Rap for Good: The Beginning

With the first official Rap for Good workshop completed, it’s a good time to reflect and evaluate how it’s going so far.

It’s only been 5 weeks since Rap for Good was announced and we’ve achieved a lot in that time. The start was later than anticipated but we’re on track with everything and making progress every day.

The idea for 2023 is to lay the foundations for a long-lasting and sustainable programme, to test ideas and learn. To ensure Rap for Good is community-led and responsive to need, the project will be shaped by the families, organisations and young people that participate, guided by our eight objectives, which were written with help from stakeholders.

Eight Objectives of Rap for Good

Some of the activity in the last five weeks has included:

  • Lots of meetings with local organisations and charities about collaboration.
  • Workshops in the calendar for May and August, with talks ongoing for October and November.
  • Social media pages created.
  • Certificates and stickers for participants designed and printed.
  • Brand new industry-standard SM58 microphones acquired with stands and cables.
  • First session designed, delivered and evaluated.

Workshop 1

Hosted by the brilliant Musicular Instrumental Arts, based at The Enterprise Hub in Bradford, the first workshop was an entirely new experience for everyone involved.

One of the aims of Rap for Good is to provide a more in-depth experience for aspiring rappers and to test different activities in different environments to find out what works. Each will have new elements and will build on findings from previous sessions.


What’s new?

There were several notable factors that made this one different from Wilko Wilkes schools workshops such as:

  • All the participants were musicians.
  • The introduction of talking circles (similar to how we do them at Andy’s Man Club).
  • The ages of participants ranged from 8 to 15.
  • It was held on a Sunday.
  • Access to computers facilitated beat-making and production.
  • Feedback forms were collected, stickers and certificates were given.
Some snaps from a great day

Key Learnings

  • Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with room for improvement.
  • Timings on most sections were about right.
  • Talking circles were popular.
  • It may be good to allocate some time for exploring the music business.
  • More support is required for those who struggle with writing, literacy or thinking of ideas for lyrics.
  • There is demand for more learning on the digital/practical side of things such as vocal production, music production and how to release music.
  • The feedback form can be improved.

What’s next?

The next Rap for Good session will be held in Keighley in May and will have an open onboarding process. The session will incorporate new elements based on the above findings.

Plans are brewing for the rest of the year including staging events at some very exciting venues which will give participants the chance to rap on stage with powerful sound-systems and special guests.

There are a million things we would like to add to the programme to make this as good as it can be! Please get in touch with Wilko if you would like to learn more or get involved.

You can follow the journey @RapforGoodUK on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Introducing…Rap for Good!

It’s been a long time in the making – I’m delighted to have been selected by The Leap to receive funding as part of their Pioneer Programme, which will see the launch a new social enterprise – Rap for Good 🥳🎤 

Rap for Good will be a community-led programme for young people in Bradford & Keighley. We will provide FREE workshops, advice, access to equipment and opportunities to children in Bradford’s most economically-deprived areas. 

There are some plans in motion to kick things off, more on that as it comes, but as a community-led project it will be shaped by the participants themselves. We’ll be working with local charities, organisations and education providers to deliver our work in response to what the children and families involved need. 

This is really exciting and will be a great programme for young people to be a part of, with a focus on using creativity for positive change & good mental health. It’ll be encouraging, supportive, fun and empowering. 

I want this to be great and I won’t be able to do that on my own, so if you would like to get involved as a volunteer or have ideas or skills to bring to the table please let me know!  Also organisations in Bradford & Keighley who’d like to get involved give me a shout 😄👊

This has been months in the making and there will be more info to come, but for now if you want to follow the journey or get involved, you can follow Rap for Good on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and help to spread the word 🙌

Big thanks and gratitude to The Leap, Arts Council England & Bradford Metropolitan District Council for believing in this project, now for the fun to begin…😁🙏

And shoutout to Rogan at Wild Card Tattoo Studio for his excellent work on the logo! 👏

Looking Backwards and Forwards

The last few months have been a real whirlwind. A lot of work and some thoroughly unforgettable experiences and I’m already deep into my plans for 2023 as the winds of change keep blowing. In amongst the bluster the time has come to get off the treadmill and take a moment to reflect.

September saw the release of Life Is Not A Rehearsal and it really was a dream come true. About 80 people attended and I performed the album from start to finish. Every part of the day was so special and I savoured every moment as if it was the last crummies in the popcorn bag – the taxi there, Lence‘s brilliant set, the mystery envelopes, the impromptu encore, the post-gig pints and shawarma – it was such a pleasure to be backed vehemently by friends and family, truly one of the best days of my life and I can’t say thank you enough to the people who were there.

I know there were more people who wanted to be there but couldn’t make it so I’m grateful to the living legend big Stu Herring for filming the whole thing, including loads of “hilarious” on-stage banter and a full minute’s worth of me floundering around trying to remember the lyrics to Sacked on Championship Manager whilst the beat rolls on. It will be available to watch on repeat for the rest of time from Friday 23rd December 2022.

After the album launch came another amazing evening, this time at Leeds Central Library as we teamed up Leeds Libraries and Andy’s Man Club to put on Sound It Out, a night where I was joined by fellow Leeds facilitators Liam and Mark, two great guys who talk from the heart and inspire me greatly, for an evening of mental health and music discussion. We demonstrated an AMC meeting with just the three of us and it was surprisingly nerve-wracking doing it in front of a mixed audience of 50, rather than 10-15 men in a closed circle. I also performed a few of my mental health related tracks including the unreleased Trapped In My Mind which will be out on 7th January 2023. The event was part of the Soundmind programme of events promoting positive mental health and wellbeing through music.

Whilst it was my face on the poster the event was really about showcasing Andy’s Man Club and showing everyone that #ItsOkayToTalk. We’ll all keep spreading the word as much as possible to find that one man who needs it and if you have questions or want to get involved whether that’s coming to a group, booking a (free) presentation for your business or doing some fundraising, ask me anytime or email info@andysmanclub.co.uk.

Finally a bit about the rap workshops I’ve been doing in schools. They’ve been going great and it’s been such an unexpected and beautiful addition to my journey. I’ve now done 26 workshops across 11 venues with 424 children and I’ve got more booked in – the next being my return to Art Camp UK for an afternoon on 20th December at Shire Oak Primary School in Headingley.

I’m also delighted to announce that I am now an Artsmark Partner, meaning I have committed to a creative quality standard for schools and education settings, accredited by Arts Council England. I feel a responsibility when working with young people so this will help me keep the quality as high as it can be whilst delivering sessions that are fun, useful, inspiring, inclusive and accessible for all participants.

I recently had the privilege of a full day working with students at Hall Cliffe Primary in Wakefield, my first SEN school, and I’m still finding that I learn from the kids in every single session. It’s a magical thing the old imagination and it’s great to see what’s conjured up in these as every workshop is unique.

That concludes this wistful trip down Memory Lane, well done if you made it this far! All sorts of cool gubbins is bubbling away at the moment, some of which could be huge (it’s all relative innit) but I’m not counting any chickens until they’re in the henhouse ready to fly and pecking away like there’s no tomorrow, so more on that when it’s here.

For now, as Jerry Springer used to say, take care of yourself…and each other.

Also check out the Friends of Wilko Wilkes playlist I recently made to thank the artists and bands that I’ve connected with along the way!

Peeeeaaaace oooouuuut!

Life Is Not A Rehearsal Album & Launch Party Details

On 18 September 2022 at The Underground Bradford I’ll be hosting the launch party for my first album Life Is Not A Rehearsal!

A lifetime in the making, it’s another exciting step on my music journey and another pipedream ticked off!

There’s a full schedule for the event on the Eventbrite page which you don’t have to register for to come, but I’d recommend doing so.

I’m gonna be performing the full album from start to finish, a week before it’s out on streaming services, as well as a set from the magnificent Lence.

I’ve tried to make it as accessible as possible with the choice of venue, time, date and the decision to make it a free event.

If you’ve been following my journey or my socials you’ll know how much this means to me, it’s going to be a great event and I’d love to see you there to celebrate!

Rap Workshops: What I’ve Learned

Last week came the arrival of a series of workshops arranged earlier this year. With a break in play now, I took some time to reflect on how it went and what I learned.

Where I was

When I started out rapping seriously in 2019 I knew that this wasn’t going to be a flash in the pan. I’d wanted to be a musician for all my life but I didn’t want to do it half-heartedly. I was tired of living a life where I was too scared to try new things or take risks through a fear of failure or worrying about what other people might say. I said to myself I’d go all in, explore every avenue and make it about learning, discovery and enjoyment.

When the opportunity came up to run some workshops for different audiences it seemed like another great opportunity to expand my horizons and grow. I have an NVQ Level 3 in Training & Education but I’ve not used it loads until now and I’d never taught children. It was a little daunting but I like kids and it seemed a good fit to bring together some of the skills I’ve acquired.

I wanted the workshops to be educational but fun, with me introducing myself, performing a couple of tracks, getting the kids writing and giving them a chance to perform their own work.

One of the slides I used

I started researching and it’s a good job I had time as there were several hurdles I had to overcome. Working with children in schools was a new ballgame for me and I had to arrange professional indemnity insurance as well as registering for DBS and writing a risk assessment for my sessions. All things I hadn’t really considered when I said yes, they gave me a little bit of a headache but ultimately bulked up my professional credentials and helped me to plan.

With about 3 weeks to go I started working on a slide deck which began to consume me. I thought, overthought and thought some more and I ended up making 26 slides covering all sorts of subjects.

With only a few days to go, the panic was setting in. I was starting to feel physical anxiety and it was on my mind all the time. What if it’s boring? What if the kids don’t engage? What if I mess up? Do I have enough slides? Too many? Are they good enough? Is my lesson plan good or useless? Am I a fraud? What is the meaning of life? Is cauliflower traditional?

I started googling to try and find other rappers who are running workshops or doing a similar thing and I found Rob Bradley at The Rap School. I messaged him on the off-chance asking if I could pick his brains. To my delight he responded and we arranged a video chat where I bombarded him with confused questions.

Rob told me he recognised all my questions from when he was starting out, reassured me and gave me some priceless tips. He told me to make it all about the students and to get them doing the legwork, he gave me examples of exercises etc. and in one conversation it all became massively less daunting and much more simplified. I decided to ditch most of the slides I’d spent so long preparing and to just go in with 6 basic slides.

One of the slides I didn’t use

Another tip that Rob gave me was that I could plan the session as much as I like, but it will probably all go out the window within 5 minutes anyway. He was bang on, as within minutes of starting my first session I was now the one being bombarded – Am I famous? Have I been on TV? Do I like Little Mix? How many subscribers have I got on Youtube? What team do I support? Do I shop at Wilko?

Having got used to the endemic apathy of adult life I’d forgotten how excitable and inquisitive kids can be, it was refreshing to see their faces light up as they took a genuine interest, listening attentively to my lyrics and asking follow-up questions. I rattled quickly through my 6 slides, talked about the benefits of creativity and the need to respect and support each other, then got them writing.

Believe and you will achieve

I said they could write about whatever they wanted and gave some ideas, all of them wrote about their love for their families or their dogs. I went round 121 giving some tips and at the end I asked if anyone wanted to come up and share their raps and most of them did. It was amazing seeing young people rapping their own rhymes to my beats and the work they produced so quickly was impressive.

Another lesson from Rob came to mind as when I spoke to him I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough to fill 60 or 90 minutes, but he rightly told me that I’d probably find the time would fly.

With that first successful session under my belt I had the wind in my sails. My anxiety had subsided and been replaced with excitement. I refined the timings and made some notes about my own spiel, ready for the next five.

Sharing my art

Every session I ran I learned something new from the feedback I was given or the reaction of the kids, and I also saw how different groups can be. In one session at Headingley with a group of Year 2 children it was party time and they all had a dance-off during my performance of Stick Around, in the next session I said “you can get up and dance if you like” and they all looked at me like I’d stolen their birthday presents.

I’m generally a stickler for timings and I can get testy when things start to go off-plan, it’s something I’ve tried to improve and it ties in with trying to live more in the moment rather than constantly scanning the future or ruminating about the past. Doing these workshops really helped me with that as I quickly realised I was going to have to go with the flow, every session was different and full of different characters who had an influence on the flow. I enjoyed having the opportunity to adapt and follow the energy.

The kids all had different but defined personalities and I recognised them all from my own school days. The quiet shy ones who need a bit of coaxing, the attention seeking ones who want to disrupt you, the cool ones who don’t want to participate, the curious ones who want to know everything, the ones who can’t/won’t pay attention, the lads who think it’s absolutely hilarious to talk about poo all the time… (it was quite funny the first 20-30 times)

Opening up

The more sessions I did, the more my own confidence grew. Each one had its own challenges and required a lot of focus and concentration to constantly make sure everyone was ok, and they each provided plenty of magic moments. Not least the smiles on the faces of the performers and their friends as they delivered some killer bars to a supportive audience.

These girls had flow

I’m looking forward to going back to Art Camp in the summer and I know I’ll do more of these workshops in the future. With all the slides I didn’t use I’ve got enough for a full programme! Where it’ll take me next I’m not sure, but I know that if I keep doing what I’m doing and levelling up slowly but surely more doors will open. My enthusiasm never wanes, my resilience is sky high and the fulfilment I get from pursuing something I never really thought was possible is addictive.

I got loads of great feedback about the sessions which a lot of the kids said was their favourite part of the day and there were great vibes all round.

Looking back on the experience as a whole I’m hugely satisfied with how it all panned out. I went in thinking that I’d be teaching, but it turned out that I was being taught.

Wise words

Special thanks to Kat & Paul at Art Camp UK, Saira at West Bowling Centre, Rob from The Rap School, Ros Beeson and Refugee Action and all the volunteers and support staff that I met at each venue who all helped me along. See you soon.

Preaching to the converted

If you’re involved with an educational institute or have ideas to collaborate on workshops, music or art programmes etc. please don’t hesitate to get in touch

She Said Yes! How Wilko Wilkes Helped A Happy Couple Get Engaged

In late-January 2022 a good friend of mine contacted me for some help with concocting a plan to propose to his girlfriend. Straff and Carrera have been dating for 17 months and are a fantastic couple who seem custom-made for each other, they also happen to be big fans of my music! Straff wanted me to write a custom song which he could play before popping the question.

We chatted and discussed ideas before settling on a romantic adaptation of my track Stick Around (You’ll See What I Mean) which is one of their favourite songs, a rap adaptation of Shotgun by George Ezra.

Carrera and Straff sharing a Wilko Wilkes sandwich after my December gig at Santiago Bar in Leeds

I had approximately five weeks before Straff was due to propose on 4th March, a few days before Carrera’s 30th birthday for which he was whisking her away on a secret trip to the North Yorkshire coast.

I got started immediately – I’m very lucky to be able to call upon my dad Phil Wilkes who is a talented pianist, and he came round one weekend to lay down some tracks. We recorded a couple of tracks of piano music, some romantic strings, bass and drums. I then added some final touches and arranged it ready to start writing.

Papa Wilko getting down to business

I quizzed Straff about his relationship with Carrera, her interests, special memories or in-jokes that he’d like me to include and I got to work. When I had a draft set of lyrics I checked them with Straff, made a couple of small tweaks and started practicing, followed by recording four vocal tracks once I was confident with my delivery.

Finally I mixed and mastered the tracks to make sure they were well-balanced and would sound great on any device. When the mix was complete I tested the track in headphones, in the car, on my TV and through my studio monitors before sending the final mp3 and wav files for Straff to keep.

I was finished ahead of schedule so I asked Straff to send me some treasured photos of them both, and I made a video compilation for them with the track playing in the background. This makes a fantastic keepsake for them and they were delighted with my efforts.

A creative way to propose and a special keepsake

The big day arrived and Carrera got the shock of her life as he pressed play and unveiled the song we’d worked so hard on. Carrera was bowled over and of course she said yes! How could she have said no after that?!

I’m absolutely amazed at what Wilko managed to achieve with this. I had a vague idea at first but he helped me come up with something really specific and personal to us both.

At every step of the process he kept me informed and it was exciting seeing the great work he was doing as the song started developing. He had me in tears more than once!

I’m so thankful to Wilko for providing us with this special song which we’ll treasure, he went above and beyond and I knew it’d be good but I couldn’t have imagined it would be this good!

Straff – the groom-in-waiting
The happy couple!

For what I thought was a quick trip to visit a special place for us both before my birthday weekend away, I was given the most wonderful and unique surprise ever, a song written and performed by our friend Wilko Wilkes detailing our relationship!

I was blown away and it was a beautiful part of a day that will go down as one of the best of my life! Thank you so much Wilko I absolutely love it!!

Carrera – the bride-to-be

Straff and Carrera – congratulations to you both!

If you’ve got a special occasion coming up later this year, or if you’d like a custom song to advertise your business or surprise a loved one, let me know with some notice and we can cook something up together!

Discretion and high quality is guaranteed, consultation is free and I won’t take on commissions that don’t fit with my ethics. I have limited capacity so let’s get the ball rolling early! Get in touch here

Sacked on Championship Manager

Struggling for inspiration in December having hit a bout of writer’s block, I found myself in a familiar situation – deeply invested in a new game of Championship Manager 01/02.  Football manager games have always appealed to me, Premier Manager 98 is the first game I really loved, and it went on like that for a number of years. 

Often these days when I burn out, I turn to a football manager game from my youth and it gives me senses of comfort, nostalgia, excitement and control.  I’m sure anyone who plays or has played these games will understand, as will their long-suffering partners who are well-practiced at scratching their heads and feigning interest as they see their loved one gleefully whiling away hours and wonder how we can possibly enjoy the reams of information, green bars, numbers and stats etc. without ever actually kicking a ball.

So anyway as I was wrapped up in my warm blanket of managing Newcastle United in 2002, imagine my horror as the team kept losing.  Then at around 1am the message came that the board of directors had decided to sack me.  I was gutted, I’d planned on playing for another couple of hours at least.  I couldn’t stomach it so I turned to writing to vent my rage and frantically smashed out the quickest set of lyrics I’ve ever written. 

A few weeks before, me and Connor had been having a play on Logic pro and started a beat which I loved and later finished.  The beat was perfect for this track with it being quite emotive and punchy so I got to work.  Also a few weeks earlier I’d won a raffle held by Andres Guazzelli on New Artist Spotlight for people who donated to the surgery he required to save his shoulder, the prize being to have a song mixed and mastered by this music master for no cost!  I couldn’t wait to use the prize so that also quickened up the process of this track.  

Nine days after I started typing the lyrics, this song was finished and ready to go and I’m buzzing with how it sounds.  I know it’s a bit niche but I know it will resonate with many people who’ve been through a similar relationship with these beautiful yet cruel games, and hopefully even people who don’t have a clue what I’m on about will still enjoy the passion, the obsessive fury and the music!  It’s also a lot more light-hearted than my last few releases, nice to change it up a bit, but in the same vein it’s a passion project writing about things that I know.

I’m proud of this one being the first track I’ve released where I’ve made the beat.  Shoutout to the people who’ve been involved to get me to this point like Stu Herring, Hashfinger, Connor, Dad and everyone at NAS.  I’ve still got a lot to learn when it comes to music production but I’ve been steadily putting together the pieces for a couple of years, enjoying the process and learning little bits here and there, which now is adding up and starting to bear fruits.  I’m a lot more confident in using a Digital Audio Workstation now and I enjoy it more than I get stressed by it (most of the time!).  It’s a steep learning curve but I’ve got a handle on the basics now and it’ll stand me in good stead to keep creating my art for years to come.

Let me know what you think of the track, I love to hear feedback good or bad, it all helps me to be self-aware and improve. 

As always a massive thanks to everyone who’s showing an interest, playing my music, telling people about it, helping me out, watching from afar, coming to gigs, egging me on etc etc.  I always wish I had more time to spend with every one of you and hope to see you soon.  Big love and respect to you all! 

ABCDEpression Out Now!

ABCDEpression is my attempt to put into words the constant battle that is depression.

Everybody’s experience is different but I’m sure anyone who’s living or has lived with the condition will identify with some of what I’m saying.

I don’t want people to worry about me – I’m as happy as I’ve ever been, but the effects aren’t just fly-by-night, it’s something I have to manage and stay on top of and probably will do as long as I live.

I spent many years running from my own mind, the crippling and debilitating way it made me feel, the incessant internal chatter spinning me this way and that way and I was a slave to its every jibe.

I’m by no means moaning about life – I’m extremely grateful to be here and for all the opportunities I’ve had, it’s a gift and I try to enjoy every day. But it’s a tough world out there sometimes and if you’ve got a natural chemical imbalance or a depressive nature it can be a frightening and overwhelming slog.

Since about 2015 I’ve been on a journey to improve and correct a lot of my thought patterns, to stop listening to the harmful thoughts and fight back. The thoughts are still there but I can deal with them better.

I’ve been through cognitive behavioural therapy, adult ADHD assessment, counselling, medication, peer support and a whole lot more to strive for a better life, to find some peace and contentment in my restless soul, to find my authentic self and try to be comfortable with it.

It’s been difficult and I’ve had to unlearn a lot of bad internal habits and re-frame them, forgive myself for wrongs of the past, be kind and encouraging to myself and nurture my mental health, but it’s been the greatest journey and it led to the rapping odyssey I’m on now!

I am at a point in my life where I’m happy to talk openly about my mental health and do so regularly (shout out Andy’s Man Club) but I wasn’t always like this and I feel happy to be able to put material like this out there, even if I am a little nervous about it all!

But I can’t hide away anymore. Writing ABCDEpression was the ultimate outlet for me. Working within the A-Z format was a chance to really vent in some depth, and as a piece of writing it was a challenging structure that made me think about every word.

I hope you enjoy the track and I hope it helps for some people to see me putting my vulnerabilities out there like this in a way that I never would have considered plausible a few years ago.

I’d love to hear your feedback on this track, I’m always trying to improve and hone what I’m doing and honest feedback helps tremendously with that so give me a shout! And please help by hitting like, share, comment etc. sending to friends, bothering the neighbours etc. so that hopefully this can get into some ears that appreciate it!

The track was recorded with help from Leeds City College Arts Fund at their recording studio in Leeds city centre.

Raising the bars – a fun new way to advertise your business

In June 2021 Craig Smith from CRS Editorial contacted me through my website having seen my videos with an idea to promote his copywriting, proofreading & editing business.  Having been an editor for 25 years Craig went freelance last October and wanted to put something extraordinary together to celebrate the first anniversary of CRS Editorial.

I had a lot of questions and wanted to really nail down what we were going to do so we had a Zoom call to chat it all through and get a project brief together, agreed a fee and I got to work. 

I’m thankful to Craig for contacting me well in advance of CRS Editorial’s October anniversary as it gave me plenty of time to do a thorough job.  I’m also thankful to Prod by Millsy who allowed me to re-use his excellent beat from my track You Can’t Stop Time.

There were various aspects to this project – I spent time researching Craig’s business, carefully planning the tone and vision, scripting the lyrics with every word considered, mixing and mastering the audio to professional standard, planning the video then filming, editing, re-editing and editing again, re-editing again then editing some more, re-editing…you get the picture.

In total it took around 16 hours from conception to completion roughly broken down as follows:

It was important to me that the final product was something that Craig could be proud of, that showcased what he is about through both the lyrics and visuals.  During each step we kept in touch often and I gave Craig progress updates to show him what was happening, keep him involved and check that he was happy with the direction I was taking it in.

When it came to finalising the project I went through everything with a fine toothcomb and reviewed it many times to get everything right, consulting with Craig before adding the finishing touches and delivering the final film. 

Craig was delighted with the end result and was ecstatic to be able to show this video to his clients, friends, family and business associates.  Despite brimming with excitement about this for about 3 months he somehow managed to keep it secret from even his wife and was thrilled with her reaction when he unveiled it to her first!

I wanted to do something a little bit different to promote my first year as a business owner, so when I met Wilko, the cogs started turning straight away as to how we could work together.

I am blown away at the fantastic job he has done to help promote CRS Editorial and my services and I know my clients will be too!

A superb talent who can really offer businesses and individuals alike something a little off the cuff!

Many thanks, Wilko!”Craig Smith, owner CRS

Craig unveiled the video on his LinkedIN page and this is what his clients and network had to say:

Now if you’ve read this far and haven’t yet seen the video then you must be bursting at the seams, so here it is!

If you enjoyed the video and would like to work with me in any way then please get in touch on my contact form or drop me an email at wilkowilkes@gmail.com and we’ll have a chat about what we could do.

Do you want to advertise your business in a fun and imaginative way?  Maybe you want to surprise a family member or friend with a custom rap?  Whatever your ideas I’m open to them, but due to time restraints and many other commitments I can only take on a limited number of projects at any one time so get in touch soon, the more notice the better. 

A product launch for January?  Let’s talk.  Advertising your new range next Spring?  No problem. Planning for your wife’s 80th birthday in the year 2055?  Why wait?

Follow CRS Editorial on Twitter or connect with Craig on LinkedIN

Follow Wilko Wilkes on Instagram, Spotify, Facebook, Youtube or Twitter

Rapping my way to a healthier mind

As I plod on with the internal juggernaut that is Wilko Wilkes Music, my mind at times becomes a clouded mess. I’m not the sort of guy who finds it easy to keep up with updating social media several times a day, constant updates, video messages etc. but I’m doing my best without burning myself out, so I thought I’d bang out a blog post to help organise my mind, to have for posterity and to update anyone who’s interested or thinks they can help in any way! This might be a long one and time is of the essence so if you’re not bothered then you might as well close it now, and I’ll try to type from the heart without worrying too much about the details or I’ll never get it done.

Approximately 18 months in now and it feels like I’m entering a new phase which I’m really excited about.  I’ve turned a corner mentally from thinking of myself as a guy trying to be a rapper, to an actual credible independent artist.  It’s not all been plain sailing, it’s been a difficult journey at times to get to this point. There’s been a ton of mental roadblocks, knowledge gaps, time constraints, dread and other barriers that are to be expected when you put yourself out there.  It’s being driven by a burning desire and so I’ve managed to keep my focus throughout, which has always been to get to my main target of having a catalogue of complete songs that I can have some fun and play a live set with.  

The reason I’ve managed to ride all those waves is that from the minute I started this I knew exactly what the dream was. It’s been the most thrilling thing I’ve ever done for myself – the highs of nailing 2 or 3 minutes of lightspeed rap that I conjured from deep within my soul, the adrenaline rush of performing or recording my own material, the surreal moments of hearing myself on the radio, getting messages from people in different countries telling me I inspired them, seeing myself feature in blogs, being invited to talk on podcasts etc. and gaining a small platform to talk about the things that I care about, it’s been brilliant and I’m very grateful to everyone who’s helped me and been a part of my journey so far – elephants never forget and you can call me Dumbo. 

If I packed it all in tomorrow I could be proud of what I’ve done, but there’s no chance of that.  The next step for me is the one I’ve been waiting for – taking my rap to the streets.  Along the way I’ve spent a lot of time rehearsing my catalogue.  I love live music and I’ve never wanted to be a Soundcloud rapper or an internet musician, for me the pinnacle of music is live performances, people expressing themselves and speaking directly through the powerful holy grail of the mic.  I’ll be trying to get out and about busking as much as possible in the upcoming weeks and months even though the calendar is filling up quickly now that lockdown is coming to an end. 

I’ve got a couple of provisional gigs pencilled in for later this year but I won’t count my turkeys just yet as my first gig was meant to be in December 2020.  Busking is the perfect alternative though, why wait for someone to ask me to play when I can grab the bull by the bollards and do it myself?  I don’t see a lot of rappers busking but I’d like to see more, I suspect a lot of them either don’t have the inclination to play live, or are rapping about subjects too inappropriate for the masses!  

I know my music won’t be everybody’s banana fudge, but I’ll enjoy myself immensely and I’m sure to some it’ll be entertaining and something a bit different.  I’ll be a respectful and proud custodian of this fine tradition and the generations of buskers who’ve been before me.  I’ll think about the buskers I’ve loved, the ones I used to look up to as a child, the ponytail guy with the violin outside WHSmith in Ilkley, the fella with the accordion outside Fenwicks in Newcastle, Chris the ever-present guitar playing legend strumming songs to night-time revellers in Leeds – these are the stellar names I’d like to put mine alongside.

The legendary Chris

I’m currently working towards a provisional date in July for my next recording session which will be over two days.  Hopefully in late 2021 I’ll be achieving another dream – releasing an album.  There’s a lot of hoops to jump through before I get there so I can’t guarantee it’ll be out by the end of this year but I’m almost certain it’ll happen.  The recording session came about through some Leeds City College Arts funding I applied for – I was unsuccessful but they’ve very kindly offered me a sound engineer and use of their facilities for a couple of days which should be very exciting.

There won’t be any new tracks from me for the next couple of months (but there’ll be some fresh videos etc.) as I go about my business and keep my head down working away with writing and other stuff to improve my collection.  I’ve got two songs that are completely written and are currently in the practice phase, one in particular is causing me some issues as it’s littered with tongue twisters, once I’ve got it nailed it’ll be a brilliant one to play live and to tie people in knots if anyone ever attempts to rap along.  I’ve got other beats that I’m formulating ideas for but I find the simmering process often takes a while, with the type of tracks I like to write and perform I can’t just sit down and bang something out in an hour.

There’s also another opportunity pencilled in for the Autumn where all being well I’ll be getting some branding support, with 2nd year design students taking on my artwork as a project for their portfolio.  I’ll have input and they’ll help me with a new logo, social media assets and other marketing and design materials that I can use. Like the next recording session this has also come about from my application for Leeds City College funding.  A reminder that it’s always good to take shots – if they fly over the bar and land in Row Z you can always try again, and even if it’s off-target there’s always the chance of a lucky deflection.  I found the funding through Studio 12’s website where there’s a brilliant page of opportunities for musicians, artists, writers, actors and other creatives. 

Another new development is that I’ve become a moderator for New Artist Spotlight, a collection of independent artists and playlists run by the fantastic Ed Eagle, and a supportive community that work together to help promote each other’s work and collaborate on projects.  I’ll be writing some human-interest stories for the website and I’ll also be co-hosting the NAS podcast with a mercurial burgeoning artist and producer from Minnesota called Plummy who I advise you check out – he’s got two songs available on Spotify and they’re both catchier than the common cold!  In fact I’d say have a listen to all the playlists, there are loads of super-talented undiscovered, unsigned and upcoming acts on there and enough diversity that you’re bound to find something you like. Whilst I’m blowing some smoke I’d also like to point you in the direction of Charles Connolly, Mr. Oddzo and Elion Melody, three brilliant artists and all-round good guys who’ve helped me along.  I don’t pay for playlists, followers or anything like that so it’s great to have found a community like this where there’s loads of benefits at no cost. 

Speaking of free support, I can’t finish this post without mentioning Andy’s Man Club, the men’s mental health groups for which I’m now a facilitator at the Leeds groups.  Every Monday we meet 7pm – 9pm to lighten the load, chew the fat and get whatever is bothering us off our chest.  It’s open to any man aged 18 or over and they have grown massively over the five years they’ve now been active, from one small coffee group following the tragic suicide of Andy Roberts, to now being on the cusp of 50 groups across the UK meeting every week, as well as online groups.  The more people that know about this the better – I’ve seen men walk through the doors who were on the brink and some who just needed a helping hand, I’m yet to see anyone who hasn’t benefitted from the groups.  Whoever attends can be guaranteed a safe and non-judgemental environment to work through their issues and/or help others and this kind of safety net or even lifeline is something that is not to be taken for granted.  I’d like to say to anyone who is struggling not to downplay their problems if it’s damaging them mentally, not to be afraid to ask for help, and not to wait until the manure hits the fan before taking action.  It’s a crazy and intense world where neglecting your mental health is a dangerous game.

So that’s about it from me for now, if you’ve got this far then thanks for reading and I hope you got something from it, it’s been therapeutic to write.  I’m not at my sharpest right now but I’m excited for the future and always trying to balance the feelings and emotions that come with life.  There are two sides to every coin – my anxiety comes from my passion, my depression comes from being sensitive, my inner turmoil helps me to make sound decisions, I’m grateful for it all as it all helps to make me a better artist and give me the ability to express myself.  The more I do it the more it helps heal my soul, I’d encourage anyone who doesn’t have a creative pursuit to find what makes them tick and try sticking at it for a while to see where it takes you.  From music and writing I have had moments of pure bliss that would have been impossible to achieve had I not scaled the initial massive hump of anxiety and got started.  From here there is no such thing as failure.

Looking to the future

I’ll finish with a big thank you to everyone who has helped me along in any small way – you know who you are.  I’m always looking for ways to take my music to the next level so if you have any ideas, feedback or things you’d like to help me with then please get in touch.  Whoever you are it’s always a pleasure to hear from you – we’re all in this together.  I’m now open for live opportunities and bookings, potential collabs etc. – again any contacts or ideas you have which could nudge me along, just give me a shout.

Believe me when I say I appreciate you and I hope to see you soon.