(AllHipHop Features) Presidents, congressmen, and lobbyists are not the only power brokers to conquer the dark corners of DC. The city also has a history of street generals such as Rayful Edmond, Wayne Perry, and Alpo Martinez securing dominance in the area around the nation’s capital.
The tales of criminal elements and its effect on communities have long been part of the greater American story told through art. Films such as The Godfather, Casino, and Gangs Of New York were windows into the dealings of organized crime.
In the same tradition of those gangster-themed movies, subgenres of rap music took on the role of being an outlet for creators to share the difficult happenings in their immediate world. William “WillThaRapper” Kent is one of the new voices spelling out the realities of urban life in Washington.
“I’m a street runner. I stayed in the streets all the time. So all my music is based on either actual experiences I went through or my men went through,” explains Will. “I’m in the field with my men, so if my men went through it then I was a part of it.”
The 20-year-old Southeast DC native has gone on to insert those biographical moments into his Street Runner, 19 and 20K mixtapes. Will lets listeners understand he has spent time with savages on songs like “21.” Then he turns right around and displays his vulnerability on cuts like “Life.”
Both records are firsthand chronicles, but Will uses the two tracks to present the wide scope of living in the oft-ignored sections of the DMV. It helps people understand there is a lot more to the narrative than just glorifying violence.
The up-and-comer now resides in Capitol Heights, Maryland. Will remembers his Suitland High School days being partly defined by having to make potentially life-or-death decisions.
“It was cool until about the 10th, 11th grade. That’s when you’re not neutral anymore and people start trying you,” says Will about growing up in the DC area. “The same blocks you used to walk through are now filled with ‘opps.’”
Facing opposing crews was an obstacle for a teenage Will Kent in The District. Relocating to southern Maryland caused boredom to become the most taxing hurdle to overcome. It was during that period of time in the Chesapeake Bay region that WillThaRapper first tried his hand at the art of rap.
“I was on probation. My mother moved me to St. Mary’s County for a year, so there was nothing else to do. I was bored. I bought a mic, and the rest is history,” recalls Will.
Just like every other person to eventually pick up a microphone, a young Will was a fan before he started recording. And of course, he still returns to other acts’ music for enjoyment and inspiration.
Will lists fellow DMV representative Lightshow and Dreamchasers leader Meek Mill as contemporaries he plays time after time. Older songs by Lil Wayne are part of the regular rotation as well.
While he has his personal favorite rap stars, it is clear Will has grabbed the attention of arguably the biggest rap talent to emerge from the DMV – Maybach Music Group’s Wale. The onetime Northwest DC resident jumped on WillThaRapper’s already buzzing track “Pull Up Hop Out.”
Washington, DC may be the most powerful city on the planet, but it is still relatively a newcomer when it comes to its place in Hip Hop culture. New York City, Los Angeles, and Atlanta have the infrastructure in place to draw serious attention to a rising entertainer. In contrast, the DMV is still in its initial stages of becoming a national powerhouse.
That developing dynamic allows for cooperation among DMV reps so all boats can rise. It also sets up an environment that could be filled with ill will for the rappers making noticeable moves. According to Will, the envious ones have been kept at bay so far, at least in public.
“Face-to-face, most people lately been saying ‘good job’ and showing love,” states Will. “Not sure what they’re saying behind closed doors, maybe some slick hating sh-t. I don’t know. They’re showing love for the most part.”
He adds, “[The current DMV Hip Hop scene] is f-cking great. Everyone is on the come up. Everyone’s trying to come together. Whether it’s fake or real, I don’t know. I’m with it though.”
The WillThaRapper story is just beginning. Even though all the pages have yet to be written, Will already has career-defining details he plans to see featured in the completed biography.
As a testament to the idea of wanting to grow beyond just being in the streets, Will spends a majority of the song “Shotz” warning those looking to do him harm, but an unexpected bar about attending the prestigious Grammy awards is subtly interwoven into the record’s blatant severity.
“Yeah, I wanna go to the Grammys and win. Only so I can go and give my mother a shout out. I want everyone to know I have the best mother in the world,” declares Will.
The love for his mom is enough to motivate William Kent’s drive to bring a golden trophy back to DC. The desire to elevate his loved ones above the daily issues associated with street life ignites the young man’s effort as well.
In addition, Will’s creative mission includes inspiring the people trapping out the trenches and the guys on the block living. The combination of those personal and professional goals is fostering a genuine ambition within WillThaRapper to leave this Earth as a Hall of Fame level artist.
“Success is when I can lay back with whoever I’m with in my crib and the phone rings and my mom and friends are calling me with normal people problems, instead of hunger, stressing, struggling, and street beef problems. That’s success!” Will conveys. “I’m trying to be big as sh-t. I’m trying to be bigger than the Beatles.”