Willie The Kid & Bronze Nazareth - The Living Daylights
Label - Embassy Ent. / Black Day In July Productions
Release Date - February 11, 2014
While there is something to be said for artists who emerge from hiding every four or five years to drop well thought out, meticulously edited albums, I've always been more drawn to musicians who seem driven to create in waves. Being prolific in the modern music climate is almost a necessity though and fosters an environment where tenderfoots feel like they should have to release music at a rate that far outpaces their experience and level of quality control. This is especially prevalent in rap music where all you need a beat and verse to make a song. Over the last year Willie The Kid has been prolific as anyone but has managed to maintain his creative edge and seems to be getting better with every release, turning me from a casual fan into someone who will listen to anything with Willie's name attached to it.
The first time I saw the video for "The Guilt" earlier this year and realized his next release would be a full-length Bronze Nazareth produced affair I knew his hot streak would continue. I wrote about “The Guilt” and its reflective video previously for WLFY and it’s the type of song that’s so tightly crafted and thoughtful that it always cuts through and grabs the listener’s attention, especially when the family ties theme is set up so beautifully with the previous song "Sweet Sorrow". Playing out as a soul bearing letter in rap form to a long time significant other, "Sweet Sorrow" finds Willie giving accounts of nights he ignored calls and "set myself up as if I wouldn't give a fuck" before spitting that he's "hoping I can change like Jimmy did for Chrissy". It's a refreshing admission on an incredibly honest song that shows Willie has chambers he's willing to visit that most rappers prefer not to enter or don't even know how to find.
Willie's drive to succeed is cited as something that caused friction in his relationship, and while he expresses regret about past transgressions, he clearly doesn't have any hangups about his ambition. "Avalon", "Breakfast In France", "Coming From", and "Bless My Food" all find Willie enjoying the fruits of his labor in a way that feels more genuine than most rap songs that toast to excess. “Breakfast In France” in particular is a full circle type of song. Maybe capturing the theme of the album and Willie’s life better than any song on The Living Daylights, “Breakfast In France” finds Willie toasting Mimosas in Paris, but always keeping his childhood sitting on the stairway in the back of his mind.
"Avalon" and "Bless My Food" are the album's bookends and also feature the two best guest appearances on the album from Roc Marciano and Tekh Togo, although the buzz worthy Boldy James's verse on "Ain't Nothing" isn't far behind. Roc Marciano and Willie glide over Bronze Nazareth's excellent David Axelrod sample flip on "Avalon" while Tekh Togo (who's also the man behind the majority of Willie the Kid's music videos) promises to "play the game like the Lannisters/ and pull some fire out the canister" before Willie ends the album by calmly repeating the mantra "Bless my food, say my grace/ God willing, I'm chilling in a good space". It's a simple sentiment of embracing the moment and being thankful for it, but its power is intensified because of how it relates to the rest of the album and Willie the Kid's story.
The Living Daylights almost plays out like one giant thank you to mid 90's witty gangster rap. Willie the Kid is the type of guy who knows every word to every classic gangster flick and every word to every classic hardcore rap album and his lyrics bear it out ("Willie two times/ I get the papers, get the papers"). It's not by accident that his older brother La the Darkman (now going by L.A.D) who dropped a gangster rap classic as a Wu-Tang affiliate in Heist of the Century in 1998 shows up on two tracks, the hard-as-nails duet "Fucking Blades" and a short solo track, the murderous "Ice Cold Guinness". He pays further tribute to the Wu-Tang Clan on "Wu Babies" by inviting the sons of Ghostface Killah and Old Dirty Bastard (Sun God and Young Dirty Bastard) to represent for the next generation of the Wu, which is appropriately closed by a classic '90s quote from Ghostface about building a rap career to give "our babies" something to fall back on.
Willie's shown an ability to "acclimate like a native" when it comes to working with different producers or artists, but The Living Daylights is an album that highlights his earliest influences and dreams for his life and career, his musical DNA. Bronze Nazareth's rugged soul is the best current incarnation of the classic Wu-Tang sound and it gave Willie the perfect platform to put the music he sees in his head on full display. The Living Daylights is a confident album by an artist that locked himself in a comfort zone and saw his vision through to the end. It almost seemed inevitable that Willie the Kid would eventually team up with Bronze Nazareth for a full length project because of their Michigan roots and Wu-Tang ties, here's hoping their next collaboration won't take nearly as long to materialize.