Rapper A.P., born Willie Eric Curry, has had phenomenal feedback on his latest project, Will I.E. The Example. The Elizabeth, New Jersey native is no stranger to hard times but his amicable nature now doesn’t allude to his darker past. A.P. is all about focusing on what the best move is- the best reflection of himself on wax. He seems to have accomplished this with The Example. His diligence in getting his thoughts from notebook pages to the masses earned him sponsorship from XXL and DJ Booth. The tape boasts soulful production from Wyldfyer, !llmind, Omen, Aktual, Feva and MIDI Mafia. A.P. has succeeded in applying his heart-wrenching, genuine lyrics to each track, flowing easily over beats inspired by the 1970s. He’s become exactly the artist that he wanted to be.

DX had a moment to talk with A.P. about his humble beginnings, what ‘soul’ means to him and why progress is everything.

How He Started: “Well, basically, I’m just a fan of hip hop. I grew up kinda just loving the art and wanting to persue it and it just so happened that along the way. I been through a lot of real shit that kinda gave me some substance and something to talk about. You know, my father died of AIDS when I was 13, from being out in the street or whatever, and it was just that struggle of going through of going through life in my hood and seeing people go in that same direction as my father went as far as being attached to those streets. It was just me having that option to do something different and choose hip hop to tell my story and be a voice for other people who may be in that same struggle. That’s where the name is derived from as well: A.P. stands for ‘Always Progress.’ Facing all these odds, all I figured was that I could always progress.”

On His Relationship With His Dad: “Our relationship was great. You know? Particularly now that [Jay-Z] had [Blue Ivy Carter], I’ve been reading a lot of interviews and one thing that he pointed out that’s true is that a son always look at his father like he’s Superman. A lot of times me and my father were riding out and he would take me places with him and I never knew where we were at and why we were they but I was always in the background while he was in the front and he came back out looking all funny and shit. As I got older I started to realize, he was taking me with him when he was going to get high. But other than that, he was the best person to me. He was my direct example… I got two older sisters, I’m the only boy, so he was the only person I had to look to as far as getting that masculine image. When he died, I had a lot of different things… A lot of things that would change the good memories. Finding out a lot of fucked up shit, places he had me in, things he had me involved in and what he put my mother through, it’s just a struggle to not allow those bad recollections now to just erase the good memories.”

On Inspirations: “My inspiration beyond family is just everything. There are people who come from better situations or worse situations, all these things influence me because I always had the option to go either way. So I’ve seen guys who had the ‘better’ lifestyle and just ended up taking a wrong turn, or I’ll see people who’ve had a fucked up lifestyle end up taking a good turn. I try and find influence in everything. Anything art-related has influenced me. Like, I was the guy who bought the ugly sneakers and everybody was like, ‘Oh them shits ugly!’ But I was intrigued by the color scheme. I always looked at things in that nature. When I was growing up, I went to a gifted and talented school. But growing up in the hood, people look at that like, ‘This nigga’s soft, ‘cause he goes here…’

I always looked at that as one of the strengthening things in my life because it gave me an opportunity to see different cultures. It was broken down into components: art, music, academics. I was thrown into academics but I was around so much art and so much music that it was just inevitable that I’d soak some of that up. In the end, I just kinda put everything together… That’s why I said everything influences me, ‘cause I kinda find something in everything.”

On the Importance of Will I.E.: “I put out a lot of music before Will I.E. but I think this is the first one that really blends into the story and captures what I’m trying to do musically. The back drop was really, really soul driven because that was one of the main things that went on in my house when it wasn’t drugs and violence and bullshit and arguing between my mother and father… All that was drowned by them playing Marvin Gaye or Donny Hathaway and in the other room I got my sister playing LL [Cool J] and EPMD, yanahmean? So it was just a collage of different music and different times. I sort of put all of that back into the Will I.E. and just kept it real soulful as far as the music but with the lyrics and just keeping it hip hop, I took what I learned from listening to the greats like the LLs, the EPMDs, the Nases, The [Notorious] B.I.G.s, all that, I just put it all together.

I called it Will I.E. because it’s an example of what I’m bringing to the table. And my first name’s Willie, that was my father’s name. So I’m an example of him and what he shoulda did, you know? There’s a lot that comes with being an example you know? There are a lot of people that are looking. A lot of people that are watching and you don’t know if they’re gonna take from what you’re doing and do something different or if they’re gonna do the exact same thing. Anytime you’re an example you just gotta make sure you’re upholding that and being serious about the next step that you take. Like in Spiderman, what’s that shit? ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ Sometimes people feel like, ‘I’m just one person and I don’t have that much power.’ But have a lot of power over everything that’s going on. When you walk out that house, somebody watching, you got power over that.”

On Why He Went Soulful: “I fucks with people who… Like when [Fabolous] did The SOUL Tape … I fucks with people who look for things like that, you know what I’m saying  ‘cause anytime you bringing that back and you’re gonna put that back into the music it’s gonna… I don’t know about the comparison of music as far as how it was made then to how it’s made now but for whatever reason when I hear something, it ‘causes those automatic goosebumps, and I can recollect and see certain things and then it’s like, ‘Alright,’ I gotta play into that mindstate of what they were trying to accomplish at that point.

The other night I was watching a documentary on Marvin Gaye and it was just crazy to me that this man used to do heroin and all kinds of drugs and then go in the studio and create something crazy,  like something epic and it just made me realize, like, music can overpower everything. That influence over drugs, that influence over problems, that influence over depression, whatever have you, it’s some great music that came out of that. You got Mary J. Blige- everybody say My Life was her best album. She was going through the most shit at that time. So that’s what that music brings. It just gives me that soundscape to vent and be 110% open and let the people see what’s in your heart and to me, you ain’t got no choice but to respect that.”

The Reason Behind Sole Features Being Songstresses: “Aww man. I really wanted to have people really get to know me. I’ve done a lot of collaborations with a lot of rappers. But with Will I.E. I really wanted it to be an introduction to what I wanted to do. With the singers I think, especially with Marsha Ambrosius, you could never go wrong with her. Her voice, her pain, her inflection is so real and it just matched the music I was making and putting out as far as that whole soulful vibe. On top of that I think that they were really able to kinda suck up the feeling and suck up the vibe of what I was trying to put out and I couldn’t have imagined that they would hit those ideas so perfectly on the head.”   

On the Difference Between Then and Now: “The very first couple of joints I was just trying to find my voice at the time, ‘cause I knew I wanted to rhyme, and a lot of the stuff I’m so open to saying now is more like taboo. Nobody’s gonna come out saying, ‘Hey. My name’s Will. My father died of AIDS.’ Yanahmean? That’s not a conversation piece but you know I had a conversation with my mother and I use it as strength, some of the tracks before I think they were good but they didn’t have as much personality. I didn’t put ‘me’ into ‘em, I was just rapping.

I did a [mixtape] called Still Naughty, and it was important to me because Naughty By Nature is from East Orange and I’m from Elizabeth. That’s 20 minutes away so to have an iconic group come from my neck of the woods, it was kinda like, ‘Okay. This shit is feasible. I’ve seen this. I can do this. ‘Cause these niggas from around the way did it and they’re worldwide,’ so  ‘Still Naughty’ was an ode to them being my favorite group. It actually happened because I reached out to Treach and asked him to come to the studio and he listened to the whole joint and he gave his ‘go-head’ like, ‘I like what you’re doing, keep with this shit.’ After that I did a joint called Terminal A and it was kinda the transitioning point, it was a “metaphor” tape, like, me being in a terminal and it’s my ‘flight’ musically, like me really trying to find my direction. So this journey has really been full circle because I’ve finally figured out what I want to say and what I want to represent. I think Will I.E. really captures that.”

On Big Name Sponsorships: “I’ve just been grinding. Just working a lot and taking those baby steps as far as really start to tell my story and I think once I did that was when people started to really listening a little more. Since then it’s really been a climb and a grind trying to get people to notice, and then I think a lot of the music that I started doing people started to hear those certain influences. You know, hear the influence of the great rappers I mentioned and some of the soul singers I mentioned. A lot of the people who cosigned on the tape, like Wyldfyer, these things came from hours of conversation and just talking about music as a whole and the way I look at things. That’s what made them recognize and kinda rock with what I was doing.

It wasn’t like it was something that was just coming out of left field, it was like, you know I really did my homework and I really studied these people and I studied their lives, and I studied their music and I wanted to add to it, rather than take away from it. Not really creating no bullshit but tryna get people back to that mind frame of creating some lyrics that mean something. Since then I’ve just been grinding out and there are a lot of people have been taking notice and I really can’t ask for nothing more at this point.”

On Hooking Up With Established Producers: “With the majority of them, it’d be a relationship that I’d probably have with somebody and they’d send me a joint… I was just working so much and so constant where I would just come across people’s stuff and it would get back to them and I’d be like, ‘Well, I’ma reach out to this person  and let them understand who I am.’ Just talking to them I always tell them… Like with me and Wyldfyer, this guy is coming from doing some of the best collaborations with Jay and Nas, so a person like that you know understands Hip Hop. We had a lot of conversations about Hip Hop, same thing with !llmind, those things came from conversations, and telling people like, ‘Yo I really study this.’ The thing about hip hop that’s crazy to me is that, you know how kids are at school studying to be a doctor? For their homework they’ll study other [medical specialties], same for lawyers or whatever have you… Niggas in Hip Hop don’t be wanting to do that, yanahmean? They think they can re-create the wheel. My whole thing was to really study these niggas, and let these producers know like, ‘I know your history. I know you did X, Y, and Z.'”

Company Man: “All Bets Down is my company. I’ve been grinding out to the point where I figured the best thing I could do is help myself. Nobody was gonna push me the way I pushed myself so I progressed to get a good team of guys together and we just grinded out from there. People always hear the name and think it’s about betting, people thought I was like, a battle rapper saying, ‘All bets down,’ or some shit like that. But the All Bets Down mantra is the same as ‘Always Progress’ – we putting everything in what we believe in. It means everything to us and we’re just trying to push good music and ‘All Bets Down,’ we gotta win by any means.”

Listen to Will I.E. (The Example)