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Raised in Boston, MA and now a resident of Sacramento, CA, Paul Willis is a rapper/spoken word artist/educator/activist whose art reflects his life and his values. Paul has been writing rhymes for 14 years and strives to create thematic pieces that give vivid descriptions of events based on his life experiences. He is also working to release 3 mixtapes and an album in the 2013 calendar year. Visit his music at bandcamp and soundcloud and follow him on twitter.

I have four projects that I’ve been working on since 2005. They’re entitled ‘Note2Self,’ ‘As They Reminisce Over HipHop,’ ‘Writer’s Workshop’ and ‘Marked At Birth.’ I’m going to give the track list and a brief synopsis of two of these projects, but first I want to give you my goals as an artist.
My goals are for people to hear the music and my story. I never started writing music to be famous or to make tons of money from it. I’m willing to invest in my passion and produce these projects – even if I’m not making a profit. It may seem counter intuitive for people in the music industry, but for me, my priority is to be a positive force for change in whatever community I’m in. Right now, that means my job with City Year takes precedence over everything, but I’m excited to put in the effort, time and money that is necessary to make my music a reality. As people hear my art, my one wish is that they connect with it and are inspired.

Marked at Birth (a spoken word tape)

  1. Intro – Beautiful Mind – I don’t like people much
  2. Letter Home
  3. Between Friends
  4. Interlude – John Nash – You are all my reasons
  5. It Must Hurt To Be Beautiful
  6. I Can’t Make You Love Me
  7. We Can’t Be Friends
  8. Interlude – Richard Lawson in Blue Hill Ave – Words of wisdom
  9. I Am From
  10. The Dichotomy Of A Black Man
  11. ConsolationLevantate
  12. Show And Prove
  13. Outro – Good Will Hunting – Harvard Bar

‘Marked at Birth’ is a spoken word project that looks to merge the worlds of hip hop and poetry. The intro to the album is a clip from A Beautiful Mind about judging a book by its cover, which is a metaphor for how others perceive me and my story. This project will begin to set the record straight for those who know me, but don’t really know my history. ‘Letter Home’ and ‘Between Friends’ are two tracks that are deeply personal and display a blend of lyricism and poetic patterns. The first interlude and the subsequent three tracks, ‘It Must Hurt to be Beautiful,’ ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ and ‘We Can’t Be Friends,’ are heart breaking pieces about losing out on love for reasons out of one’s control. The project then takes a turn for the political with the ‘Blue Hill Ave interlude.’ The remainder of the project gives a unique history of the city of Boston and how its socio-economic conditions have evolved over time. While pointing out the injustices, I express feelings of anger, annoyance and angst while hoping that by shining a light on these issues will create a mental and physical response in people that inspires them to learn more and do better. The project ends with a clip from Good Will Hunting that sums up how I feel about the socio-economic and educational achievement gaps that exist. While I don’t believe that everyone has the seemingly unlimited genius of Will Hunting, I do believe that anyone can share his attitude and values about learning and evolving as a human being.

Note2Self (completed project)

  1. 4 Seasons ft K9 and DK
  2. Never Been Told
  3. Her Verse pt 1 – Before You Go ft Ilens
  4. Amaze Me ft K9
  5. Industry Is Shady
  6. Beantown Queen
  7. Young Hustla (Wrong Direction) ft Jose
  8. Her Verse pt 2 – Lost One
  9. Without You ft Ilens
  10. Fly Gurl
  11. Her Verse pt 3 – Make Up To Break Up
  12. Room In Your Heart
  13. Addiction ft Ilens
  14. Too Much
  15. Don’t Look Back ft Ilens
  16. Her Verse pt 4 – Unthinkable
  17. Star Wars Flow (Bonus Track)

‘Note2Self’ is the first full length album that I have created. The album begins with a family reunion on the track ‘4 Seasons.’ My two brothers and I wrote and recorded an old school, thematic song that not only showcases our different styles and skill level, but our ability to focus in on a singular metaphor as a writing topic. The next song is a 64 bar track that displays my ability to have breath control, vary my rhyme patterns and tell a unique story, which are all skills that every MC should have. And that demonstration is over a classic hip hop beat, which I think you all will enjoy.The album then heats up with ‘Her Verse pt 1’ which begins a series of notes that never got passed along to the people they were meant for. I have kept my ability to rap a well-kept secret, but this is the project that makes my journal rap into performance pieces. ‘Amaze Me,’ ‘Industry is Shady,’ ‘Beantown Queen’ and ‘Young Hustla’ are all concept tracks that reinforce the aforementioned MC skills. “Her Verse pt 2” and the following 4 tracks talk again about lost loves and missed opportunities to be with that special someone, which leads into tracks 13 through 16 that sum up why. As a teenager, I was dealing with a lot of issues at home and ‘Addiction,’ ‘Too Much’, ‘Don’t Look Back’ and ‘Her Verse pt 4’ discuss those issues of self-love, acceptance, abandonment and loss. I don’t like to perform any of these tracks because they are so close to me. However, I have them on the album because I know that it’ll open the mind of someone going through these situations and give them options. The last track, ‘Star Wars Flow’ is a nerdy, lyrical track that provides a moment of levity on a serious and personal project. All in all, the project is an honest, open look into about 8 years of my life through a notebook of rhymes.

This week, Truth Bomb Trails is exploring Music + Social Justice: Building Community through Sound. Look forward to posts on the ways that musicians and artists provide public service, the perspective of Paul Willis (hear his music at bandcamp, soundcloud, reflections on music from childhood and a look at the role music helps to shape and define emerging cultures.

Enjoy the tunes that helped inspire the week!