Victor Williams, aka Vwillz, writes songs for misfits.
"I’d just like to speak to anyone who feels like because they don’t fit into the bell curve of society, they don’t amount to anything," he explains. "I’m here to tell you, you are special, and you do deserve to be accepted and happy."
The Colorado Springs musician, who traverses hip-hop, R&B, indie-rock and emo, has been making music since he walked into his uncle's house for a family gathering and heard his cousin playing Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" on guitar. Encouraged by his parents, Vwillz started taking lessons.
"It was unstated but a foregone conclusion that I would pursue music," he says.
While he grew up listening to his sister's favorite bands (Blink-182, My Chemical Romance, Mayday Parade, Simple Plan) and his father's music (Rick James, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Coolio, Snoop Dog and Biggie), Vwillz leaned toward pop punk, grunge and alternative rock...until he was drawn into hip-hop by the storytelling and beats.
"I remember the time I stole my dad’s Coolio CD and took it to school," Vwillz recalls. "When I put that CD in my new blue-and-yellow CD player, I showed everyone on the bus and on the playground what I had discovered. The way people moved to that sound had me so intrigued. I loved the rhythm, the rhymes and the drums. This is when I fell in love with hip-hop.
"Walking down my elementary school halls as a young boy with headphones on, rapping, 'As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death/I take a look at my life and realize there's not much left,' I probably had some teachers concerned," he adds.
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One of his best friends in middle school introduced him to the music of Young Money, Jay-Z , Lupe Fiasco, Eminem and other artists who continue to influence him.
"We used to skip recess to stay in the library and go jump online to go to datpiff.com to download mixtapes and instrumentals so we could rap-battle after class," Vwillz remembers. "This really shaped my drive and sound as I began to start taking this dream of becoming a successful recording artist seriously."
In high school, he began recording music using GarageBand on his phone. He wrote hundreds of songs, and soon found himself the butt of his peers' jokes.
"Right away everyone in my high school clowned me for being a 'rapper' and really didn’t give me the time of day," he explains. "Instead of letting that bring me down, I concocted an idea to play the high school social system to get them to support my music. I ordered 100 shirts with Vwillz on the front, and I would charge $10 per shirt. If you were considered popular at the school, I would give you a shirt for free."
He knew that if he won over the popular kids, the influencers of their day, his social status would improve. The scheme worked. But his branding maneuvers didn't stop there.
"Another strategy that I concocted targeted the football craze at the high school," he recalls. "I knew that if I made a football-themed song, my clout as a rapper would increase. So I did. The song I recorded was played at the stadium every Friday night before the games. It went from me being a nobody who made music to 'What’s up, Vwillz' in the halls. I didn’t necessarily want to make the football song or give out free shirts, but I knew when I dropped music, it would get their attention."
Then he produced an EP recorded on his iPhone. As word spread to other schools that he had made a song for his football team, he racked up over 150,000 online plays.
After high school, he enrolled in Pikes Peak Community College, but dropped out after two semesters, realizing college wasn't for him. Instead, he threw himself into becoming a recording artist and, at a friend's suggestion, started laying down tracks and perfecting his sound, ultimately building a music catalogue of over 1,500 songs.
Now 23, he has played home-state venues, opening for some of his favorite artists, including Waka Flocka Flame and Dizzy Wright, and signed with the Dallas label PoweredbyCMG.
"Currently, we are in conversation about some huge opportunities," he explains. "I am at the point where I’m getting very close to becoming that successful recording artist I’ve always dreamed of."
While COVID-19 has slowed down his live shows, Vwillz just dropped Before the Storm — Day, the first EP of two leading up to his first full-length album, Florida Rain.
The new EP is personal, filled with the hopeless-romantic emotionalism he's compelled to write about.
Some of his songs, like "Emo Rhapsody," which nods to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," border on tongue-in-cheek self-consciousness.
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The song "Pretty Face" is straightforward romantic pop, with hip-hop vocals and an anthemic pop-punk chorus.
When Vwillz talks influences, he's quick to bring up a couple of Colorado musicians: Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic and Isaac Slade of the Fray, two homegrown pop stars.
Following In their footsteps, Vwillz is committed to becoming the face of Colorado's music scene in this decade.
"Colorado is filled with talent. Problem is, no one really spotlights it like I plan to do," he says. "I have many goals, but one of the biggest goals is to truly put on for this state and my city. I’d put up our homegrown artists against anyone coming up in the game right now. There’s a vibe here. You just have to find it or feel it. To those who disagree with me, they may be searching in the wrong places. Take my word for it: Colorado’s music scene will be the talk of the 2020s."