NOT many people have chatted with Missy Elliott…
and gained kudos from her! Not only has WNT-AL-N received praise from one of music’s titans but there is a lot of interest around his new single, Leave It on the Floor. I talk with the Atlanta-based songwriter about his current song and where he goes from here – he reveals his influences and what the scene is like where he is.
WNT-AL-N discusses working for a charity called Blue Dragon and work outside of music; why he has moved over thirty times; if we will see him in the U.K. at all – he picks a few albums that have helped shape who he is.
Hi, WNT-AL-N. How are you? How has your week been?
Wonderful. I’m in Singapore at the moment; getting ready to head back to Atlanta.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Hello, world! It’s pronounced ‘WENT-ALL-IN’. I'm just a kid from Atlanta that wanted to get out and experience the world (and did). Music is my first love and is what drives much of what I do. I also have a Dance background and art and human expression is what speaks to me the most.
I've lived overseas for a lot of my adult life and travel, history and culture has always been a part of life since a young age. I'm a drummer and percussionist first. What you see is a reflection of my life experiences. I love people and want to touch and inspire as many as I can.
What can you tell me about your new track, Leave It on the Floor?
This record is about finding a place where you can release and be fully yourself without being influenced by life's pressures. It’s about goin’ hard and leaving it all on the floor. Clearly, it's a record that moves so, with dance as a major part of my life, I definitely want it to make people dance, feel good and celebrate. It's what I do. I go hard in everything I do so WeNT ALl iN = Leaving It on the Floor.
Is there going to be more material coming down the line? What are you working on?
Yes, indeed. I have a ton of music and I'm dying to put it out. We are stepping out with singles but, definitely, an E.P. and some mixtapes will be put out soon.
How did you get into music? Were there particular artists who inspired your sound?
I'm a drummer first. I started playing when I was five and started in church from seven-year-old. My mom was the music minister pretty much my whole life and everyone in my family plays at least one instrument and sings. It's always been a major part of my life. I've been inspired by tons of artists: Chopin, James Brown; Andre 3000, Michael Jackson; Louis Armstrong, Missy and Timbaland; Gene Kelly, Pharrell; Tracy Chapman, Bob Marley; Busta Ryhmes, Stevie Wonder; Roger Troutman, Ray Charles; 8Ball & MJG - and my mom and God.
You have moved over thirty times! What was the reason behind so many moves?! Do you think you are a bit restless as a person?
We were poor growing up. Like, in fifth grade, I moved four times in six months cause we had no home; so we bounced around living with family friends. I was kicked out when I was sixteen and lived where I could.
As an adult, I've moved because I want to see and be inspired by different things. Different perspectives and being a bit uncomfortable has allowed for a different kind of growth and understanding. I hate moving, actually, but love traveling. It allows me to talk about things in a different way – so, I wouldn't say restless but I do have large goals and I.O.L.O. (I only live once).
If you had to describe your aesthetic and sound to a new listener, how would you respond?
It's Eclectic, authentic, honest and colorful: I got something for everybody.
You work alongside Blue Dragon – a charity that assists children who are homeless, disabled or victims of slavery and human trafficking in Vietnam. How did you get involved with them? Are these issues the government in Vietnam is ignoring?
Yes. The first time I was there, I led a group to work with B.D. A lot of these kids don't have homes or a proper place to receive education in the most basic sense. Sex trafficking and slavery are very common in this part of the world - and the main focus is getting them off the streets where there's a high risk. It's also providing a sanctuary to any survivors.
I've been working with them over the last few years using dance, music and art to inspire and educate. There's so much potential in these kids and most in their position will never have these opportunities - so any chance I get to do things for the kids I'm there!
Can we see you tour this year? What gigs do you have coming along?
I'm working on that as we speak. Now that I have some music out that is THE PRIORITY! I can't wait to get the chance to share and bring 'em into my world.
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
I'm brand-new, so I just want to get in front of people. Def touring, festivals and features. I am always ready to build with the right creatives.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
I remember the first time I talked to Missy Elliott on the phone. She had seen my E.P.K. and our managers set up a call. You know when you've grown up hearing someone's voice...when she answered the phone, I was like: ‘Damn! This is really Missy!’. I don't really get star-struck but it def was a moment for me.
Another was the first time we met at her crib in Atlanta.
Which three albums mean the most to you, would you say?
ATLiens & Aquemini – Outkast; Thriller – Michael Jackson and Tim's Bio: Life from da Bassment – Timbaland...
But, there are many that could take that last spot. Tim's Bio’ inspired me, sonically, cause Timbo was experimenting and really had found his sound.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Start with the Ps: Patience, Persistence; Passion and Prayer. Put the time into your craft and never stop tweaking and growing. Be humble and surround yourself with people that are passionate about you and/or your vision.
IN THIS PHOTO: Sharaya J/PHOTO CREDIT: @haroldjulian
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
My girl Sharaya J isn't that new but she's about to start really emerging. Check her out on The Four: Battle for Stardom on Fox (Season 2). She's the real deal. We got some ones together, too (smiles).
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I try and stay balanced: sports, reading; travel, movies; making fashion and other artsy things and, always, family time.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Kanye West & Kid Cudi (ft. Louis Prima) - 4th Dimension…that's where I stay.