by Ryan Johnson
I first encountered Willy ARQ (Answers Require Questions), Minneapolis based hip-hop artist, in the hallways of my high school, far before I had heard any of his tracks. Years later, after attending shows and buying albums, I had a chance to have an online interview with the climbing artist. Willy discussed what was behind the Black Sheep EP, his international performances, and where he aims for the future.
GMN: You’ve had quite the life so far, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Willy ARQ: I was born in Guinea, West Africa in 1994. I lived in Liberia till I was six years old and moved to the United States in 2000. When my family and I first moved to the U.S we lived in North Minneapolis. I grew up poor without any money–even in Liberia, as well. There was a time when I would wear the same clothes twice a week. Ever since moving to the United States, I have lived in Minnesota but moved around the Twin Cities. There was a time when I was homeless in high school without any family members around me. Everyone chose to go live their life how they chose, or life’s circumstances took them away from me. I spent my senior year of high school playing football, going to school, and working at Little Ceasars. I began recording music junior year of high school, but I’ve been rapping since I was 12 years old, listening to hip hop since the age of six.
GMN: You’ve been rapping for a long while. How did you get into rapping, or music in general, at such a young age?
Willy ARQ: The first rap song I ever heard was Little Bow Wow’s “What’s My Name” and ever since then I’ve been hooked. My uncle used to listen to Tupac a lot, Bob Marley, Biggy, and so on. Reggae and hip-hop to me are very closely related. I chose hip-hop because the artists spoke of the world I was living in, the ghettos, poverty, desiring a better life and the whole lifestyle pertained to me even as a little boy.
GMN: When did you start doing shows or performing in front of others?
Willy ARQ: I started performing in college at open mics, and then at my university. I performed in front of 1000 plus people my second year of college at our school opening show. I’ve performed in Europe in the fall of 2015, Rome, Berlin, Manchester, London, Edinburgh.
GMN: Your EP Black Sheep has some pretty open personal stories, is it tough sharing such personal information in your art?
Willy ARQ: It is tough sharing personal stories and it reminds me of my life so much that it sucks to write about it sometimes. I enjoy writing about my life even though it is tough because the message impacts people greatly. For my next project, Simple 13’s, I am still talking about my life, but making the music more appealing and something people can bounce to while hearing my music.
GMN: Who are some of the most influential artist for you right now?
Willy ARQ: The most influential artists for me right now are J Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and Dizzy Wright.
GMN: What new projects can we expect from you, hopefully, in the near future?
Willy ARQ: I am releasing a mixtape titled Simple 13’s late this summer. The mixtape is based off of my desire to make simple music that people can bounce to and feel free like they once did in high school. This mixtape is mainly aimed toward college students, but it’s for everyone else as well.