Wiley rises above the label with ‘Village Party II’

Mason Schweizer, Staff Writer

Three months ago, Chicago artist Alex Wiley was signed to one of the largest independent hip-hop labels in America, Closed Sessions, and was building a buzz with the projects “Club Wiley,” “Village Party” and “*one singular flame emoji*.”

Wiley left Closed Sessions in September, citing racism among label executives as well as their illegally holding on to his work.

On Nov. 20, Wiley was an independent artist and released his indie debut,“Village Party II: Heaven’s Gate.”

In it he released a song discussing his problems with Closed Sessions, “Japanese,” which would become the lead single for the new project. In it, he criticized the label for exploiting his culture, background and art for revenue.

The 12-track project begins with a brief instrumental introduction before the listener first hears Wiley on “Ex-Machina.” He seems to have come to terms with the conditions he left his label in, entering into his first verse, “I’m at one with it all.” It is the spacey but gritty sound fans have come to love from the Chicago artist.

Fellow Illinois artist Calez makes his first of three appearances on the record on what is one of my favorite songs, “Breathe.” He drops a solid 16 before starting the chorus, which was a combination of him repeating the word breathe in a multitude of spacy vocal effects and a plethora of trippy “do-do-da-du’s,” before Wiley jumps in to let you know that you must “re-member to…breathe” just before the over-abundance of Calez’s “do-do-da-du’s” loses its effect.

“For Sunny” is the first of two collaborations with the production duo Hippie Sabotage, who do a phenomenal job incorporating live brass and percussion into the beat, before proceeding into the airy jam “Kiss The Sky,” which strangely features only a chorus from Wiley, with the relatively unknown Mike Gao rapping the song’s lone verse.

“Japanese” features a special remix on the album, as Wiley solidified his spot at the top of midwest hip-hop with a guest verse from Chicago legend Twista. The song is the hungriest we will ever see Wiley, fueled by his departure with Closed Sessions to create a masterpiece here. The normally positive and introspective Wiley becomes a monster and unleashes hell on the futuristic beat.

With “Navigator Truck” Calez switches his eccentric style up for a smooth-sounding eight bars, before Wiley jumps in out of nowhere with a boastful hook and trippy bridge. Possibly the best song Wiley has ever released follows the banger that is “Navigator Truck.” “Play” dismisses the quirky personality of Wiley for the angry one we saw on “Japanese,” releasing his rawest emotions, asking his label, “Where the f*** were you when I was in the closet, butcher knife up on my left wrist? Where the f*** were you when I was in the projects n***** tryna take my necklace?” Though he holds anger, the song is therapeutic as well, as he ends the song with positive introspection on where he can go next.

The album was definitely great from start to finish. He has captured the sound that is a mix of fellow Chicagoan Chance The Rapper’s “acid rap” with the content and trippiness similar to a young Kid Cudi.

It is short, with most songs only featuring one verse from Wiley. He trades quantity for quality for sure, but with a project with a dozen songs, it would have been nice to get a few more songs with multiple verses.

No matter, the album exceeded my already-lofty expectations, and kept me sane on my nine-hour journey to home and back over Thanksgiving break.

Album Score: 8.5/10

To check out Wiley’s album, go to soundcloud.com/alexwileymusic/sets/village-party-2-heavens-gate.