It’s 2018, and the Arizona Hip Hop scene seems to be taking off at a high rate of speed. Building on last year, artists have been hard at work in the studio, allowing a few leaks of their work through social media to keep us in the know. There has already been a handful of visuals produced and published this year, some of which we have posted here.
Among the collection of videos posted to the site are the songs “Local Rapper” and “Fear in America” by Tommy Will, a native of Tucson, Arizona. Tommy has made a lot of noise here on the local scene and beyond. “Fear in America” has garnered attention from media posts like TripleHQ & Earmilk. The video highlights the tense relationship between minorities and law enforcement. Tommy Will first expresses the stresses and concerns from the perspective of a young black man, then takes the position of a police officer and reveals their point of view. This video forces viewers to see both sides of the issue.
With the buzz around him growing rapidly, we wanted to reach out to Tommy Will and learn more about him. Check out the Q&A below:
Q: Where are you from?
Q: What got you started in hip hop? What keeps you going/motivated?
The city of Tucson for sure! I only started music because the first few people I met when I moved to Arizona were rappers. When I first started to write songs and record in high school, I released my music on Myspace. After multiple people said that the songs were garbage (which they definitely were at the time), I took it as a challenge to really learn the craft. Along the way, I fell in love with the culture and energy of rap. What keeps me going is that I’ve seen glimpses of the light at the end of the tunnel. I honestly believe that this is something that I’m meant to do, and that there have been signs that re-ensure that notion.
Q: Do you think you have a specific style and, if so, how would you describe it?
I wouldn’t say that I have a specific style, but there definitely are types of beats or sounds that I’m more comfortable with just like there are for so many other artists. I take it as a continuous challenge to think and work outside of those boxes because internally, those songs will always be there. I’m not afraid to put something out that ultimately might fail in the eyes of others. If I like it, I like it. There’s not much more to it than that.
Q: What is the story or motivation behind the song “Fear in America?”
Fear in America was written 2 years ago. The whole theme of the Napoleon album was a combination of the Napoleon Complex and the take over. At the time, it was very important for me to be perceived as a top tier artist in the state. I wanted to put out music that I felt independent rappers in the local scene would either be too scared to try, or music that was too complex for them. Fear in America was one of those songs that any rapper could write. Same with Local Rapper. My intention was to include so much emotion and depth within it that the song or visual couldn’t be duplicated if they tried.
Q: Local Rapper is an inspirational song because it is one many artists can relate to. What was the motivation behind the song?
Even though I am trying to turn my music career into a business, I always try to write songs that I personally want to listen to at all times, regardless of sales, value, or virality. Local Rapper was just that. I pretty much sat down and wrote about all of my grievances with the “local scene vs. the fan.” You know how there’s that one person every week on Facebook that talks about, “Oh do you still rap” or “don’t worry, there’s still someone from your high school trying to be a rapper” even though rap is the genre they listen to mostly! From the consumers perspective, they don’t see the internal hustles, the money spent, the hours writing, the show mixes, the messages to network, etc. It was a song for me to vent that other people in my position could hear points and be like, “DAMN! I literally JUST went through that!”
Q: What’s the best advice you’ve received so far (pertaining to your rap career)?
The best advice I’ve had recently was actually in the form of a question. It was “What does a Tommy Will fan look like?” I had no idea. It made me think that I was so far off from the business side of things that I would never be able to make this a sustainable career. Learning what my fans look like, their age group, and lifestyle will help me continue to put music out there that people want to hear from me while knowing that when I do start trying new things, they will be just as open minded as I am to try them with me.
Q: What’s a fun fact, or something not known by many?
I’m probably the best rapper/basketball player ever! I also eat about eight peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or ramen packs a day. Not sure if that’s really fun or healthy, but I give out so much information about myself in my music, it’s hard to keep secrets.
Q: What’s something you hope to reveal to people during or by the end of your career? What lesson or message do you want people to take away?
I hope to give people the motivation to try. That’s where my hashtag #haveWILL came from. I’ve never been scared to fail in my life. I’ll risk my last dollar if I think it’s worth it. If you have the WILL to fight, there’s no way you can lose. No matter what you do! I will never be a failed artist because I won’t allow myself to be. That’s the key in my eyes.
Q: When and where can people catch your next performance? When is your next tour?
My next show is the album release party for Balloons Fly Higher Than Dreams on February 22, 2018 at Hotel Congress in Tucson, AZ. The following performance will be at the Tucson Hip Hop Festival on February 24, 2018 at 191 Toole in Tucson, AZ. A tour has not been confirmed just yet!