Coast2Coast: Sweet Sixteen Review & Interview with Charlie Wayy
It's been more than a few months since March Madness but somehow Charlie Wayy's Sweet Sixteen is right on time. With The Bronx being the birthplace of Hip Hop and Wayy also hailing from there commands a certain level of pedigree and expectations for an artist. Fortunately, Charlie Wayy more than rises to the occasion on his first full project since 2019's Sidewalk Chalk.
“Vancourtland” produced by Swedish Prodigy sets the tone. If they were making modern day film noire based in NYC, this is what I would imagine it would feel like. Over the sinister backdrop Charlie Wayy unleashes a flurry of observations and affirmations.
"We clean up nice, even though we got it out the mud Shit, we never confuse love for daps and hugs"
It's a potent 16 bars which reminds me to mention the interesting choice of format for this album. Charlie Wayy made it a point to only bless these songs with 16 bars each, no hooks, and even set the same limitation for his featured collaborators. As a result the listener is treated to something I feel is rather unique. The curation of the beats and the sequencing is done with great care and effort. Even though 12 producers lent their skills here, it feels like one person produced the whole thing. There is a drawback to such brief song structures because you'll definitely want to spend more time with some of the offerings but that quickly fades because the next one is just as good, and it's a lot of next ones. It can feel like a sampler, but if you were in the Sweet Sixteen restaurant all of the bites could be main courses. It's an interesting strategy in an era of short attention spans, and Charlie Wayy just may be ahead of the curve.
Charlie Wayy's style is a confident combination of streets, stream of consciousness, bravado, with a dusting of sports and pop culture references that add some fun to offset the intensity of his delivery. On the Ethan Stoutt produced track, “Armageddon 2000” Charlie Wayy and Yon Cash trade WWE inspired bars that mention Bobby "The Brain'' Heenan, and wrestler finishers like the Diamond Cutter and Razor's Edge.
On the Erra produced track, “Capital Grille,” Charlie Wayy calls in an assist from one of Portland's finest rappers, Milc. It's a match made as their styles compliment each other, it feels like they've done this together before. The Alesandro Barbosa produced track, “God's Work” brings Sweet Sixteen to its conclusion, it's one of my favorites. Over a simple, dusty sounding loop Charlie Wayy proclaims,
"this style is an acquired taste, 10,000 hours and a hundred thousand takes".
The way the horns drop on the tail end of the song is magical, it's also my cue that it's time to run the whole thing back! I definitely give Sweet Sixteen a recommendation. I know we're all tired of the heat but summer is just gonna drag out a little bit longer with fire projects like this coming out. Charlie Wayy has worked hard to get to this point, he's disciplined, poised, polished and this album feels like an indication of great things to come. I'll definitely be keeping my ears open for what's next. Check out the interview below for more insight.
The interview below has been edited for quality and coherence.
Hip Hop as of late is going through a robust DIY phase. All over the nation talented, resourceful and determined individuals are getting things done in their own way, on their own time. In this interview we talk with The Bronx's own Charlie Way about his process, motivations and influences. We also get an inside view of the creation of his latest project Sweet Sixteen.
Monk: First of all man introduce yourself to the people.
Charlie Wayy: I go by the name Charlie Wayy, I'm from The Bronx, New York by way of Charlotte now.
Oh you in Charlotte, North Carolina? That's crazy, I got people down there!
Yeah Charlotte is cool but I lived in The Bronx all my life, so October 31st makes a year I've been down here.
That's what's up man, let's get into this music. Why rapping, it's interesting having The Bronx influence all around you but what else made you wanna pursue the craft of rapping?
I've always been into music, and I just wanted to be around music any way possible. Initially, I started engineering. My brother was always into music, he was rapping. You know, you always freestyle with your friends, I really wasn't worried about it, I tried to make beats and help my brother make beats, I was enjoying it. At one point in time I was helping him with lines every now and then it was like I just felt like I could do this myself. I wasn't too fond of the way my voice sounded, so that's one reason why I wasn't doing it. And then you get over that a bit, and then you start spitting your raps for people. You say it to somebody and they'll be like "yo who that?". I would say it was lines from somebody else and they'd be like "yo that's fire!". When you say it's yours it's like "awww I don't know, I ain't really messing with it." But at one point in time I felt like "yo, I can do this."
That is one of the biggest hurdles when you enter these spaces. Even when I started doing my podcast, I had issues with my voice. You get used to it the more you do it.
It's funny, I felt like that before I even recorded my voice. And then I started to record my voice and other people liked the way my voice sounded cool, I guess. The shit I was so hard on myself about, nobody ever cared about. So sometimes it'll be funny how you stand in your own way with these things.
Long story short, I always had an affinity for music and how music was created. I was always one of those people that read the credits and track listing. I have an extensive vinyl collection that was passed down to me. One of my favorite artists is Rick James. I'm very much into music. If I wasn't rapping I think I'd probably be managing music, or helping others write music like I do now, or just any way I could be around it.
So how long would you say you've been doing music seriously?
I've been at it with music for maybe 12 years. But seriously like putting things together properly, making sure everything has that proper sound, I would say six years. I've really been driving properly, putting things on Apple Music, Spotify, making sure it sounds right, contacting producers, making sure my BMI is proper.
So what are some of your influences from the past that you draw from, artists that inspire you?
Rick James, Prodigy, Ghost and Rae, Meth, Jadakiss, Styles P, Jay Z of course, Nas, Eastsiderz, Snoop.
I'ma bring that back around, what about people now that are putting out stuff now?
Kendrick, Jay Cole, Freddie Gibbs, I like Gibbs a lot despite how people feel about him. Even though he does a lotta lame duck stuff, The Game, he's very talented with the music. Game can really rap and put projects together. He's a really strong artist, it's sad that his antics really overshadow how good of an artist he really is. I like Griselda. Sometimes I draw from producers themselves, Alchemist, Madlib, 9th Wonder.
So do you also do production as well?
I would love to produce a little more, that's something I would want to get into in the next stages of my music obviously, engineering and other stuff like that. I can sit down with a producer and get what I want. If we sat down and they opened up their DAW, I could tell them to play this sound, quarter step this, half time that, aight lemme get an 808 here, a synth here, tweak this a lil bit, maybe reverse this sound. But doing it by myself, I don't think I have that confidence yet, or that patience yet. If I'm with somebody who has the awareness of what's going on, I can get a beat out of them. My man said "you're producing right there, you may not be producing but you're doing it".
Sounds like you're really hands on, more so than I think most people are during the process. They just contribute their bars and hand it off.
I like to be hands on, I feel like it's my art and you can't really claim art unless you're wholly in it. Even down to the engineering, I try to sequence my stuff, I record myself, I got my equipment here. Then I'd send it to my engineer, with as many notes as possible. We were working up close but I knew I was gonna move, so I started prepping, I started recording myself. Even though we were a ten minute drive away from each other, I wanted to get in the habit of doing everything myself. I can say the last year and a half of my releases are all things that I recorded and sequenced myself. My engineer Blessed By Saint John, I send him the files and he does what he gotta do. But I leave him with enough notes, I drop out the beats when I need to, I tell him I might need a filter here, or a lowpass there, and I let him do what he gotta do.
So it seems like you were developing a shorthand form of communication with your engineer before you left. So how has doing things remotely impacted you? Have things been more difficult or have they gotten easier?
Things got easier, I feel like it's almost machine-like now. If I'm in a good space I knock out features the same day, or 48 hours. Sometimes I write them and they'll be done, and I'll sit with 'em and then record them the next day to make sure it has the same feel as when I wrote it down. But it's so good to be able to do these things myself, because now you don't feel handicapped, you don't feel locked in or bound to a particular way to create. I can take this anywhere I wanna go, If I'm on vacation with my lady or family I can take this with me and do what I need to do. I got my MacBook, my rogue, my interface, I pay for my Pro Tools, and I record. If I feel something I can just fire this up. Getting this project together, I completed it while I was moving. I started part of it in New York, obviously out of my house, in my bedroom, while I was moving to North Carolina. Shout out to my guy Ricky Mapes, he's the executive producer on the project, he hit me up and said he wanted to EP my project. He sent me 40 beats and we narrowed it down to 24, came back and narrowed it down to 16. I sent out my verse first on everything. The only one I didn't send out my verse first for was Neako, the track called "Penn Station." We were talking back and forth, I got some production from him and he said, "I like you a lot and I wanna give you a feature". He gave me the beat and it fit what we were trying to do so it's the only feature on the project that I didn't send out my verse first for.
What's behind the name Sweet Sixteen? I saw the cover art, and it's interesting looking at your bio, you got the sports podcast, there's a lotta sports commentary on your twitter feed, how did that play into it?
I'm a former athlete, I watch sports everyday, doesn't matter what it is. I golfed in high school, in the offseason from football. Sweet Sixteen is obviously from the NCAA, it's always one and done. In college with basketball now a lotta players don't stay around for a long time so they're one and done. So that's kinda what we thought about, project wise, like Sweet Sixteen, these are all one and done tracks. Every track is sixteen bars, and the feature gives 16, there's no hooks, no bridges no nothing. That's why we named it 16, and there's only 16 tracks so it's a lotta 16s in there that we were working with.
That's interesting because one of the trends I'm seeing lately is just shorter songs, people are not even bothering with a 3rd verse anymore. Was that a factor in creating this?
That's kinda the thought process to a lot of short form content. That's what people are liking with their attention spans. If I'm rapping at the highest level possible and I'm condensing it down you'll be more likely to replay that and it's gonna be shit I say that makes you wanna replay it along with it being so short. Some people hit me like, "yo, I like this why'd you cut this record short?". When I do drop my projects that are full length, it's gonna make you wanna tune in. If I did this with sixteen, what would I do with a hook, and a bridge attached to it, a second verse or a third verse? So that's kinda where I came from with it, and we just wanted to adapt to short form content. Let them know you can still be lyrical as hell, and you can still paint pictures in small spaces of time. We're just adapting to the times, trying something different. The cats outta the bag, I'ma make this a yearly thing, and i'm looking to have the best artist from around the country on this. I have my man Def Soulja, he's from The Bronx, my boy Ricky Mapes, he's executive producer, he's on there as well on "Kumite." I got LOS on there, he's from Mississippi, Milc from Portland. My man J NICS is from Miami, so we moving all around, we had a lotta different people, all dope spitters, all doing their own thing, all in the culture, all moving properly. We're gonna do Sweet Sixteen '23 for 2023, and we're gonna try to get that out there by March Madness.
How were you able to the project to have a cohesive sound with so many different producers?
Shout out to Ricky Mapes, he did a hell of a job executive producing, and getting the beats. I just had to do what I had to do and make sure I brought it on every record. Every record sounds different but it's all still cohesive. None of the flows are really the same and none of the tracks sound the same but they fit well together.
You spoke about working with some of the homies but how did the Milc collaboration happen? How is The Bronx connecting all the way out to Portland.
Again shout out to my brother Ricky Mapes, he had a relationship with them. A lot of them were on a tape due to him and then they heard my music and were like "Oh I'm really, really in, this ain't even a favor no more, he's like that!". That was cool and we've established lines of communication, now creating a bigger web and network of artists to work with. It's so cool that everybody is doing their own thing and they're really great artist. That's what makes it better, great artists find great artists and make magic.
What can we look forward to in the future after Sweet Sixteen releases?
I'm working with every artist possible, If you get a chance to see this contact me. I'm not Hollywood, I'm ready to work at all times, let's rap, let's make music. I feel like a lotta times there's too much Hollywood stuff going on. Let's just rap, let's do that, make dope records, and get 'em out to the people.
Ok man I don't really have anything else for you right now, so tell the people when they can expect Sweet Sixteen to drop for them and how they can connect with you on social media.
Sweet Sixteen is dropping August 31st. The first video off the project will be "Webside Weber," that will drop the same day the project drops. You can find me on all social medias @ CharlieWayy_, It's also my gamertag. Also check out CharlieWayy.Com. I'm easy to reach, tap in with me!