About a year ago, William Wise, known as DJ Likewise, suffered a profound loss when his computer died. Wise understood that in this digital age, it’s no longer a matter of living the life of hard knocks, but of hard drives. What happens when an unexpected crash destroys more than three years of work? Where do you go from there? How do you reboot and start afresh?
If the past year has taught the soon-to-be 26-year-old anything, it’s that creativity is often recovered much more stubbornly than lost files, and the rewards reaped from patience and persistence are better for the soul.
And that’s exactly the type of music the self-taught DJ and producer has fit into his album Life, Beats Vol. 1—wholesome and organically grown.
“I want [my album] to sound like I have soul, like I have heart,” he says. “I’m not trying to put shit out that’s the dopest, freshest, look at me I’m the illest out there. Nah, I like life. I want it to sound like I’m into life. I’m into living.”
For Wise, there is too much music out there that is rushed—too much corny music. He is trying to balance your ears’ diet with quality music, not like the music that circulates out there saturated with high-fructose corn syrup. He’s trying to create music with substance, not empty calories.
“My music is supposed to encourage people to write,” he says. “To say, ‘I’m so full off this wholesome meal, and it only lasted a half hour. I’m stuffed. I want to write.’”
Wise is releasing his album for free download on Jan. 19, which also happens to be his 26th birthday, first on Bandcamp, and then on the hip-hop blogosphere with the hope that MCs will hear his beats and want to use them.
“People are into making money nowadays, but it’s nice to give things to people and see if positive things can happen,” he says. “Hopefully, they’ll put my name on it.”
He wanted to produce beats that were accessible, not in the commercial sense, but in the sense that they resonate a familiarity with people who listen to them. In fact, he samples some familiar material, from Will Smith’s “Summertime” to Nina Simone’s rendition of the Gershwin standard “I Loves You, Porgy.”
But, aside from trace hints, these samples are hard to recognize.
“It will feel very familiar to them, but the way it’s chopped up is much different than they most likely heard it before,” says Wise. “So, they might have heard these same things chopped up, but there is a completely different feel that I have to the way I sample.”
And part of what adds to his aesthetic is that his music isn’t perfected with quantization, which is the process by which imprecision is eliminated in digital music. Unlike the saccharine, Auto-Tuned music you hear on the radio, he purposefully leaves his music imperfect.
“My aesthetic, my rhythm, or the feeling that I give is very loose,” he says. “It’s not structured and perfect. It’s not fixed by the computer, which is quantizing the music. My music is very un-quantized.”
Wise doesn’t just want to make music that comes from the heart, from his soul—he also feels that music can induce the soul of his listeners with positivity and health.
“Hip-hop is very similar to the same BPM of the heart,” he says. “If I can make it chill and make it wholesome, it can make my heart slow down.”