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Interview with Eugene Willis, Jr. (Blacknerdninja), May 5, 2016

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:21 - Early life

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Partial Transcript: I would like to start off with where you're originally from. Were you born and raised in Athens?

Segment Synopsis: Willis discusses his family structure and aspects of his childhood including performing odd jobs with his father, avoiding the drug culture of his neighborhood, and attending school.

Keywords: 106; Athens Garden; East side; Hemlock Drive; Nelly B; North Avenue; O.G.s; OGs; Spring Valley; dope boys; eastside; the block

00:09:12 - Early music / Classic City influences

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Partial Transcript: Ok, so when did music come into your life? What gave birth to Blacknerdninja and where did that name originate from?

Segment Synopsis: Willis recalls being introduced to rap during elementary school, writing songs and building his confidence as an artist throughout middle school, and releasing his first album in high school. He also discusses the sound of local hip hop in the late 1990s and being influenced by Athens artists.

Keywords: Dirt; Duddy; Home Remedy; Lo' Down and Duddy; Trey 80; Underground Sound; classic city sound; cousins; freestyle; southern style; street style

00:18:49 - College hip-hop

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Partial Transcript: Can you give us some insight from '96?

Segment Synopsis: Willis describes how Athens hip hop grew due to the rise of the UGA-based Dreaded Mindz group, which was instrumental in creating a battle rap scene in Athens.

Keywords: Dreaded Mindz; Ishues; UGA; Underground Sound; University of Georgia; battles; college; purists; tempo

00:23:54 - Impact of the internet

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Partial Transcript: When did it really spark off for you?

Segment Synopsis: Willis discusses the decline of the college battle rap scene and the rise of internet-based hip hop, which allowed artists to share music, network, market, and brand themselves independently.

Keywords: MySpace; advertising; branding; fans; marketing; networking; open mic; participation; promotions

00:27:44 - Birth of Blacknerdninja

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Partial Transcript: I'm gonna do it like this- from 2007 to 2010.

Segment Synopsis: Willis talks about becoming frustrated with the business-oriented hip hop scene and reflects on his time off from music, after which he rediscovered his individuality and created a new personal brand around the name "Blacknerdninja."

Keywords: Common Enemy; Lil Gene; Marvelous Projections; Papa Funk; Scott Low; flustered; jazz; time off

00:32:37 - Establishing a presence

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Partial Transcript: Now you have your name. This is approximately about 2010?

Segment Synopsis: Willis describes competition between the socially-conscious and southern styles of hip-hop as well as between Dreaded Mindz and other Athenian artists. He also discusses regrowing his career during this time and collaborating with other rappers and promoters, most notably Larry Gresham.

Keywords: Chef; Ishues; LG; Underground Sound; competing; conscious; natives; respect; southern

00:41:03 - Influences / Development as an artist

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Partial Transcript: How would you describe your music? Because you do have a different sound.

Segment Synopsis: Willis talks about the artists that influenced the rhymes and lyrics of his music, which he describes as a combination of socially conscious rap, spiritual themes, and classic hip-hop culture.

Keywords: Dogg Pound; Eminem; Go Ninja Go; Jay Z; Jay-Z; Outkast; Snoop Dogg; West coast; lyrics

00:44:31 - Athens Hip Hop Awards

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Partial Transcript: Now in 2012 the hip-hop awards came along- how do you feel it impacted the scene here?

Segment Synopsis: Willis discusses the evolution of local awards programs, which now give more recognition and representation to deserving hip hop artists, and compares them to the Flagpole Music Awards.

Keywords: Flagpole; fairness; hip-hop awards; nominations; opportunities; platforms; voting

00:52:12 - A business community for hip hop / Future plans

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Partial Transcript: Where do you see the future of hip-hop for Athens?

Segment Synopsis: Willis talks about building a community in which new rappers can participate in successful business ventures, he and explores the possibilities of hip hop as a career. He also discusses his current music projects and his vision of gaining a regional, national, and international artistic presence.

Keywords: Robots, Monkeys, and Microphones; Yea Right; YouTube; business; collaboration; features; promoters; views

00:56:40 - Life outside of music

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Partial Transcript: I know you have something else going on outside of the music.

Segment Synopsis: Willis discusses balancing his music career with his full-time job and his family life, and he explains how becoming a husband and father has changed his character.

Keywords: IndieboxKaRecords; booking; children; community; entrepreneur; family; job; patience; technology; wife