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Beatmart Recordings’ newest talent, northwest rapper Willie Will, is already a familiar name to those in the know. His three independent solo albums found critical acclaim in the Northwest, his distinctive style grabbed attention on 2006’s “Best of Submissions Vol. 3” with DJ Morphiziz, his cameo blazed across Soul P’s “Whoa Whoa!” video, and he took home five awards at the 2006 Northwest Music Awards for Best Single, Best Album, Best Collaboration, Best Video, and 2006 Northwest Pioneer.

I may be new to the Willie Will experience, but listening to the 5-track preview EP preceding the release of the full-length “Reflection” has whet my appetite, and whet it well.

Will’s EP begins with “Say So,” a strong anthem testifying to the glories of our new life in Christ. Yes, he came up in the church but his home life was a confusing chaos of mixed messages, and Will followed his father into a life of hustle where he tasted some of the street’s slickest treats. He lays pieces of that testimony out straight and true over the rolling rhythms of “Say So,” while making it crystal clear which lifestyle he finds more satisfying. More of Willie Will’s background shows up in the standout track, “Bottom Dollar,” its dreamy, airy feel belying the harsh realities laid out in the strong lyrics. Will brings a Marvin Gaye tone to the scene, reminding us that God is not far from us, even in the darkest hour. I love the way Will spits the Word into every track, nowhere stronger than in this track’s real life perspective: the truths of the Word hold up in EVERY situation, no matter what it looks like. Strong stuff, revealing the heart of a soldier, and we need this kind of leadership right now.

“Shine” looks at the power of the Light of the world, as He walked on the earth and as He shines through us today. The heavily nuanced track gets your hips moving, your neck twisting, at the same time calling us to “light the world one life at a time.” Willie Will describes his sound as “a new vein of holy hip-hop,” and the smooth groove of “Night and Day,” with its sparkling arpeggios and string trills, surely fits that description. “Wanna Roll” closes the EP out with heat, its reggae undertones sizzling as he challenges the haters to lay down their weapons and join him in the mission. Listen to “Reflection” and you’ll find the invitation irresistible. Look for the full-length “Reflection” to street on June 5th and check him out at www.myspace.com/williewill while you wait.

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