At the age of sixteen, Rapper and Hiphop artist Willie Jae started out helping a friend write songs for the Def Jam Label, now it looks like his cards are finally turning around at 26. Willie Jae has been signed up to the StarRoc Label which is partnered by Jay-Z and the Norwegian songwriting team of Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel Storleer Eriksen. This record producing duo is primarily remembered for having written mega hit songs for Rhihanna and Beyonce.
Willie Jae who has signed a 3 album deal has promised to feature all the people who have been working together with him since day one. So we will be hearing a lot of features from unsigned artist and producers. In an exclusive interview, Willie Jae gave us the rundown on his current state of affairs.
1. How long have you been doing what you’re doing and how did you get started in the first place?
WILLIE JAE: I have been writing music professionally since I was 16, and I’m 26 now so exactly ten years. I had a friend of the family who worked for Def Jam as a writer I would help her edit songs; it went from helping her to getting paid to write full songs.
2. Who were the first influences on your music and style?
WILLIE JAE: I’m a 90’s kid so I grew up when Naught by Nature, Bone Thugs, 2Pac, Biggie, were at their peaks, in my teens there was DMX, Jay-Z, and of course 50 Cent. I would say the first infuences on my music were definetly, 2pac and Biggie.
3. In your opinion who is the most influential and successful artist in your genre today and why?
WILLIE JAE: Wow, that’s a tough one, I would have to go with Jay-Z or Eminem, eh Ima go with Jay, but it’s close.
4. How did you get to be signed onto the StarRoc label which is partnered by Jay-Z? And what has you experience with them been so far?
WILLIE JAE: Being in the right place at the right time will put you in the right space. My experience with StarRoc has been pretty receptive so far, I’m still new here the ink hasn’t even dried yet but I like it so far.
5. Have you set yourself any personal goals or achievements you like to attain whilst at StarRoc ?
WILLIE JAE: I have a 3 album deal to fulfill; I have a few goals to reach. As you already know I spent the previous 10 years as an Indie artist, and now that I’m on a more prominent labor I want my first album to feature all the people who have been working together with me since day one. So you will see a lot of features from unsigned artist and producers. I have a whole grassroots thing going on for my debut album.
6. Are you going to be creating your own beats and lyrics on your new recordings? And could you tell us something about your personal songwriting process like? For example do you start with the lyrics or from the beats?
WILLIE JAE: I have about three tracks that I produced and I write all my own lyrics. My process is pretty free flowing I usually go lyrics first but sometimes you hear a beat and immediately can hear all the words the hook and song, and I end up changing everything you thought it was going to be about.
7. If you could choose to collaborate with some of today’s established artists or producers, while moving your game to the top, with whom would you like to work?
WILLIE JAE: My artist wishlist, well I plan on working with all my labelmates on RocNation and StarRoc, but outside the label, let’s see…Erykah Badu, R.Kelly, Usher, Trey Songz, Chris Brown, Ashanti, Mary J.Blige, Queen Latifah, Treach, Nicki Minaj, and Remy would be nice whenever she gets out. That’s my Hip Hop wishlist for 2013-14.
8. How important do you think videos are to your music and to the music industry in general?
WILLIE JAE: Videos are very important because they help fill in all the blanks to an audio track, you can picture a song in your head, but the video puts everyone on the same page.
9. Which ingredient do you think is most essential in making your sound and style the way it is?
WILLIE JAE: My music never talks AT you it Talks TO you, so when you sit back and listen to my tracks you feel like I’m right next to you in the living room having a convo, or you feel like you’re in the car with me as I’m pointing things out down any MLK Bld.
10. Which emotion more than any other, currently dominates your music? Joy, sadness, anger or passion etc. , and why?
WILLIE JAE: Passion dominates my music; every track is related to a real life situation so you can feel the reality as it plays.
11. What aspect of the music making process excites you most, and what aspect discourages you the most?
WILLIE JAE: The most exciting process has to be, just recording it. When I say recording it I mean the old school way, in the studio allnight putting down track after track, you got your pizza, your note book, a couple pens, and just going in.
12. How involved will you be in the recording, producing, mastering, marketing, and other processes needed to make and sell your music?
WILLIE JAE: I know it sounds weird to commercial artist but I’m an Indie artist no matter what label I sign to. I have my hand on everything, I’m picking and producing the tracks, I’m mixing and mastering everything and if I’m not mixing it then I’m in the room while somebody I trust is mixing it. As an Indie artist you become very familiar with marketing so I will have a hand in that too. My camp is used to me being everywhere and being a part of the process from start to finish. I’m not a cookie cut artist when you hear my album your hearing me from end to end.
13. Do you think the advent of internet and all the new technology has helped your music and independent musicians in general, or do you think it just creates a mass of mediocre “copy-and-paste” artists who flood the web, making it difficult to distinguish yourself from the crowd?
WILLIE JAE: Lol well I think there is truth to both sides of that. Personally the internet made me, so I can never knock it. I also think there are several signed artist now who owe their careers to YouTube. As far as the mass of mediocre artist, that’s always been, it’s just now it’s more visible. Back in the 60s and 70s every teen was in a band, it was a right of passage. In this day and age everybody has a Social Media Presence and everyone wants to be a celebrity. The fact of the matter is this, if your good, work hard, and your putting out quality material you will rise above the rest. No question about it, it’s like a basketball game; you’ve got 10 players on the court and they all have the same gear (shorts, sneakers, etc) but you see who really has talent when the whistle blows, you’ll also see who’s been slacking and who is just the coach’s nephew lol.
14. In your experience thus far, what is the best piece of advice in this business you actually followed? And one you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?
WILLIE JAE: Jay-Z once said, “Nothing is what it seems” and I would totally agree, you meet people and find out the artist who looked 6’4 on TV is really 5’5”. You find out your fav street anthem was written by a guy who has never even seen the projects in person. I think the best way to be successful in the industry is to move the same way you do in the streets, cause these suits are gangstas too, just a diff type.
15. Do you think that Hiphop/Rap fans today mostly enjoy the songs for the beats or lyrical flow and depth?
WILLIE JAE: Today, well it def isn’t lyricism thats moving Hip Hop along right now. The beats keep getting hotter because the artist are getting weaker. It’s hard to perfect a craft when someone else is doing all your work for you.
16. What is your opinion on the current mainstream Hiphop/Rap scene?
WILLIE JAE: Hmmm…Well my opinion is that rap is not what it was when I was growing up. But every generation says that. There are songs I hear that I like and then there are songs where I have to turn off the radio when it comes on because its so garbage. But at the end of the day my opinion about other people’s music doesn’t matter I just have to go out there and make the best music I can, and when your part of the Roc success is the only option.
17. What are you expecting from the StarRoc label, and how do you think they will ultimately be a benefit to your musical future?
WILLIE JAE: I am expecting everything that comes with being part of a Label as prominent as RocNation/StarRoc. The platform alone that comes with being next to the Roc is the biggest benefit I could ever hope to attain.
18. Is going Platinum or winning a Grammy important to you, and if you were forced to only have one choice, which of the two would you choose and why?
WILLIE JAE: Going platinum this day and age is a huge success and winning a Grammy is equally successful. As a new Mainstream artist going Platinum would exceed my expectations for an album with not famous guest features, But anyone can sell records, I would choose the Grammy because that is proof that you were better than the rest that year. Anyone can say they are the best, but the Awards are the proof that someone else agrees.
19. What in your opinion is the biggest barrier an artist like yourself, has to face and overcome, to gain any substantial commercial success today?
WILLIE JAE: The biggest barrier an artist like myself faces is the challenge of adapting your sound and persona for radio and tv. When it comes to the underground, anything goes, but music is a business and marketability has to come first.
20. In closing, tell us something about your current projects and/or any future ideas you are working on?
WILLIE JAE: Ok, current projects, “Its Tha Roc” my debut album is due in the fall, I’m also hosting and producing a mixtape this year which will be a Who’s Who of all unsigned talent. I’ve got 3 documentaries in the works and have a feature film in the works. Once everything is written in stone you can find any updates on releases on the StarRoc website, http://starrocrecords.com
21. You have the MOST anticipated album of the year, Your on StarRoc, this is your first mainstream release so it’s a comeback and debut at the same time. Do all these factors place more pressure on you about the album being a success?
WILLIE JAE: That’s deep; I never looked at it like that. The pressure is there any time an underground artist goes mainstream and from the looks of Ne-Yo and Keri Hilson, there is even more pressure for your songs to perform well when people know you have written other hits. I would say there is pressure for success, but I have so many hits under my belt already. “I’m guessing I can sell CD’s” one of my fav Jay lines.
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