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Tale of the Tape: Alex Wiley – ‘Club Wiley’

Via Alex Wiley

Chicago rapper Alex Wiley is a unique figure who most closely resembles “Cartman” from ‘South Park’ and makes music that does not fit into the drill lane of GBE or the more lyrical lane of Chance The Rapper and his Save Money collective.

The pudgy 19-year old artist blends singing and rapping together over soundscapes that are as influenced by rock as they are hip-hop. In June, he dropped a mixtape called ‘Club Wiley,’ a project that gained a lot of attention for the features Alex was able to secure. These include Freddie Gibbs, Action Bronson, and hometown buzzmakers Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper.

Wiley released a video for ‘K-Swiss’ recently, which has placed the spotlight on himself. Although the song itself features both Chance and Vic, neither of the two appear in the video, allowing Wiley’s personality to shine. He dons ski goggles and serenades a plus-sized female fan and hosts a dance battle between Gumby and a person wearing a Muppet character’s mask. The song itself features a catchy chorus, which pays tribute to Chicago juke music, and harmonizing both with and without Auto-Tune. The song’s lyrics are simple and repetitive.

Wiley’s ability to craft hooks is reflected throughout the entire ‘Club Wiley’ experience. Songs like ‘Earf–ked’ and ‘Creepin’ shine as a result. It makes both of these songs in particular, and the rest of the tape in general, enjoyable even for fans of other genres of music. The cross-genre vibe is reflected in the instrumentals crafted for the project. It is noticeable in the frequent usage of hard guitar riffs throughout, including standout records like ‘Thug Angel’ and the aforementioned ‘Creepin.’ Lush instrumentation is consistent throughout the project, from the horn riffs on the Hippie Sabotage-produced ‘Midnight To Morning’ to the subtle usage of a triangle on ‘Suck It Revolution.’

To dismiss Alex Wiley as just a crafty hook master pandering to the pop world would be misleading. Listeners aren’t likely to hear the Chicago youngster do more than one verse on a song, but even in that one verse he displays frenetic delivery and tremendous breath control. His full lyrical toolkit is on display on ‘Own Lane,’ which sees him pay homage to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘A.D.H.D.’ by invoking the latter song’s “f–k that” refrain in his first verse as he vents about his life options, ultimately content with his decision to become a rapper.

One of the highlights off ‘Club Wiley’ is ‘Spaceship II,’ an unofficial sequel to the classic Kanye West song. The song finds both Wiley and Chance The Rapper dig deep internally to analyze their decisions to leave school and pursue music careers. Meanwhile, GLC, who made an appearance on Kanye’s song, makes an appearance on ‘Spaceship II,’ dropping some knowledge in the interlude and outro of the song, adding his patented “ISM” ad-lib.

Overall, ‘Club Wiley’ is a sophisticated listening experience, with dense layers of instrumentation and a voice that entertains the listener. Most importantly, Alex Wiley shows potential on this project that suggests that he can take his music to audiences where other emcees can’t venture.

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