Many young, urban men see rap music as a ticket to a better, more prosperous life. But few ever even get a start in the music industry.
Twenty-two year old Gee Watts, however, has as good a chance as any. His new mixtape Watts Up has been featured in several major music industry publications and blogs.
The track Watts R.I.O.T. features the Kansas City native rhyming with LA rapper Kendrick Lamar, a rising hip hop sensation who made his name on the internet. Just a few days after the release of Watts’ collaboration with Lamar, the song had more than 16,000 listens.
KCUR’s Susan Wilson caught up with Gee Watts to find out more about how that collaboration happened, and how growing up in several very different Kansas City communities has influenced his life and music.
On how the collaboration with Kendrick Lamar happened -- after Watts and Lamar had exchanged tweets, Lamar contacted Watts before a concert in KC:
Before he came he sent me a text like, ‘Yo - I think I got one for you for my album.’
And I was like, ‘That’s all I needed to hear.’
And so when he came, played the beat for me, he was in the middle of rapping/writing his verse. He had half of it already recorded, halfway still trying to piece together.
And he told me … ‘Hey man, when I lay this down, I’m going to get it to you. Take it, marinate, live with it and send it back.’
I was like, ‘Are you still writing your verse?’
And he was like, ‘I still got about eight bars.’ And so as a competitor I was like, ‘I don’t need to take nothing home, I will write right here with you [on the tour bus!]’
On how he started to rap:
When I was like two-years-old, I actually used go down [to a park], it used to jump a little bit more back in the day… My pops would pull out a little suitcase and I would stand on the suitcase, and I would perform and they would give me like, you know, a dollar here, two dollars there... So, it’s been in me since a youngin. But I started writing, I want to say eighth-grade when I heard TI’s Urban Legend and Kanye's Late Registration.
On growing up on Kansas City’s East Side:
You got a whole bunch of people just trying to raise theirselves and the game that they are getting is from some fairytale rap music or, you know, fictional movies, or fake gangsters on TV... And that ends up just bringing out the worst in everything and in everybody.