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.
I'd heard Club Wiley in fractured pieces early last month when I met up with the rapper, his management, and the Closed Sessions crew at Soundscape Studios (which is run by Closed Sessions' Michael Kolar). The mixtape sounds huge, but on Soundscape's speakers it was massive; the booming sound gave me the chance to zero in on certain details, and Wiley and company were also eager to point out things I may not have noticed. When they mentioned sampling a howler monkey I thought they were kidding, but that was hardly the case—pay attention to the end of "Earfucked" and you can hear those primal shrieks poke through a tapestry of samples of Ludacris, a bleating sheep, and Ozzy Osbourne (among other things).
The wall of sound on "Earfucked" can make for a pretty overwhelming experience at first, but it's such a product of Wiley's endearing and playful personality, and the rapper infuses it with so much of his magnetic appeal that it works. Closed Session honcho Alex Fruchter recently tweeted that "Club Wiley is the most important Closed Sessions release yet," which is a pretty big statement considering the label recently coreleased one of my favorite mixtapes of the year (so far), Tree's Sunday School II. The folks at Closed Sessions are putting their money on Wiley as their marquee name, and it may pay off because the emcee takes risks in such a spectacular fashion that it's hard not to admire the results.