Harold Stallworth insists that life is like a dice game.
Willie The Kid’s hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, is best known for being a world leader in office furniture manufacturing, but you would never know it from the plush tone of his music. Willie’s studio persona is anything but functional. He raps wealthy, even when he’s not rapping about his wealth. Every theme and emotion, no matter how insightful or violent, is sure to be expressed with the highest degree of opulence. But what happens when said opulence is all there is left? Somewhere about 2012, on the heels of an ambitious mix tape run that many would regard as his best stretch of work, he started using his monocle-and-top hat flow as less of a filter for meaningful lyrics and more of a crutch for aimless song writing. That’s not to say that Willie is no longer capable of pulling off the type of records that seemed to come so easy during the 2011 leg of his discography. But quality has certainly been something of a moving target on his more recent projects.
In light of Willie’s inconsistency, fans would do well to look into The Collection EP, his latest release on Chopped Herring Records, a French boutique label that, in addition to golden age reissues and what I could only assume to be godawful Euro-rap, invests in projects that were originally intended as Datpiff fodder. For example, the first installment of Action Bronson’s Blue Chips franchise was vinylized by Chopped Herring more than a year after its digital debut. Willie’s release is unique in that unlike Bronson’s record, The Collection EP cherry-picks the best songs from a number of different projects—think of it as a misleading highlight reel from the last three years of his career.
The eight-song tracklist has the makings of a fan-made “best-of” compilation: “Glasses of Water,” “The Pleasantries,” “Godspeed,” and “Marina” were all fished from the oceanic-themed Aquamarine mixtape; “The Guilt,” an unsettling story about a wayward teenager involved in a botched home invasion, first appeared on The Cure 2 mixtape and would be later repackaged with The Living Daylights EP; the Roc Marciano-assisted “Avalon” was also pulled from The Living Daylights EP; “Medusa,” an Alchemist-produced posse cut on which Willie plays the third wheel to Action Bronson and Roc Marciano’s diabolical tandem, was borrowed from the Masterpiece Theatre EP; and the final track, “Somewhere,” was plucked off the tail-end of Willie’s 2013 mixtape of the same name. Chopped Herring’s farm league approach to sequencing results in a surprisingly seamless piece of work, especially when compared to Willie’s recent streak of uneven projects.