South by Southwest (SXSW) is seemingly one of the most prominent opportunities for unsigned, undiscovered, and often unheard musicians to get noticed and exponentially expand their audience. Austin Texas’ largest music festival and conference attracts thousands of artists throughout the world in search of attaining immense media exposure amidst the music industry’s most elite representatives. This year 25 local Milwaukee musicians will be performing a 15 hour set on March 12th, at the officially dubbed MilwaukeeHome Stage. Utilizing a crowd-funded joint venture, Hotel Foster, Festival City, and MilwaukeeHome have amassed the funds to bring local artists such as experimental rapper WebsterX and indie-rock band Kane Place Record Club to the SXSW spotlight.
At the youthful age of 21, Milwaukee based rapper WebsterX is on the rise within the local hip-hop community. The up-and-coming MC forages a lethal combination of hypnotic beats coupled alongside his psychedelic persona to deliver a mesmerizing experience for hip-hop heads everywhere. WebsterX, or Sam Ahmed, is currently pursuing a degree in creative writing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee that is prevalent in his free spirited poetic verses. With his first major performance outside of the midwest approaching, Sam talked to The Fringe to discuss the past, present, and future of WebsterX.
Since the release of his premiere mix-tape, Desperate Youth, WebsterX has rapidly gained overwhelming support throughout the midwest. He is still relatively young, having found his origins shortly after commencing his undergraduate career. He explained, “It wasn’t until college that I realized my poetry could be translated into verses. Poetry has always been something within me.” As WebsterX started to evolve from poetry and explore his newly discovered passion for music, he began to realize the cathartic capacity of hip-hop. “Music is like therapy in a sense, the way it carries my vibe. It is my creative release. It’s all pure passion.”
Characterizing himself as utterly experimental, almost revolutionary, WebsterX embodies what he calls “genre-dipping,” drawing influence from differing genres and artists to seemingly create an all encompassing, holistic sound. Jimi Hendrix is his most influential figure.
“Voodoo Child is the most vital asset in my music collection. When I first heard Hendrix play the guitar, I couldn’t believe he was black and played the way he did. Its just one of those things man that opened up my eyes. There’s no boundaries to anything.”
WebsterX wholeheartedly believes in the breaking of borders and boundaries. He feels as though an aspect of his experimental hip-hop can be a beacon of light in a densely segregated urban epicenter, pressuring audiences to challenge preconceived boundaries predominant in Milwaukee.
“I want to take a sledgehammer and just shatter the hell out of that window! It doesn’t make sense for stuff to be like that. I mean it does because history was like that, thus it translates to nowadays. That’s why I like to get to know people on a personal tip before they even listen to my music. It’s all about being balanced.”
Similarly, WebsterX is consistently in search of maintaining an equilibrium in his music. “I believe beats and lyrics both to be equally important. My life has always been about balance, I’ve always tried to bring two sides together.”
When I asked him if he thought hip-hop was dead, he acknowledged that hip-hop for a time was amidst a creative lull.
“For a time, folks weren’t doing it for the sake of the art form. In the early 2000’s it was all about the gold chains and basketball jerseys. It makes sense, money is essential to survive, but artists like DJ Grandmaster Flash weren’t doing it for the money. I known what Nas meant when he said hip-hop is dead, but I think it’s being reborn in a sense.”
Hip-hop is known to be a movement amongst several prominent artists like Lauryn Hill, who considered hip-hop to be a “spiritual movement.” In his mix-tape, Desperate Youth, WebsterX discusses the agency of Generation X to the present and future. I asked WebsterX what movement he is trying to mobilize. “I rarely tell people this, but the ‘X’ in my name stems from the purpose of Generation X to enlighten the next generation in order to bring prosperity further down the line. We can do this as a generation. Pass good things on so future generations can absorb it, making the world a better place. It’s also about getting super wild. I think that that is what the Desperate Youth movement is all about.”
Finally, I asked WebsterX if he has future plans to come out with an official debut album. He simply stated that we should keep our ears to the ground.
Check out WebsterX’s mix-tape, which boasts 16 experimental hip-hop tracks on Soundcloud.