Wilko Wilkes is an alternative rapper, songwriter, producer and workshop facilitator from West Yorkshire, UK.
During a course of counselling for chronic depression in 2019, lacking confidence and struggling under the weight of his unfulfilled urge for a creative outlet, he talked about what he thought was a pipe-dream of being a recording artist and live performer. After talking it through, he decided to make a commitment to developing his art.
Setting himself a target of writing ten songs and playing one gig, slowly but surely he started putting together a catalogue of work. Following some delays due to Covid-19 pandemic he completed his first mission, performing his first live set in July 2021 at Bradford Buskival.
He has now played a number of successful gigs and was a finalist in Gateways Festival Battle of the Bands, as well as supporting Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer in Leeds and impressing crowds at Menston’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations. He has performed in a number of unusual locations such as Leeds Central Library, several churches, in-store at HMV Bradford and atop the Cow and Calf rocks on Ilkley Moor.
2022 saw the release of his debut album Life Is Not A Rehearsal with support from Help Musicians, completing another lifelong dream that had seemed unattainable. In September 2022 at his album launch party he performed the album from start to finish at The Underground, Bradford.
Wilko has gained a following in the Yorkshire music scene due to his engaging live set which is delivered at blistering pace with pinpoint precision.
He writes and raps from the heart, blending his troubled and uneasy outlook on life with messages of hope, unity & respect, peppered with humorous wordplay, mundane real-life references and unexpected twists.
A lover of music, he takes inspiration from a wide variety of genres, resulting in an alternative style of rap which is truly his own.
Always learning, he now fully self-produces his music from composition to release following mentoring sessions with legendary UK hip hop producer HashFinger funded by Bradford Producing Hub.
Also a keen filmmaker, he has enjoyed honing his craft by self-producing his music videos.
Wilko is passionate about his local community, holds several volunteer roles and has raised thousands of pounds for charities close to his heart such as Andy’s Man Club, Alzheimers Society, Motor Neurone Disease Association, St George’s Crypt, Shelter and Yorkshire Air Ambulance.
Wilko regularly facilitates fun confidence-building creative rap workshops for children in schools and education settings across Yorkshire, including returning to his old primary school for a day of workshops with years 5 and 6.
In February 2023 he launched Rap for Good – a programme of free workshops for young people in Bradford and Keighley to get access to the arts.
His tracks can be found on radio stations and playlists worldwide, gaining over 300,000 streams as well as featuring on media channels such as Authority Magazine, BCB Radio, British Hip Hop, Chapel FM, Click Roll Boom, Happy Hour TV, Ilkley Gazette, Light on Leeds, Music:Leeds, New Artist Spotlight, New Music Yorkshire, RecordWeekly, Reyt Good Magazine and South Leeds Life.
“I live in Bingley with my wife Lucy and our cat Desmond, who occasionally makes appearances on my social media. I work full time and I am a facilitator at Andy’s Man Club Leeds, as well as holding volunteer positions at Leeds & District Football Association and Age Friendly Leeds.
From a musical background, I played piano as a child and studied music theory to Grade 3. I was obsessed with lyrics and could regularly be found studying album sleeves and learning or transcribing the words.
My dad is an accomplished prog-rock keyboard player and Grade 8 organist who has played in several bands. Music was everywhere in our family and is a key cornerstone of my life.
I have always loved the power that music has to convey intense emotions and get the adrenaline pumping. I listen to lots of different genres, favouring high-tempo music with raw feeling and power behind it.
Despite my usually cheerful nature, I’ve always had struggles and internal battles with various aspects of my mental health. One dream I always had was writing and performing my own music but I was held back for many years by the shackles of my own mind, too scared to put myself out there. I couldn’t even finish a song for most of my life, I’d often start writing but I would quickly lose faith and tear it up after a few lines.
I have worked hard on improving my mental health including counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, peer support and medication, as well as countless other strategies like getting enough exercise, fresh air, water etc. and of course writing about it. I am now stronger and more resilient than I’ve ever been and I am able to help others through my work with Andy’s Man Club every Monday night and beyond.
Having a creative outlet has been a key part of my mental health recovery and I admire, support and encourage anyone who has the courage to put themselves out there in whatever they do. Being involved in the arts amongst so many creative people is always massively inspiring for me.
Now that I’m playing live regularly, my album is released and I’m living the dream, I won’t forget the steps that got me here. I relish and cherish every opportunity and I’m so grateful to everyone who’s been part of this journey.
I hugely enjoy conducting rap workshops with children and giving them the chance to build confidence and express themselves through creative writing and performance. This has been an unexpected and beautiful addition to my work and has quickly become one of my most important priorities.
I’m fuelled by a burning passion for music, a hunger to push myself and improve, and a desire to help others.
I hope by doing all this that I can inspire a few people to shake off their own mental barriers and start creating their own art or doing whatever it is they’ve been putting off that they really desire.
I’m scratching the itch that I’ve always had, and you know what itches are like…the more you scratch them, the itchier they get!”
What the people are saying
“Wilko Wilkes is a gifted individual, he has a great voice that commands the listener to hear his words. I have every bit of faith in his awesome musical abilities” – James Smith, Supporte Di Artiste
“Wilko is quickly becoming one of the smoothest, quick-rhyming rappers in the UK and drops some seriously killer rhymes. Listening to Wilko is always so invitingly intense. You know there is a deep message in the words, but you’d better do your best to keep up. He raps like Busta Rhymes or Eminem, but tells stories like Billy Bragg. He is unique and progressive in his approach, a talent to look out for” – Brad Bauman, Mercury Teardrop
“An articulate and thoughtful artist, he is making a splash in the music industry with his authentic style of pacy, heartfelt verses.” – Authority Magazine
“With cleverly thought out lyrical compositions and immersive vocal structures it’s too easy to be captivated and inspired by Wilkes’ fast tracks. If you’re a fan of rap/fast rap I would highly recommend Wilko Wilkes, it’s just a matter of time before his talent is recognised.” – Ashleigh Vaughan, Reyt Good Magazine
“Specialising in speedy verses, solid beats and honest lyrics, Wilko Wilkes is an alternative West Yorkshire rapper on the rise.” – Record Weekly
“He raps at an incredible speed, with such charm. It is real! He is not copying. He is not pretending. Wilko Wilkes is being Wilko Wilkes.” – Charles Connolly, Producer & Artist
“Just a brilliant artist, rap that’s outside cliches, witty, funny and a worth a listen twice, thrice…hell, a hundredfold!” – Emerson B. Ocampo, Producer & Artist
“If there’s one Leeds-based artist who pushes the envelope at every stage, to their output’s great benefit, it’s Wilko Wilkes.” – Record Weekly
“Music that feeds the soul” – Kingman, Reggae Artist
“A kaleidoscope of colourful imagery punctuated by darkness” – Sandy B
“Lyrical genius” – Andy M
“Absolute master of the fast rap!” – Sam F
“Flow and enunciation is incredible!” – Hari M
“Can’t believe how fast he can spit but still take in every impactful word!” – Adam H
“Intelligent and articulate, this is complex stuff and only getting better” – Luke N
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