Learning How to Pick Up Nuns with Alex Wiley

Tosten Burks is more of a transignificationist than a transubstantiationist. The oft-hoodied, ever-bucket-hatted Alex Wiley dropped out of Whitney Young High School at 16, when he stopped being able...
By    June 11, 2014


Tosten Burks is more of a transignificationist than a transubstantiationist.

The oft-hoodied, ever-bucket-hatted Alex Wiley dropped out of Whitney Young High School at 16, when he stopped being able to focus in class. The doctor prescribed him the highest dose of Adderall legal for a minor, but Wiley couldn’t keep his attention deficit disorder under control. Six months after dropping out, he started rapping. A few shades more grown up now, the Chicago native dropped a new tape called Village Party last Friday – his first release he started doing the Closed Sessions thing full-time – that leaks with that same anxious, divergent energy.

It’s a frantic project, lurching here and there from beat flip to beat flip. Single verse songs devolve into MBDTF-type grainy autotune mouth-guitar wails, abrupt saxophone outros muddy up the mood (and mood up the muddiness), background harmonies are layered generously at every turn. People make Chance comparisons, but these flows more often skew chopper. Think Do or Die’s pace and sense of melody attached to the freak electronic ambitions of Danny Brown and middle-age ‘Ye. Exploding out of nowhere, there’s also a proper sequel to “Bombs Over Baghdad.”

As Wiley stepped on to his tour bus this past Sunday to set out on an eight city run with Nitty Scott, we talked on the phone about the tour, the new project, and ESPN’s midday programming.

You must be excited to start performing these Village Party songs.

It’s cool. I just dropped them all two days ago and now I’m about to go tour on it. It’s cool. I’m kind of anxious because I don’t know which songs are gonna be the ones to really DO live, you know what I’m saying? So it’s gonna be trial and error these first couple days probably.

You ever been up to Toronto before?

Nah, I’ve never been to Toronto. I’ve never been to Cleveland. But I have been to New York and Boston and DC, before. But ya, honestly, I’m most excited for Toronto. Just because their money is a different color than ours and it’s technically foreign. So that’ll make anything I do up there technically foreign. And foreign is just generally cooler.

What stuff were you listening to most over the course of building this project?

I listened to the SBTRKT project a lot. The songs he had with Sampha, those are some of my favorite songs right now. I don’t know. I listened to a lot of stuff. But that was one of the things that was in very heavy rotation.

You’ve been putting the tape together for a while, but “Ducats” was recorded and added just last week. What’s the story behind that song?

Half of the tape is less than two months old, which is weird. I came home and just went on a tear. But the “Ducats” song, I made three days before the tape came out. Basically this guy Blev, who I make beats with from Kansas, sent me that shit literally four days before the tape came out. And I was like, my tape could use this. I made a song to it that night. And I really like the way it came out. So I ended up putting it on there. A lot of those songs just squeezed on the tape, like they weren’t supposed to go on there. I always felt like my most recent stuff was gonna be the best. I wanted to work up until the last possible moment.

Did you record “Yung San Diego” in San Diego?

Ya I definitely made that in San Diego. Basically, when I freestyle rap, it’s all from the perspective of Yung Scooter. It’s all about cartoonish amounts of crack and having choppers and chopping shit up with them and stuff. That’s basically my freestyle method, because I’m very based. And I decided to make an actual song version of that basically. That’s what “Yung San Diego” is.

Did you get a California Burrito when you were down there?

Oh, of course I did. I was staying with Hippie Sabotage in San Diego and there was a burrito place maybe two blocks away that we were getting mad California burritos from. It was pretty flames. And hella street tacos. In LA, all we were eating were food truck tacos. And they were so fucking good.

The french fries in the burrito is too crucial.

Ya man, it’s critical. The California Burrito is very critical. I’ve never had one anywhere else.

It’s hard to listen to “Village Revival” and not think about “Bombs Over Baghdad.” You’re not from Georgia though.

I’m from Chicago. But my Facebook hometown is Swaggy Village, Georgia. That’s a real place. I remember this very vividly. When I was making my Facebook, and it was asking for my location, I was typing in anything with swag. That was the only thing that had swag. And it happened to be in Georgia. So it was Swaggy Village, Georgia. I just thought swag was very swagnificent. But ya, that song – really that one part – is kind of an ode to “Bombs Over Baghdad.” The rest wasn’t necessarily made with that feeling. But ya, that is arguably the best Outkast song ever to me. “Village Revival” is the oldest song on the tape too. I made that in August. Back when I was making that, I was listening to a lot of Love Below and stuff like that.

Tell me about your time at Whitney Young. What was that like? What were you like back then?

It was tight and it also sucked at the same time. Whitney Young is probably the most fun high school to go to, or top three, in Chicago. But ya, I had just been diagnosed with ADD my sophomore year. I couldn’t focus in class. They had me on the biggest dose of Adderall they could legally give a minor and it just wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do for me. It wasn’t really helping me wake up, so to speak. It was just making very jittery and anxious. I still was zoning out and staring at things. But instead of me staring at one thing for ten minutes, I would be looking around the room frantically. It was weird. It was super weird. That whole high school period is just weird as fuck for me. It’s very, very strange. I dropped out of high school when I was 16 and just spent six months in my bedroom, basically.

How’d you spend that time?

Man, I didn’t do anything. I was just a sad boy the whole time. I wasn’t waking up until 3 PM, for starters. I remember what I would do. I’d wake up, instantly turn on my TV. I’d have an episode of Maury recorded, and Jerry Springer, and all the daytime TV that’s just the worst shit ever. But that was the only thing that was on. I remember the cycle. I would watch Jerry Springer, then Maury, and then Jim Rome is Burning, which came on every day at 3:30. A lot of times that was actually how I started my day – Jim Rome is Burning at 3:30. But ya, I would watch that little ninety minute block of Jim Rome is Burning, Around the Horn, and Pardon the Interruption on ESPN. I just watched terrible television for six months straight. It was pretty dark.

Who’s your favorite OG Around the Horn guest?

I honestly really fuck with Bomani Jones, but he’s not an OG. I used to fuck with Jay Mariotti just because he was from the crib. He’s from Chicago. Even though he came off super douchey. But I fuck with Bob Ryan. Bob Ryan’s cool. I mean, I fuck with JA Adande. He’s kind of a funny guy. It’s not even about them though. It’s mostly the set up of the show that’s kind of cool.

Bob Ryan is the ultimate old head.

Ya. And Mike Lupica. Wait, he never did that show. But he’s just the whiniest old man I’ve ever seen. Wow.

I’ve never seen him in person, but I’ve always imagined being 5’2″.

He’s definitely gotta be like 5’2″ and so, so, so whiny.

Did you ever get prescribed anything else other than Adderall?

My understanding was that Ritalin was for the hyperactive form of ADD. And that’s not what I have. I don’t really know. I was never on Ritalin. My understanding was that Ritalin was the opposite of Adderall in a sense. Adderall is supposed to pump you up and get you focused and in each direct moment, while Ritalin is supposed to slow down the super hyperactive shit.

The first song you ever recorded was about nun sex. What’s your go-to pick up line for nuns?

Man, how did I used to bag the nuns back in the day? I’m trying to remember. A lot of it was just going off the feeling, you know what I’m saying? Nuns are very vibe-y people. It’s very vibe oriented. I’ll hit em with some Hail Mary’s or something. Or an unsolicited confession would do it. How do you start off a confession? Does anyone know? I’m not Catholic. But it’d be like, “Look shorty. I confess… that you’re bad as hell.” Something like that. I think unsolicited confessions are really where it’s at, where you just walk up to them and confess something real seductively in their ear, you feel me? I think that’s the moment. I can’t really speak on it though. It was a long time ago. My nun-fucking days are kind of behind me. And I dunno man, I’m not trying to put these nuns out here and give everyone the cheat code. If you’re gonna be a nun-fucking-ass-nigga, you really gotta work for it.


You can’t share the industry secrets.

That, and there’s more reasons. It’s a very complex issue actually. Also, I could tell you how it works for me, but that may not necessarily work for you. Everyone has to have their own nun game. Or else, you’re not going to pull nuns. Which isn’t the worst thing. But it’s weird man. It’s very complex. Nuns are fickle creatures. They’re not going for everybody. Really, they’re not supposed to be going for anybody.

In theory.

In theory. But we all know what’s up under the robes. We know.

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