L.A.-based rapper, producer and songwriter chief waKiL, born Mansa Wakili originally from Kansas City, MO., has been taking over in the TV/Film industry and being a full time solo artist. From songwriting for the 50 Cent-produced Power to FOX’s Empire and even ABC’s How To Get Away With Murder, chief waKiL has crazy skills with his writing. With movies like Horrible Bosses 2, The Nut Job and Monster High – a series created by Mattel’s American fashion doll franchise – waKiL has forged a successful side-career for himself with The Math Club (made up of two companies called Bridge and Format), who are responsible for making his talents known throughout the entertainment industry.
The 27 year-old has worked under Grammy Award winning-producer Brian Kennedy, which gave him the opportunity to work on projects with artists like Big Sean, Frank Ocean, Three Six Mafia, Brandy, Nelly, Kelly Rowland, and more.
Find out how waKiL’s six second rhymes on Vine got him involved with All Def Digital, his experiences writing and producing music for famed-television shows and how he keeps all those things separate from his own brand below:
Since working with Math Club, and being a songwriter for a lot of big names and brands, how has that helped you get opportunities for your own brand? What kind of opportunities have you had?
I’ve been to the Grammys, I’ve been in studios with Polo and Nelly, Kelly Rowland, Roc Nation. It brought me to places like being on LA radio, being involved with people that are involved in radio. It’s bigger than people think, it’s a huge deal – especially with the people (at Math Club) that I work with, since they are so connected. the hugest supervisors in the world, you never know if a big time movie wants an up and coming artist, instead of an established artist. I can be apart of the ending title of music of an X-Man movie, or campaign for Nike. I found a way to marry the two together, because I’m very much an artist and I’m very much for the “chief waKiL” side cuz thats my baby, that’s what I came out to LA with. It works together with what I do on the side. it’s got me future sessions, with certain artists I can’t mention at the moment. I’ve worked with Jaden Smith and Eric Bellinger, it’s even brought me to pushing myself even further. It’s only going to progress even further, I’ve released video through All Def Digital, and that led me to talk to Russell Simmons and like right now it’s boiling. Anything can happen in the next few months. Exciting!
Wow! So, how did you end up hooking up with Russell Simmon and releasing your “Ambidextrous” video through All Def Digital’s “The Signal”?
My manager is real cool with this guy Amir, who works up there, and also a lot of my friends are up there. I got involved with Vine, I was big on the six second raps – got 300K fans. I was doing raps about the viners and what not and one of them told me to make a rap about his dog. I did it and it got like thousands and thousands of likes and then from there I was getting thousands of fans, and I was like ‘yo man, stay tuned – I got an album coming out’ and the album did really well. It kind of snowballed from there. A lot of my friends on Vine, went to All Def Digital, so that’s another connect.
How did you get involved with the songwriting camp for Empire?
I stumbled upon a company (The Match Club) that specializes in music placements for TV and film, and I offered my services. I got involved with them a couple years ago when I finished my album and because they were apart of the music side I worked with them. They came to me last year, and said, ‘there’s a TV show called Empire, there’s a specific song that the producers need about a specific subject.’ The story behind that was Timbaland had a shot at it, and he didn’t necessarily give them what they wanted for that particular song, and another dude had a shot at it and they didn’t like it, so they came to me and was like ‘could you do it?’ because I only had a couple hours to do it for them – so pretty much I found the track that I did, I kinda tightened it up a little bit, wrote the song right there, recorded the demo myself, and sent it to my people, they sent it to the people that work with Empire and it was a waiting game after that. It ended up on the show. Then there were some other songs placed, which were really atmosphere music. There was a scene when Cookie goes into the studio, and they guys are nodding their head to this song and theres this guy in there as if he made the song, but it was really the song that I created, under the alias West Wes.
What are some of the songs you’ve written that were placed in Power, Empire, etc.?
I wrote “Can’t Trust Em,” performed by Hakeem for Empire. I also did “Get It Down Low” under one of my alias’ West Wes for a scene in Empire, and that song was also on the first season of Power. I have six songs placed in the next season of Power, possibly under my name chief waKiL. For How To Get Away With Murder, I did a collaboration with a guy and the song was called “Burn It,” using another alias Skeeball. I’ve also done music for a movie called The Nut Job, an animated movie about a squirrel. I did a song on there called “Fish Out Of Water.”
Super dope! Is there anything in your career that you regret thus far? and Why?
Of course I could look back on stuff and be like “man, if I wouldn’t have done this…I wouldn’t have done that,” but all the stuff that I did, even if I felt time was wasted in certain areas or what not, I think it led to all this today, and I’m one to pretty much take life on as it comes. I swore all up and down I was going to be a mega star by the time I was 18 years old, and that necessarily didn’t happen –laughs– and if I had gone and did that, I probably would have missed out on some of the things I’ve experienced now. Everything that I experience, I learn from. It gives me fuel to write about. I can’t say I regret anything, because everything that happens, I roll with the punches and that’s just God’s way of making my story more interesting.
Very true… I have watched your new video, for “Round Of Applause” that just released, and I wanted you to give me a back story on it.
I was pretty much venting out some anger, it’s like a sarcastic “round of applause, clap clap, you played me, you did what you did but I’m here now” type of song. Basically, I know you’re “game” now. I was talking about some things that happened, stuff that I went through in the music industry, kind of shady stuff that happened. I wanted to talk about it -Poke fun at it, give myself a little therapeutic diss track towards certain people in the industry and the politics. I was in a bad place during that song, but also a good place because it put me in a good space creatively.
Wow! With that being said, would you have any advice for new songwriters entering into the entertainment industry?
Be fearless. Be as courageous as you can be. People can tell you this and that, but it’s up for you to know, and take control of your own destiny. People can put you in a situation and make you feel like “I’m the ticket to your success,” but really you are your own ticket to success. If one door closes, then that means there’s a better door somewhere else opened for you. Be you and be as risky and courageous as you can be. Even if it takes a little longer. My friends always laugh at me because I compare myself to a crock pot. I’m all about the slow cook. It’ll take a minute, but when you finally get to sit down and enjoy the meal, it’s good. It lasts longer. I’m not like a hot pocket you put in a microwave. If you’re willing to go through those tough times, and really appreciate everything when you get there, it’ll be much more lovely. Create, create, create. Try new stuff. Be unique and special.
Thank you waKiL!
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