Lights. Camera. Wiley.

Lights. Camera. Wiley.
Catching up with the up-and-coming golden boy of Atlanta RnB
Lights. Camera. Wiley.
Catching up with the up-and-coming golden boy of Atlanta RnB
Hip Hop RapRnB


One sees the video for Wiley from Atlanta’s song “Paper Planes” -- off his most recent EP “Teen Spirit” -- and gets lost in its world for a brief few minutes. It seems independently made, but not in the scrappy DIY way you’re used to from the likes of Brockhampton. It’s a small video, but it’s fully realized. Bigger artists have had a much harder time distilling such a clear mood in their million dollar videos.

But in “Paper Planes”, it’s the sunny south crowded with misfits, and Wiley from Atlanta -- smoky vocals sharp as ever -- crooning about the summer nights. It’s simple, but any industry professional will tell you that it’s difficult to make such a simple video look so good. But Wiley’s managed it, and it’s no wonder -- for him, visuals are almost as important as the music.

Hand Me the Aux caught up with him after his stellar closing performance at The Session. He’s approachable, professional and, I suspect, more thoughtful about his craft than many artists of similar ilk. But don’t tell him that -- he’s not about competition.

I just want people to realize all that Atlanta has to offer, musically. Even if it’s not by me. Even if it’s someone else.”

In our Q&A, we talk progress, inspirations, and the future of Atlanta music.

• Q & A •

You recently transferred to Georgia State - how are classes going? Work? Has anything happened since that you've been channeling into your writing and music?

I love Georgia State. I think transferring to a school in Atlanta has really helped my mental state as well as my drive to actually attend classes. Unfortunately I had to emergency-withdraw this semester after a couple of things came up in my personal life, but I still love the school. I definitely think moving back into Atlanta has helped my creativity and renewed my passion for music.

You recently came off tour -- how was it? Can you highlight one special moment for you during the tour?

Tour was a combination of the highest highs and the lowest lows. I spent a lot of time cramped in the backseat of a car, struggling to sleep on a grimy floor, etc., but I also got to perform to a sold-out crowd at Aisle 5, and I hugged one of my favorite actors at SXSW, so I’m not complaining.

How was your time at SXSW?

SXSW was crazy, I’d say if I go next year I definitely want to play more shows (I had 2 this year) and potentially only stay from like Wednesday to Saturday instead of for the entire week. It’s exhausting to be around so many people for such a long time. As far as what we did, we played a couple of dope sets at different events and went to a lot of shows. Did some networking. I met a few cool people. Ezra Miller, Webster X, Kweku Collins, and for about 5 seconds, Smino.

Describe what Atlanta means to you in three words.

Three words? Hm. Culture, Diversity, Community.

What direction is your music headed? What kind of new vibes/sounds are you experimenting with?

I’ve been working closely with Oliver Blue, a producer who focuses mainly on creating soundscapes/ musical “worlds” rather than “making beats.” That probably sounds odd, but we’ve really been trying to hone a specific sound and vibe for my new music. It’s sort of OutKast meets Alabama Shakes meets Radiohead meets Gorillaz meets Mac Miller/Isaiah Rashad. I name-dropped a lot of dope musicians there but, I don’t know -- it’s hard to define the sound.

What do you think makes a good live performance? How do you hope people feel after watching you perform?

I enjoy watching people perform who are confident, visibly relaxed, and energetic. I think that being yourself on stage is the most important thing. I hope people watch me perform and feel like they could relate to at least a couple of the things I sang or said.

A lot has been going on in the past year - dirty politics, exposing sexual assault, etc. Some people think Hip-hop and RnB culture lags behind when it comes to this stuff. What kind of progress do you want to see in the Hip Hop/RnB world, both musically and culturally?

I would like to see Hip-Hop stand up for women and LGBTQ rights going forward. Hip-Hop has a history of misogynistic and homophobic lyrics and content, although I definitely think it’s been overanalyzed from that perspective because it’s historically a primarily black art form. However, artistic content aside, Hip-Hop artists need to stop collaborating/co-signing KNOWN abusers. It’s ridiculous to me that you can watch a video of Famous Dex beating the sh*t out of his girlfriend then still want to collab for clout. Kendrick Lamar tweeted out XXXtentacion’s album. Did he read that woman’s deposition? I’m curious. Because I don’t want to believe that Kendrick would still f*ck with X after that. Who knows.

Visuals are important to you - who are some visual artists you appreciate? What are some visual concepts you're exploring and what do you hope to accomplish in that area in the next part of your career?

I love visuals, I love movies, I think I love movies and television almost as much as music. I’ve always wanted to act and write screenplays. I went to Drama Camp when I was a kid at Georgia Tech. Some of my favorite directors off the top of my head are The Coen Brothers, David Fincher, Hiro Murai, Alejandro Inarritu, Alfonso Cuaron (because he did the best Harry Potter movie), Martin Scorcese, Tim Burton, and I’ll throw Tarantino in there because Pulp Fiction is amazing. I also have to shoutout Ben Searles, who does all my videos, because he’s incredible and I really don’t know what I’d be doing if we weren’t friends and collaborators. As far as the future -- we have a music video coming out soon that I’m anxious about because it’s a bit weird; it’s a bit of a departure from what we’ve done in the past. But with “Paper Planes”, we sort of dipped our toes into this idea of what strange alternative to reality lurks beneath everyday life -- kind of David Lynch meets “Stand By Me” conceptually. Moving forward, we’re going to get a little darker and a little more existential, so we’ll see how it turns out. I’d like to write and co-direct a short film this Summer, it’s something my roommate and I have been working on. Maybe something in the horror genre. It would have to be good though.

Check out Wiley’s music on soundcloud: @wileyatl , and his single Paper planes below!

Mike A
Mike is an alien