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This or That? Willie The Kid vs. Gillie Da Kid

There are too many rappers. Even the most diehard fans have a difficult time catching up with music from newbies and veterans alike, so a lot of quality material can inadvertently get ignored. We don’t do it on purpose. We just don’t always have the patience to wade through crops of artists to find the cream.

Chances are, you’ve been sleeping on Willie The Kid. The rapper hailing from Grand Rapids, Michigan seemed to show up out of nowhere when he released a song called ‘Sky Miles’ with Curren$y in 2010, but that same year he dropped an EP with producer Lee Bannon called ‘Never A Dull Moment.’ He flexes a vignette-heavy style from the very first song, ‘News Flash,’ where he recalls balancing basketball with street life. The seven-track project never sits for too long, with every song hovering at or below the two minute mark. Four years later, he’s chiseled his flow and perfected the fragmented free association style that Roc Marciano and Action Bronson also use, sprinkling their raps with vivid images of crime and luxury.

Many don’t know that he’s the brother of Wu-Tang affiliate La The Darkman, and together they started a company with DJ Cannon and DJ Drama, The Aphilliates, a couple years ago. They began churning out ‘Gangsta Grillz’ mixtapes, and that led to Willie getting a deal with Asylum/Warner for his debut album, ‘Absolute Greatness,’ in 2008. Featuring guests like Gucci Mane, Yung Joc, and Trey Songz, the album peaked at number 20 on the Billboard rap chart but didn’t gain Willie much notoriety. It’s a bit generic as Willie tries to find his voice, and though he’s spitting fairly well, you can feel the A&R suggestions oozing through the seams.

It seems like Willie learned from the experience, though. Since then, he’s released projects that pair him with one producer – ‘Never A Dull Moment’ with Lee Bannon, last year’s finely-tailored ‘Masterpiece Theatre EP’ with Alchemist and most recently, ‘The Living Daylights’ with Bronze Nazareth, another faithful Wu-Tang henchman. He seems to be getting better with each release – ‘Masterpiece Theatre’ was one of the most slept on projects of 2013, playing like a blaxploitation flick with Willie as the main character donning robes and sipping champagne with a pinky ring on, earned from dirty deeds. ‘Living Daylights’ is, as he described it to Unkut’s Robbie Ettelsion, a “snowy-ass project” with appropriate visitors — Roc Marciano, Sean Price, and Boldy James are among the now better-acclimated guest list. Bronze’s warm, sample-laden beats allow Willie to open up about his personal life, making for what is perhaps his best release to date. It bodes well for what he has to offer in the future, as long as he doesn’t get too mired in his own imagistic wordplay.

Gillie Da Kid has taken a different route to recognition. The one thing you probably know the Philly-bred spitter Gillie for is his beef with Lil’ Wayne. He was allegedly signed with Cash Money in the early 2000s but was dropped in ’03. Soon after, Wayne dropped a mixtape with Baby and threw a jab on ‘Problem Solver,’ explicitly mentioning Gillie. The North Philly rapper responded by popping up on street DVDs with other frustrated Cash Money members of the time, dissing Wayne and Baby and claiming that he’d ghostwritten for ‘Tha Carter.’ The beef came to a head when Wayne rapped, “I don’t have time to deal with Willie the Squid” on ‘Live From the 504′ from ‘Da Drought 3′ (he also spit those lines for a booth freestyle on BET).

A one-time Neptunes collaborator and founding member of North Philly’s Major Figgas crew Gillie has been shuffled between indie labels throughout the years without ever dropping a proper studio debut. Nowadays he’s hardly ever mentioned unless he’s sparring with Meek Mill, seeing how his music barely merits much attention. If he wrote hits for Lil’ Wayne, surely he should be able to do the same for himself, right?

So here’s what you should do: listen to Willie The Kid’s ‘Living Daylights’ from earlier this year. Bronze Nazareth is one of the most trustworthy producers to come out from under the Wu, and Willie has carefully tweaked his delivery to sound more animated. When you’re done with that, give ‘Aquamarine’ a spin. It’s yet another full-length project by Willie that went mostly ignored by rap fans at large, yet it’s filled with dope cuts like the dramatic ‘Goodness Gracious’ and the jazzy ‘Sea Foam’ (production credits are unfortunately absent on the web). It’s this kind of slow, rewarding discovery that makes Willie such a dope artist to follow.

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