Ric Wilson is a 21-year old emcee from the south side of Chicago. His music is classic Chicago as his lyrics shift from fun loving Hip-Hop to thought-provoking messages. Wilson is also a prison abolitionist and an activist. In 2014 Wilson was one of eight delegates chosen to travel to Geneva, Switzerland on behalf of the We Charge Genocide coalition to shine a light on the practices of the Chicago Police Department to the United Nations Committee Against Torture.
Wilson’s latest endeavor on the music front is a 5-track EP titled “Soul Bounce.” The EP is produced by James Gent, 3lo, Grizz Rivers, Kdagreat, and Safe N Sound. Soul Bounce features appearances by The O’My’s, Avery R. Young, David Ellis, Daryn Alexus, and Kopano.
The Real Hip-Hop had the opportunity to chat with Ric Wilson about the high rate of crime in his hometown of Chicago and how he thinks it could be ended, why it’s important for Hip-Hoppers to know Hip-Hop history, and about his new EP, Soul Bounce.
TRHH: Why’d you title the new EP Soul Bounce?
Ric Wilson: Soul Bounce is just my sound pretty much. The sound was created by the blending of genres. Soul Bounce is like me picking option D out of A, B, C, D. Option D is the sound that no one really has. It’s really just me being me, genuinely and unapologetically. It’s about having soul. The idea is taking African-American soul – taking something out of nothing and giving it this bouncy feel.
TRHH: How is this project different from The Sun Was Out?
Ric Wilson: The Sun Was Out was a step into the direction that I wanted to go and Soul Bounce is me being in that direction and staying in that direction. The Sun Was Out was, “Maybe I’ll see if they like this,” and Soul Bounce is, “I know they’ll like this.” I identify it as my first presented project.
TRHH: What inspired the single We Love Us?
Ric Wilson: I had this conversation with my homie David who is also on the song. It’s a celebration about black life. All you see on Twitter nowadays is black death. I wanted to make a song about a celebration of black life and what that means. Everyone needs to love themselves when they’re black. I got tired of writing songs about “fuck the police” and all that shit. We don’t have enough songs saying we love ourselves. Which it’s cool to have a song saying fuck the police, but we need other songs. I wrote so many songs about that shit for years, not just because it’s been trending. I’ve been writing about police violence since I was 16. I don’t really have a lot of songs about loving myself, being black, and whatever that is.
TRHH: We’re both from Chicago and have lived through so many underhanded tactics by the Chicago Police Department. My question is twofold, one, how do you think the police can limit their bad behavior and two, what can be done to stop crime in the inner city?
Ric Wilson: First if the police want to stop their bad behavior they’re going to have to take a history lesson on why the police exist. Once they understand why police exist they damn near probably won’t wanna be police officers. The only existence and purpose of police is to police poor people and keep the poor people from the rich people. That’s the only reason why there are police. They were created after slavery. There was no policing like we’re seeing now when slavery was around. Police didn’t come about until after slavery didn’t exist anymore. They were going around locking up black people if they didn’t have a job after slavery. If you didn’t have a job after you were enslaved all your life they would lock you up because you were unemployed. They had all sorts of crazy, stupid laws, which in turn comes the creation of the mass incarceration in America. Cops have to understand and admit why they exist and then they have to say, “This is what we’re supposed to stand for, and this dude wasn’t standing for that.”
There are no cops going around saying, “I think what happened to Paul O’Neal was wrong,” or “You know what, I think what happened in Minnesota this year was wrong.” Cops aren’t doing that. Cops aren’t leading anti-police violence protests. I don’t get that shit. Every time something happens with black people or something’s happening bad they bring up black on black crime. I saw this week an article saying “We don’t appreciate y’all wanting to dread your head up because y’all use dreads to mock us.” The term “dread” comes from the Haitian Revolution. They call them “dread locks” because the once enslaved Africans in Haiti were being shot by the French from uphill and they dreaded their locks so much that they were hard to shoot because they were moving so fast up the hill. When we talk about police violence, until I start seeing police leading some anti-police violence protests then maybe we can really have a strong conversation on how we can keep the police. Until then, I don’t think we need a police force that doesn’t really want to hold themselves accountable.
Somebody steals a car and the police kill that dude. But a police officer can just shoot Rekia Boyd on the west side and just because he’s an officer with a gun he can walk away? But we’re wrong for saying we want to lock him up, beat his ass, or kill him? Now we’re the wrong ones. I feel like these double standards are very destructive to society when it comes to policing and what that means. Until the police can admit that the police are fucked up, then we can get somewhere. That’s a huge step we can take. I see many black people telling black people that what’s going on in the black community is fucked up. No one is admitting that what’s going on in the black community is not fucked up. We have all these people in the community working on trying to get the community better and we got no fuckin’ resources. This shit makes no sense. You can go to Washington Park on the south side and look at the area. Why does this area look like this? You can go up north to Lincoln Park and it’s clean as hell.
It’s the same amount of people in the areas. Who is going around cleaning up these areas? I don’t see white people that live in Lincoln Park going around and cleaning Lincoln Park up. Who is the city paying to clean up? The city literally has people who are on parole going around and cleaning up the north side of Chicago. I don’t see niggas on the south side cleaning nothing up. I don’t see the city putting community centers on the south side. Let’s talk about where the resources are going in the city of Chicago. I think once we have a real honest conversation about who is getting resources, why the police exist, and why there is more police on the south side…. think about this, bro, the places where there is the most crime at has the most police. That should pretty much tell you that police aren’t stopping crime. That shit sounds ineffective. There are hundreds of more police in Englewood but the crime is still happening. I’m confused, isn’t the purpose of police to stop crime? That’s a proven fact that more police doesn’t stop crime.
TRHH: You’ve described yourself as a prison abolitionist, I’m curious, how do you think criminals should be dealt with?
Ric Wilson: First question is we might have to change what our definition of criminals are because the majority of criminals are niggas just trying to make a living. The majority of people in prison now are the motherfuckers who are either smoking weed or selling weed – that shit is insane. If we wanna deal with people who actually cause harm in the community, like, my cousin got killed when I was 17. The dude who killed him was 15-16. It’s crazy how the states decide that they wanna do something to somebody without asking the people who were harmed by that person what they want. Our system really doesn’t ask the victims what they want. They just decide what they’re gonna do to the person who harmed a person in the community.
Then you have people who aren’t even from the community coming in and telling the community what they’re gonna do to the person who harmed the community. I believe that instead of locking folks up we could hold folks in a way of restorative justice. We create some sort of process and we figure out who the victim is and the person who did the crime or whatever, then we bring them together and figure out what the victim wants and how he can make the community better from his actions instead of exiling him away. It’s proven that shit don’t help the community. Look at the community now. Mostly incarcerated are black and brown folks.
TRHH: Who inspired you to want to be an emcee?
Ric Wilson: It’s very interesting. Drake inspired me to rap, actually. I used to write poems and shit. Drake inspired me to rap but Gil Scott-Heron and 2Pac inspired me to rap about what I rap about. Gil Scott-Heron and 2Pac inspired the message but Drake inspired me to rap.
TRHH: How did you first hear Gil Scott-Heron?
Ric Wilson: My cousin is J. Wells. He’s like a west coast producer. He did an album with Kurupt and was with Dogg Pound and all of them. When I was first writing he told me how he produced this record for Rakim and I didn’t know who Rakim was. He told me, “You can’t tell me that you wanna be a rapper until you tell me who Rakim is.” I started digging and looked up who Rakim was. From Rakim I found some more people. I found the whole Stop the Violence Movement that they had going on. I found KRS-One and through KRS-One I found Gil Scott-Heron. I think it was the year he died that I actually found out who he was. I was obsessed with all that shit. Gil Scott-Heron used to be singing and shit too, niggas don’t be knowing that. I used to make beats and sample him. That’s how I got it, from my cousin being an old head ass nigga and telling me that shit.
TRHH: Wow. So what’s your take on the generational gap in Hip-Hop? Recently… I don’t know that kids name…
Ric Wilson: Uzi or Yachty?
TRHH: Yeah, there you go! [Laughs] One of those cats made a comment about rapping over old beats. Then Pete Rock got into it with somebody, Young Dolph or something. He was rapping about shooting guns or something and in the video there was a little kid next to him. Pete Rock was just saying we have to be more responsible around kids and the dude went off calling him old and all of this stuff. There is a clear generational gap in Hip-Hop. Do you think it’s important for everybody in Hip-Hop to go back like you did and learn who Rakim is, who Gil Scott-Heron is, et cetera?
Ric Wilson: Yeah! Definitely. Like I was talking about with the police. It’s a whole bunch of dumb ass police officers who don’t even know how the police started in America. I think whatever you’re doing if it’s art, working, or whatever you need to look up what you are working for and what you are doing. If you are a painter you need to look up painters and understand the art that you’re doing. This is an art at the end of the day. If I don’t understand the history of this art and where it came from then honestly I don’t need to be pickin’ up a fuckin’ mic. If you don’t know where you’re from you don’t know where you’re going. Last year I opened up for Chuck D at Metro and it was a huge thing for me. A lot of people didn’t know who Chuck D was and that shit blew my mind. People don’t know who Chuck D is? Chuck D is the one who started this whole fight the power movement. Chuck D is the reason why Black Lives Matter is trending and cool nowadays because he was the first one to pick up a mic and say some shit like that and spread it worldwide – him, Flavor Flav, and Public Enemy.
I think it’s super-crucial that people understand the history. I’m not knocking people who don’t know their history. Our culture is so stupid, I’ll have a run in with a white man and get into it with him and he’ll justify not liking black people from that one experience. I think when you have that mic and that moment and you’re supposed to be saying something and you know people are listening, I feel like you should try to respect that and understand that. I feel like people should know the history of Hip-Hop and what Hip-Hop is. That’s if you wanna be a Hip-Hop artist, though. If you don’t wanna be a Hip-Hop artist, maybe don’t describe yourself as a Hip-Hop artist. That’s cool, just do that. I’m not gonna get mad at you. You’re not even a Hip-Hop artist so I’m not gonna expect you to say or think about what you’re doing like how I’m thinking about what I’m doing, honestly.
TRHH: What’s your ultimate goal in the music business?
Ric Wilson: I really want people to find out what they wanna do with their life listening to my music. This is another thing that’s fucked up in our community, growing up black a lot of people don’t know where they’re going, where they’re from, and what they wanna do with life. White kids know what they wanna do from a young age. I don’t know if it’s because they have more role models or what it is. If I could be a role model or inspiration for a little black boy or black girl to figure out what they wanna be in their life, that shits dope. Another goal is for me to keep spreading what a prison abolitionist means. They came out with this movie about Nat Turner. Nat Turner probably didn’t even think that he would have a movie about him, but he was an abolitionist. He died for that shit. I just want to spread the word about what a prison abolitionist is and maybe I can change and shape the U.S. and the world in a couple hundred years, if the U.S. is still here. Rome fell and the U.S. is gonna fall one day. If the U.S. is still here maybe it can shift the atmosphere.
In 2014 me and seven other folks went to Geneva, Switzerland to submit the shadow report to the U.N. Since then I saw a headline in the Chicago Reader saying, “Do We Really Need the Police?” I think the conversation is actually opening on what is policing and can we change what we see as policing nowadays? My musical and career goals other than touching people and shifting agendas, I’m not trying to be a big rock star. I’m more of a low key guy. I’m more of a festival artist. I don’t know what comes with that. I appreciate people who move like that, like M.I.A. She might come to the U.S. a couple times a year and then she’s around the world. Music makes the world go around. I don’t wanna be in the U.S. my whole life doing shows here. Of course I want to be in the U.S. but if I can get an agent and do festivals in different countries and places like Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe with the white folks I think it would be fun. That’s the goal pretty much.
Purchase: Ric Wilson – Soul Bounce