Soul Bounce: Chicago MC Talks New EP and Organizing With WE CHARGE GENOCIDE
Photo by Pidgeon Pagonis
I first met Ric while I was strolling’ 18th street in Pilsen, Chicago with a few homies. He rolled by us in his ride and snapped out a few “heys” while narrowly dodging a few cars and swerved over to say “whats up!” First thing I noticed was his smile and enthusiasm; both were bigger than 18th street was long. We were all heading to get a cup of mud down at Jumping Bean so he slammed it in park and wobbled up the block with us. You can tell by the way Ric converses and reaches out that he got that vibe that is rare and encourages growth in himself and others around him.
Ric Wilson is 20 year old black artist and prison abolitionist from the south-side of Chicago. I was first interested in hitting Ric up for a short interview after hearing Penny Raps, his debut solo project he dropped last year, meeting him in person and catching the feeling that he got something important to say. Folks are listening, often times when you think they aint, so it’s important you got something real to spit to them. I personally learned a lot through music and art, it’s an entry point for a lot of people. Ric performs often in and around Chicago, has appeared on panel discussions, has led workshops at University of Illinois at Chicago, Depaul University, Roosevelt University, Loyola University, and was recently awarded 2015’s Chicago Freedom School’s Moments of Justice Award. This fool is 20 years young, grinding hard and showing no signs of slowing his hustle anytime soon. I was happy he could split a few minutes in two and answer a few questions from me. It took him a bit of time to get me the responses, but through some stealthily placed pressure from mutual friends I got em in and happy we could get this out.
RICH GUTIERREZ: First off, Who are you? How old are you? where are you from? and Left handed or Right?
RIC WILSON: I’m Ric Wilson and I’m 20 years old. I’m from the south side of Chicago and right handed.
What was it that initially inspired you to create music?
I like words. Yeah I like words and I like rhythms so I put those two together. I used to write poetry that no one ever heard, so. I put one of my poem on a beat and that’s pretty much how it happened.
“The Sun Was Out,” your newest EP, came out in November. Is there a general theme to these new recordings? tell us a little bit about it and how its different or similar to the previous stuff on “Penny Raps”
The sun was out is about this whole idea of being naked on the porch, and you could either stand out and freeze or go out and walk as your naked self. “The Sun Was Out” was initially about me walking out off that porch and being naked in my new self. The idea of being naked on the porch is that everything is being stripped off of you, so its like your clothes and everything you used to be and now they’re gone. You’re alone with your new self on the porch and the door behind you is locked and you can’t go back in. Its different from penny raps because its about me finding my sound. I call that sound soul bounce.
I truly think that music has the power to heal or at least can motivate that. Its a good place to put that anger or frustration. In the newest single #PrayToTheLord you say “They love the art we makin” – what is that in reference to?
It was about America fetishizing Black art and Black talent but not loving Black people, or even understanding or caring or respecting. It reminds me of this tweet I seen where someone tweeted at Vic Mensa, where they said something like “I love Vic Mensa’s music but I can’t be a fan because he supports Black Lives Matter.”
I know you are active and have passions outside of music, but do the politics inform your music, or is music something separate from that for you?
They go hand in hand. Activism is an art, too. I have my analysis and usually people rap about what their analysis, and my analysis happens to be anti -isms, anti-sexism, anti-capitalism, intersectional.
I visit Chicago often for music and I always feel a strong sense of community, especially in Black and Brown communities. Do you think that music plays a big part in this? How would you describe the Chicago music scene that you are a part of?
Chicago music scene is tight knit. Everyone knows each other who makes music. They all aren’t friends but they know each other. I think the open mic scene is making the scene more diverse because Black and Brown young people are exposed to musicians from Chicago way more often just because of poetry spaces. The blow up effect of Chance the Rapper has a lot to do with that too, since he came up in the open mic scene, a lot of young folks go to open mics cuz they see it as an outlet of where they wanna be in their art.
I would describe the Chicago music scene I’m a part of as super close knit. With the people I really fuck with, it’s not really a music relationship, they’re my friends.
You are active in a group out of Chicago called We Charge Genocide (WCG) right? What is WCG and how did it get started?
WCG is an intergenerational, grassroots effort to center the voices and experiences of the young people most targeted by police violence in Chicago.
WCG was born after the murder of Dominique Franklin, Jr., a young Black man killed on the north side of Chicago after being tazed. Organizing groups in Chicago wanted to come together and build a coalition that would focus specifically on police violence and police terror. WCG is a coalition of different folks from different organizations.
Before I knew about you and your music I heard about We Charge Genocide going to Geneva, Switzerland to speak to the United Nations! Whats the story? What did y’all do?
After WCG formed, one of our goals was to present a shadow report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture, not only for Damo [Dominique Franklin, Jr.] but for all the victims of police violence in the past 7 years in Chicago. It was also to bring awareness to Jon Burge, a former Chicago Police Commander, who tortured over 120 people, mostly Black men. A year ago, when we went there, we also demanded an FBI investigation of the Chicago Police Department, which has just now gone into effect after the release of the video of Laquan McDonald.