I first met local rapper Alex Wiley at the end of 2011 while working on a story about Kembe X, one of his good friends and musical collaborators. I didn’t know much about Wiley beyond his guest spot on Kembe’s Self Rule mixtape, though his performance on “Don’t Quit (Smoking And Shit)” gave me some insight into his personality; Wiley’s effortless, playful, quicksilver rapping gave me an inkling that the dude had a goofy and mischievous streak. As I discovered he’s got a bustling personality, one that lit up Kembe’s place as soon as he walked in the door and began peppering the conversation with jokes, at times delivering with the same speed and swagger as his rhymes.
Wiley has grown quite a bit since then; he’s focused that raw energy and charisma into tightly executed raps, partnered up with local indie rap imprint Closed Sessions, and spent a year working on a debut mixtape called Club Wiley that’s got “maximalist” written all over it. Wiley will celebrate the mixtape’s release with a show tomorrow night at Lincoln Hall. As I wrote in a Soundboard preview for the show, plenty of folks will tune in simply because of the impressive list of rappers who make guest appearances, including Freddie Gibbs, Vic Mensa, Action Bronson, GLC, and the ascendant Chance the Rapper. (The list of producers is nothing to scoff at either—there are contributions from the Odd Couple, Julian Malone, Hood Internet, and Acid Rap beatmakers Stefan Ponce and Peter Cottontail.) Those folks do great work on Club Wiley, but it’s Wiley who will keep people listening—he’s a risk taker, and that’s part of what’s kept me playing these songs over and over again.