It can’t be too pop because that’s just not me.
I don’t want to be Usher or Justin Timberlake, because I don’t dance.
It’s not about flashing lights, shiny suits, baseball caps with flat bills, and throwback jerseys.
It’s not about chains, and diamond encrusted grills, pretending to have more money than Oprah, and driving nice cars.
It’s not about video girls, groupies, band-aid’s or tabloids, and it’s not about parties or “the” red carpet, jumping around, excessive piercing, or tattoos.
It’s about people.
It’s the reason why Chris Martin loves Missy Elliot and Scarface listens to Coldplay.
It’s why The Roots tour with Dave Matthews, and Outkast can sell over 20 million records worldwide.
It’s why I make music.
It’s the dream to have a common language – to be a great communicator.
It won’t save the world, but it makes the wounds, the hunger, the bombs, the racism, the prejudice, the negligence, a little easier to fight against.
I want to bring pensiveness to hip-hop, and excitability to folk rock music. I want to be the venue where hip-hop culture is provoked to listen to thoughts and ideas, and folk rock music is open to bobbing their heads for a while. I have lofty dreams of one day being able to fill any size venue, and have people unite at the dividing line that separates urban from the rural, Rich from the poor, and America from the rest of the world.
Dream: of having a track that is co-produced by Pharrell Williams and T-Bone Burnett that features Nickel Creek playing the backing live instrumentation, blended with Pharrell’s hypnotically sparse looped beats, sprinkled with beatbox, all while I sing and rap the verses and croon the choruses with Pharrell’s signature falsetto accents, and Jay-Z does a guest appearance rap to seal the deal. Those are the thoughts that keep me up at night. I love the idea of that, and I think that people will pay to see it.
This music is about combining the urban with the rural. Using sounds and textures that respect and represent both lives. To bring bone crushing hypnotic beats together with sensitive and intricate banjo and acoustic guitar while being flavored with a quartet of strings. This is the playground that has no limitation to its games. This is where singing and rapping, beatboxing and fingerpicking, orchestral and industrial meet in one accord. This is where I want to make music.
I want to resolve the worlds. I want to show them that there are more similarities in their music than they realize.
Hip-hop culture is based in the documentation of urban life; the joy, love, pressures, and misfortunes that lie therein. Folk music tells the same story, but in a different vernacular. Yet, the jargon of both worlds are translated beautifully through each other’s musical mediums. So it is possible to sing haunting folk-like melodies over hip-hop beats, and to rap, and chant over folk oriented organic strings, banjos, guitars, tambourines and such.
The single thing that makes the two apparently opposing genres harmonize is the greatest commonality, that we are all human. We all experience the same feelings and emotions, though there may be different things that make us feel these emotions, and we may express them in different ways. Yet, this is where the music steps in… to resolve the differences.
— Will Gray (written in 2006)
To see selections of this manifesto set to video, go here.