Hip-Hop sound I had crafted for myself. Snypa needs a musical sound that is more fitting with his identity as a former Drum & Bass MC turned Grime, and eventually Hip-Hop, artist. This challenge was particularly present when mixing the songs he had written to the instrumentals I had already used myself (incidentally, these instrumentals were for the songs Built For This, A Simple Life and Watching Me). As the album developed, delayed at times by a number of factors relating to personal issues from all camps involved, the sound began to develop into a melting pot of urban styles, incorporating a number of features from myself and fellow LR singer Gareth Paul, as well as members of Snypa‘s Milton Keynes Grime/DnB collective Gasmask Formation.

The end result will be available for your perusal from April 10th, 2015, and I think listeners are in store for something a little bit special. In a climate of a UK that is preparing itself for a very close-fought general election in May 2015, the message of Bullet Tooth Snipes couldn’t be more relevant. As a voice for the ordinary people, this project carries a lot of weight, and as a fresh interpretation of UK Hip-Hop and Grime, it is progressive and meaningful at every step.

Grab your copy when Bullet Tooth Snipes drops on April 10th, 2015 – join the revolution!

-Will-Powerz

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