Roosh Williams: No College Rapper, Just Wicked Smart
Each Wednesday, Rocks Off arbitrarily appoints one lucky local performer or group "Artist of the Week," bestowing upon them all the fame and grandeur such a lofty title implies. Know a band or artist that isn't awful? Email their particulars to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All hail That Purple Bastard Cole.
In September, TPBC hosted the hip-hopperific FlyFest; by all means, we should be done talking about this already. But it still continues to bear fruit. Witness Roosh Williams.
When we saw Roosh, he was serving in hypeman capacity for Artist of the Week alumni Kyle Hubbard. Typically, the hypeman role consists of someone standing there shouting, "Yeah, yeah, yeah" over and over again. But Hubbard, silly country boy that he is, let Williams perform an entire song.
Perhaps it was because Hubbard, a genuinely enjoyable live performer, had already won the crowd over, but Williams came across like a champ. (This is referred to as the Young Jeezy corollary.)
So we sat tight until recently, then reached out to him for an interview when we realized that his appeal wasn't entirely due to Hubbard's own likeability.
Rocks Off: So here's what I've been thinking about lately: Lots of rappers - at least more than before - are going the rapper/college-kid route. How does this play out? I mean, the archetypal rapper image isn't a college-educated man, you know?
Roosh Williams: Music, like so many other things, is an industry that a lot of people depend on to feed their families. Simply being talented doesn't always work, and so a lot of artists focus on their image and try to present themselves in attractive (and potentially profitable) ways.
So how does the "college rapper" route play out? Probably not for the best. Asher Roth is a talented rapper; he's not great but he's pretty good. However, he will, whether it's deserved or not, always be remembered as the guy who made "I Love College" (kind of like a rap version of Jon Heder acting in Napoleon Dynamite).
You can scheme and try to ascend in this game via whatever image you project, but at the end of the day if your music doesn't have substance then you won't gain respect and you won't last. Kids like Sam Adams target their music specifically for a college audience - he has a mixtape called Party Records and a song called "Frat Music" - that's the lane they choose and, essentially, it's how they 'brand' themselves. It may sell and make money, but by no means does that equate to being a respected rapper/lyricist whose career will endure longevity.
Personally, I always like to refer to the phrase "real recognize real". It's easy to distinguish between the artist who is catering songs to a specific audience just to try and sell records, and the artist whose image (in this case - being a college rapper) is simply a part of their overall character and approach to music.
For example, Jay-Z's newest artist, J. Cole, graduated with honors from St. John's University in New York, but he doesn't rap about beer pong and kegstands and all that stuff. He keeps it extremely real and raps about a variety of things he's experienced in his life - and college is merely one of those experiences.
RO: Has a situation come up where you've passed on a music opportunity because you thought it might hinder your professional career in the future, like perhaps securing a guest feature from someone incendiary or recording a song called "Fuck You You Fucking White Collar Bitches"?
R: No. Luckily I haven't found myself in a position where I've had to compromise my artistic integrity for a prospective professional career. Even if I did, I simply don't believe in doing so.
We've had presidents of this country get caught cheating to win a presidential election, cheating on their wives, doing excessive amounts of hard drugs in their college days, etc., and you're trying to devalue my intellectual capability (and overall value to a prospective graduate program or employer) not because I'm a bad person, but because I rap?
Get outta here. I'm about to graduate from the University of Texas with a 3.8 GPA, can (and possibly will) attend law school, and I can rap circles around you and your children. Embrace it, why hate?
RO: Do you think it's hedging your bets a bit to be pursuing both things at once? Like, how does one devote all of his time to music when he has an economics midterm to study for?
R: Luckily I released Attack of the Drobots at the very end of my junior year, so I didn't have to deal with much difficulty in terms of juggling academic obligations and rapping. My senior year hasn't been too difficult thus far, so doing both effectively has been fairly simple. Studying for the LSAT, however, has been a pain in the ass.
When you're trying to figure out your upcoming (rap) career moves and bouncing around doing shows gaining new fans that you want to please with more music, it's pretty tough to maintain focus on the LSAT. So far I've been able to make due.
I have found some solace in the fact that I can wait a year if necessary before I trek on to law school, but still that's just an excuse.
RO: Do you think that that's perceptible in the music: "I Want To Be A Rapper But I'm Not Sure I Want To Be It Enought To Quit Everything Else I'm Doing To Pursue That Dream"? Or is this just a modern-day version of the drug-dealer-turned-rapper trope?
R: Honestly, I think it's the latter. I feel like the drug-dealer-turned-rapper trope has become somewhat less prevalent because rap's primary fan base typically can't relate to that kind of struggle anymore. Rapping is no joke. A lot of kids think it's easy, like you just find beats and make words rhyme, right? Wrong.
It requires so much time and devotion to perfect your craft that I think it is very realistic to be caught up in a "I want to be a rapper, but I'm not sure I want to be it enough to quit everything else" situation. Shit, I probably ask myself that same question every two days. I love what I do though, and I'm fortunate enough to not have to put all my eggs in one basket because I'll have a degree I can fall back on if things don't ultimately work out.
RO: Lastly, do you think this is something we're going to see more and more of, the college-kid rapper? If so, what happens to gangster rap? Is that genre doomed? Oh God, please don't let this happen. I'm not certain how many different versions of Asher Roth I can reasonably be expected to tolerate.
R: Only time will tell. With the technological advancements we've made in the past decade and the fact that everything is online nowadays, I think we're going to see rappers from all sorts of different backgrounds. I think that the "college rapper" tag will, if it hasn't already, wear out its welcome.
However, this doesn't mean the same thing as being a rapper who attended college. In other words, over time we'll probably see more of the J. Cole's of the world rather than being suffocated by the "I Love College"-esque fads our youth has recently flocked to. As for gangster rap, I wouldn't say it's doomed; you can never forget your roots.
Gangster rap probably won't see an increase in popularity anytime soon, but you can bet that its prominent figures will forever be respected.
Download Roosh's impressive Attack of the Drobots here.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.