Willie Joe

 In Past Clients

He got you. As soon as he hit the stage it was over. While his competitors struggle to keep the crowd’s attention, his entrance is grand. He saunters and then storms the platform like he owns it. He grips the mic as if it represents a ledge that separates him from life and death. His disposition emits confidence as much as it does the energetic force that consumes you. His swag emanates cool, suggesting still, an unbridled fury inside. And his lyrics? They scream, “I AM HERE TO STAY.” He is Willie Joe – Bay Area born and raised emcee – turned Atlanta rap underground phenomenon. Since arriving in Atlanta in 2005, the Vallejo, California native has executed the model grind, becoming a showcase favorite, eventual radio mainstay and ultimately a Sho’Nuff/Capitol Records emcee. The ideal sequence to his debut solo album – The Come Up – Willie Joe’s experience is truly art imitating life. “I’m really on a ‘come up,’” the 24 year old says. “That’s my mentality. That’s my mentality as I record. That’s my mentality as I perform, as I promote and it’s not just a come up to get money. It’s a come up to do positive things and at the same time let [people] know that you can do whatever you want to do.” At the age of sixteen, Willie Joe appeared on his first song alongside cousin and fellow rapper, Don P, who had a distribution deal with Ground Level Records. As a roadie, he learned the game quickly. Fresh out of a collective called the Fonk Tribe, which was later renamed the Wataboyz (Data Boi, Woodstock, Tha Crimmies, and Rell Gunny), he immersed himself thoroughly in the nuances of the rap game – business and personal wise. “I learned what to do and what not to do,” he says. “But I felt like if I stayed where I was at I wasn’t going to get anywhere. So I made a drastic move to Atlanta.” On a one way ticket, with ten dollars to his name and a mixtape in tow, Willie Joe found his way to the Dirty South. Needless to say, he hit the ground running; his street album appropriately entitled Let’s Go. Forever inbred with the spirit of entrepreneurship, Willie Joe applied for a job at Atlanta Hartsfield Airport to finance the production cost of his mixtapes. Hoping to secure employment with an airline that would sponsor his trips back and forth to the Bay, the budding rapper instead settled on a customer service position at Starbucks. “I was serving latte’s, which is something I’ve never done before in my life,” he discloses. “But I humbled myself and went from the ground up.” Determined to be heard, Willie Joe alerted his co-workers and anyone else who would listen, declaring himself as an emcee on the rise with every shift. By day he poured gourmet coffee and listened to the radio, training his ear to key in on celebrity guest parties, battles and the like. By night he made himself visible at any and every hot spot he’d found. “I was either in there or I was outside if I couldn’t afford to get in,” he tells. In the process, Willie Joe met and eventually forged a relationship with Big Tah and Fort Knox of Strong Arm Management – two native New Yorkers. Without shoving their desire to manage Willie Joe down his throat, Strong Arm exposed the energetic emcee to the showcases that he would ultimately rule. His victorious run however, didn’t come without struggle. “I was losin’ like a mufucka,” he remembers with a laugh. “I would do like five songs a week and I just kept losing and I really couldn’t figure it out.” Needless to say, the reality of losing did nothing to dissuade Willie Joe’s triumphant spirit. Humbled once again and even more driven than before, he went back to the lab, this time announcing his arrival with an even bolder mixtape – From the Bay to the A and then the DJ Aaries hosted Thrax On Wax. Easily his best work as an underground artist; Thrax… featured “Get Em, Got Em,” the track that inspired winning streaks at practically every showcase in Atlanta. “That’s when people started recognizing that I was more than just an energetic performance,” Willie Joe discloses. “That’s my baby. It’s the reason why I’m here. That song right there really got me in a lot of doors. Before that I was just doing what I liked. I wasn’t paying attention to what the consumer wanted.” In giving people what they wanted Willie Joe made way for what they needed. Upon returning after his fourth consecutive loss at the infamous Royal Peacock, he performed “Get Em, Got Em” to the delight of the crowd and the judges. For his victory Willie Joe was invited to the “Best of the Best,” which he would go on to win twice and suddenly, the victories were coming in bunches. The prize in winning the popular showcase was a radio spin on Atlanta’s Hot 107.9 morning show. Soon after, the Dertty Boyz, who manned the 6-10 (PM) spot, got wind of “Get Em, Got Em,” worked the song into their rotation and requested a drop from Willie Joe – one that’s run an impressive eight months to date. With the “Bay to the A” campaign in full stride, Willie Joe’s popularity swelled and he became the subject of Atlanta’s parched rap underground. In the process, he met fellow Bay Area native Rovella Williams – founder of Almost Famous (showcase and magazine). The two formed a working relationship and as his publicist, Williams worked to land Willie Joe in a handful of magazines, including Grip, Down and Break among them. Features on AllHipHop.com’s Breeding Ground and Ozone Magazine’s Patiently Waiting followed, and Willie Joe’s music was featured on HipHopGame.com’s popular audio section as well. Still an unsigned phenomenon, Willie Joe’s next project – Free Agent – ironically brought his reality to light. After a brief demo deal with Warner, which ended over undisclosed legality issues, he was close enough to sense a deal in the offing. However, he was still far enough away that he couldn’t sever his ties with the airport. Rapper TI’s Club Crucial served as the chance to make his dreams come true. Unknowingly, Willie Joe put on the performance of his young career and Sho’Nuff A&R Smoov was impressed enough to arrange a meeting with the label’s Co-CEO – Harry “Noonie” Lee – the next day. That would lead to the Bay Area rapper’s signing with the burgeoning label. The Come Up, Willie Joe’s debut solo album, scheduled for an early ’08 release, is executive produced by DJ Toomp and Sho’Nuff Co-CEO, Jazze Pha. Predicted to host some of the industry’s most recognizable talents per the Bay and ATL – E-40, Too Short, Kaz Kyzah, Lloyd, Jody Breeze, Mistah Fab and Clyde Carson – are all in negotiations to appear on the full length CD. As a prelude to the heavily anticipated project – Willie Joe released two more street tapes for his growing audience on July 4, 2007. The Signing – catered for the legion of fans that grew with him on his journey – is immersed in Southern hospitality, with Lloyd, Jody Breeze, Jazze Pha and others making guest appearances. Bay’d Out, features a star studded Northern Californian cast – Dru Down, Kaz Kyzah, Too Short, Fab, Clyde Carson, and The Wataboyz – among them. A self proclaimed “Wyatt Earp boy,” Willie Joe’s ‘come up’ is exclusive to his journey and others who preceded him. However, in his own right, Willie Joe has carried out a different experience than any other rapper from his soil. With the obvious connection among Bay Area heavyweights Too Short and E-40, who both have ties to Atlanta and the Bay, when Willie Joe bellows, “from the Bay to the A,” it’s more than some witty idiom. It’s a way of life. “It’s more than a phrase to me,” he says. “They got concerts ‘from the Bay to the A,’ you hear rappers that don’t really be in the A, talkin’ about ‘from the Bay to the A,’ which is cool and it’s all good. But I really feel like I’m the real meaning of that. I’m really from the Bay, born and raised and I came to the A and brought that Bay shit. I showed the similarities between both cities and made everybody accept me so I really live by that.” For interviews and press information, contact dove@tygereye.net Label contact: Donald “D-Day” Albright – donald.albright@shonuff-records.com Management contact: Strong Arm Mgmt. – strongarmmanagement@gmail.com

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