If you’ve heard a song by Alex Wiley, you already know the vibe he puts you in. Having no problem standing up to Jacquees for the controversial King of R&B title, the Chicago native creates his own lane: a sonically-enchanting blend of hip-hop fused with soul woven with sprinkles of EDM. Read more…
With the precision in his lyrics and smoothed out production to match, it’s no wonder him and Chance The Rapper have spent much time in the studio together. Aside from the musical synergy, the two have known each other since the first day of kindergarten.
On top of that, the singer-songwriter arrives a 100 lbs lighter than he was a couple years back — a transformation he attributes to intermittent fasting. Fans can look forward to his upcoming mixtape Tangerine Dream II, the follow up to 2016’s Tangerine Dream.
What was the decision to keep your real name?
When I started rapping, I didn’t know if I was going to take it seriously. I felt goofy to ask my friends to call me something else other than what they already called me, on Facebook and shit. I didn’t want to be like “yo by the way, from now on it’s Lil whatever the fuck.” [laughs] To all these people have known me as Alex my whole life. It was really just the self-doubt of not having a good rap name to commit to. I was just like “fuck it, I’ll just go with my name.”
New year, new you?
I wouldn’t say that. Not all the way. Not just because it’s a new year, nah. But we’re doing some new things. I haven’t eaten meat in a few days.
I meant your transformation with weight loss & losing 100 lbs.
But that’s not even this year though. Honestly, I’m 10, 11 lbs heavier than I should be. I tweaked for a month. I was eating hella Popeyes. I was sick for 2 weeks and using that as an excuse. I ate my bodyweight in Popeyes basically.
Yeah. There’s one that’s really close to us. I live by USC on West Jefferson. It’s chill, I like it. But that’s the place they can bring the shit quickest to me. On a whim, I could have Popeyes in mere moments. [snaps] They could have it to me in 15 minutes.
How long have you been in LA now?
This time, like 6 months. But I’ve lived here off and on since 2015. I split my time between here and Chicago.
What’s your favorite part about the city?
Just the weather and the vibes. It’s a more relaxed pace. The general mood of people are more relaxed than Chicago, which I like. It’s hella artists out here. It’s hella people doing cool stuff. It’s just a cool place to be. There’s cons as well, but the pros far outweigh them.
Did you come out here for the music?
Being from the Southside of Chicago, what was your household like growing up?
It was pretty cool. My parents were together, I was an only child. I thought I was going to the league up until maybe 13 or 14. I’m still kind of waiting on that growth spurt to be honest. I don’t think about being a kid too much. I’m very forwardly focused. I do a healthy amount of reflecting. You have to reflect to grow, but I haven’t thought about it in a minute.
How has Chicago influenced your life and career?
It’s cold as fuck. It’s a rough city, personality wise. A lot of history. It’s a very black city, a lot of cool cultural stuff that originated in Chicago. Our parents’ generation were a part of really cool shit, and they passed down a lot of it. It’s a melting pot within a melting pot. The whole country is this melded thing, but then Chicago is its own little secret sauce, even within the dish. If you live within the city limits, your experience was a certain way and we can all relate to it. It’s cool.
How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist?
I don’t know how mandatory it is because with the internet, you can get it poppin’ from wherever — if your art commands that. Just the vibe, it’s cool. For me, it’s easier to focus on what I do here. In Chicago, I still feel like I’m just a dude floating around that raps. In LA, I’m a musician. I’m a working artist. In Chicago, I don’t have a job or nothing. I just be floating around having fun and shit, and I rap sometimes. Out here, I feel more immersed in what I’m doing.
At what point did you realize this music thing was forreal?
I was at a Father’s Day brunch with my dad and my grandfather, and our waitress asked to take a picture with me. It was super dope. It was really, really, really cool. This was 2013 in Chicago. That was one of the earliest moments. There’s been shit along the way. There’s been a lot of cool check marks where I looked up like “damn, can’t front on that.” Like I can tell my grandkids about that.
Probably the most impactful moment to me personally was my first Paris headliners. I did 2 back to back shows and sold them both out. I had this one song called “Vibrations.” The music video ended up on whatever their version of MTV Jams was, so it really drove my sales. This song kind of went in Paris a little bit. Hearing them sing it back to me in a French accent at both shows, I cried at the end. I was just like “damn.” This was early 2015, so I was 22. That shit was fire.
Talk about your upcoming single “Very Close.” What was your mindstate in creating this?
I didn’t know that was going to be the single until very recently. I just made a full project. We decided internally that it would be smartest to put out some form of a single. We chose this one because it’s a good representation of the whole project, just the musicality of it. It’s a good representation of how I’m coming generally, although it’s a little light on the raps. That’s the one thing: I have songs that are way more rap heavy than that song. Musically, it’s one of my most ambitious pieces, with all the strings. I’m trying to sing on there and shit. I like it. It’s a good one.
What do you mean by “the world is very cold”?
It’s just cold yo. I come from Chicago, so I always have leeway to throw a cold metaphor in a line. Sometimes I just be saying shit and figure out what it means later. But the world is very cold, it goes without explaining. Any adult has experience with world stuff sometimes, adulting.
I love that you named your debut tape Tangerine Dream. What does marijuana do for you?
I do it so much that it’s hard to pinpoint what it’s doing for me or to me at certain times. It’s relaxing. It just kind of alters my state, but not in a harmful way. It keeps shit interesting. I do a fair amount of shit sober, and I really don’t consider this not sober actually. I just like it. Honestly this isn’t particularly articulate or smart, but I just like smoking shit and seeing the vapor come out. That exchange of inhaling and blowing out smoke. I like the craftiness of rolling my own stuff, a Backwood especially. Each one is different, it’s like a mini project. It’s crafty.
I can’t roll man.
Not with that attitude you can’t. I felt that way too. I used to really say that sentence for years. I remember when I first started living on my own at 23, I got sick of my bong after a couple weeks. I just wanted to smoke some shit for real. I had to boss up and learn how to roll something. You can figure it out. I believe in you.
Why Tangerine II vs. another name for your upcoming project?
I actually dropped a tape in between Tangerine I and this one, that was some whole unrelated shit. I was trying to make this one with the same energy as the first one, because I liked how I came on that one. I made it with the same people, which I don’t always work with these people. I work with a lot of people for different sounds. Geographically too, where I am in the country. It was an energy thing, trying to expound upon that. The next installment of that.
What can we expect from the upcoming tape?
It’s a more laid-back feel. It’s meant to be a piece. I’m not really chasing singles, there’s no features on it. It’s really just what I wanted to make, putting my best foot forward musically. I’m not trying to just be a super niche artist only. I want it to start off the year on a firm artistic foundation. Regardless of wherever else we go with it, I can still with no notice release something I took seriously.
Talk about linking w/ Hippie Sabotage on “Real Things.”
I have a lot of songs with them. I just laid a verse for a song I have with them yesterday. Those are my boys. I’ve known them for a long time. I’ve toured with them, stayed at their crib for weeks.
Yeah, in Venice. Even before “Stay High” came out, I stayed at their crib in San Diego. That’s how we met. I toured with them in 2016, we did 35 shows all in North America. It was really dope. Those are my boys. Once a month, I’ll go pop up on them and make something.
Why the bonus track vs. not on the project?
That was the one song that had already been out that I feel like still fit. It technically wasn’t a part of this project but for it to be considered a full-length album — for me to fulfill my contractual obligation — it has to be 12 songs. [laughs] That’s the God honest truth. It doesn’t fuck the project up, we threw it on at the end. We did release that song. That was the only song I released in 2018, and it did a million views in a couple different places. It did well for me. I like the song. It was with my friends.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
Probably something stupid as hell. I’d probably trying to sell insurance or some bullshit. I might just be working retail, real talk. Not that there’s anything super wrong with that. What the fuck would I be doing? Damn, I really don’t know. Because I dropped out of high school and started rapping.
What did your parents think?
At first, I was catching hella heat. I dropped out of high school the middle of junior year. It wasn’t super sweet at first, but then I started making a little money basically. At that point, there’s not a whole lot you can say to me. I moved out, started paying for my own shit off this thing I’m doing. They’re very supportive now. They don’t look down on what I’m doing. They just want me to be okay. They don’t want me just out here floating around not doing shit, which is definitely what I spent a large portion of my life doing.
What are some goals yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
Shit, chase a bag. Don’t worry about what I’m doing. [laughs] I’m trying to get a lot of sounds out of my brain. I don’t mean that in a weird way, I want to have a very extensive catalog from this year. Because even though I only released one song, I made more music than I’ve ever made before last year. This year, I’d like it to be better. An equal amount of better.
What’s a normal day in the life? Walk us through.
I wake up around 3:30pm. No, I’m just playing.
That would work because you don’t eat before 12pm.
I’m already having such a healthy day by the time I wake up. [laughs] I wake up, do a couple minutes on the stationary bike while I listen to music, or maybe even a podcast. I be watching movies. Sometimes when it’s nice out, I go down to Venice and walk around for a couple hours. I cook a lot. I thrift. I like thrifting. Then I just make music. We shoot videos. I spend a lot of my time creating, making stuff. I’m not from here so it’s still interesting for me to go to a cool area and walk around. Go outside, float around LA.
Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
Maybe King Cool, or James Blake.
Me, Cudi, and Thom Yorke. We’re just crooning, all doing weird hums in the background. There’s several hundred vocal tracks on that song. It’s a choir of weird hums and backwardness. The song’s hopefully 12 minutes minimum. Thom Yorke could probably produce it himself, but the dream producer? I want to say someone like Pharrell, but I don’t know that’s the right fit sonically. Pharrell’s fire, but we might not get the right end result. He might try to make it too goddamn dancy. I’d be like “no Pharrell, it’s not time to dance.” [laughs]
Oh shit, I want to make some music with Andre 3000, but not if he’s finna rap way better than me. If he’s going to try to really go there, he can save all that shit. He’s got to fuck with me. If his goal is to blatantly rap way better than me, then he can eat a dick. With all the respect that is due to his GOAT-ness, he can eat a dick.