The Wiley One – Kill It With Love

I kind of get the feeling that The Wiley One won’t be hanging around Phoenix for very long. First of all, they are one of the few local bands whose songs have made it to television, having been heard on Fuel TV and ESPN, they’re well known for their environmental awareness and have worked with Disney’s Planet Challenge and their Bio Diesel bus tour caught the attention of Billboard Magazine’s Green Issue. Not to mention they have attracted large audiences in Los Angeles, New York and everywhere in between. Sundawg Records has a nice little treasure with the Wiley One, there’s little doubt, with their laid back California sound, much akin to Jack Johnson taking on a reggae drenched, hip-hop groove this has to be some of the most likeable music that gleams in the sunshine with an overwhelming positivity. Their new album, Kill It With Love will be released for all the world to hear on Valentine’s Day, this February 14th.

The four members of The Wiley One, singer/guitarist No. 7 Kid, bassist Jay Of The Funk, vocal Turntablist MC Criterion and drummer David L. Bedell have put together a slickly produced fourteen song package that soothes the soul, comforts the heart, chills the nerves and blows the mind all at once. This is music to feel good to, and No. 7 Kid’s vocal talent is right up front on their second album, showcasing that he’s got the chops to hang with the best of them. It’s no wonder their sound is equally at home in Los Angeles and New York or right down the street in their own backyard. It also explains why they are thoroughly enjoyed at the X Games and also by 80,000 people in attendance at Hempfest. The Wiley One has mass appeal and in listening to Kill It With Love, it’s easy to see why.

The album starts with a thumping heartbeat, then the sound of a skateboard rolling back and forth, which quickly works into the rhythm on “Never Bored On A Board” which is probably the most loving, appreciative song about boarding sports ever, it also features a hell of a groove that’s so heavy with the hooks it’s difficult to shake. The imagery is dreamy, the music enchanting and after nearly four minutes of bliss as it fades out into the sounds of the surf, you’ve found one of your new favorite records. If the opener doesn’t quite sell you, it’s certain that “Shallow Water” certainly will, with its shouted invitation “Y’all ready to go swimming?” the song invites you in to one of the most upbeat rockers on the whole thing. “Open up that bottle of Pinot Noir, it’s time to celebrate again,” No. 7 Kid sings “So pour it tall, let’s make it last, because it does its job on helping me forget.” It’s a sentimental song that reflects on the need for more depth in ones relationships while looking over a troubled past. In my mind, this should clearly be the next single. “Just serve it on up!”

The single “Naked” was released last fall—if ever there was a song about such innocence and insouciance about being naked, this is it. I think this covers the glory and the shame all of us have felt physically in the instances, as the oh, so clever songwriter points out. This is life, this is how we’ve been, this is how we are and this is where we end up. We are naked in front of the ones that love us so, the ones that end up seeing us so and in the end we present a proud child to the glory of the world we have sought all our lives. Brilliant.  Opening with sounds of what could easily imagine as a Flying Saucer landing, “UFO Man” is a rolling fun number that plays out like a modern hip hop take on the Byrd’s “Hey Mr. Spaceman.” The singer has a  pleading need to join an extraterrestrial in intergalactic adventures, but not before he picks up his girl and guitar, in the end he just really wants the visitor to take him away. “Move On” is a beautiful acoustic number, a moving ode to grudgingly moving on in life, expressing the exhaustion of “loving blind with a patient mind.” The resolution lyrically is that the protagonist can only say with a wistful sense of surrender, “I guess I’ll move on to.” A truly touching number.

The follow up single, “Thank You New York”, is another stand out acoustic track, that comes incredibly close to Jack Johnson territory—not only for its laidback acoustic groove, but vocally No. 7 Kid finds his niche here and keeps a hold of it. A fantastic tribute to one of this nation’s greatest cities, lovingly delivered without irony. By the time the album reaches “Overwhelming Me” you are a little taken about just how self-reflective these songs are. There’s an emotional maturity here and an honest look at those moments in life when we can’t necessarily pinpoint it, but it feels a bit like we’re drowning. The swirling ending of “Overwhelming Me” chanted over and over again only server to make this metaphor a sonic reality.  The title track, “Kill It With Love” is the track that’s got the deepest investment in hip-hop and a groove that can’t be denied. It’s a street savvy number that may well show best the diversity and flexible range that could easily make The Wiley One the next big thing.

“Comedy”, which begins with sampled crowd laughter. “Because you lied to me, to set me free, but tragedy of comedy, it’s comedy,” clearly sets the tone that this particular comedy isn’t all that funny in tear soaked notes on a relationship slowly slipping away. There’s something startlingly honest and heartbreaking here and that kind of sentiment is hard to find these days. Following that up is the funky groove of “Sick Of The Scene” which has some of the most clever wisdom delivered on the album and addresses at length the idea of making the most of the time we’ve got to go after our dreams, to make every moment count and consider ones success in terms of happiness rather than wealth.  “Beat Down Broke Guitar” uses the metaphor of an old guitar to the weariness in ones soul, the guitar becomes a metaphor for an entire lifetime that has led to “Operation Broken Heart,” in which the need to walk away from this life and starting over is compared to tossing the old guitar into a fire. Clever, inventive and beautiful all at once.

“Acoustic Hip Hop Groove” is probably my favorite song on the album, perhaps because the music line reminds a bit of Schmilsson era Harry Nilsson, with horn to boot. The title says it all, but there is something utterly fun and smirking about this song, the acoustic hip hop groove is exactly that. The bluesy horns really make the sound, but it’s the combination of all the instruments on what proves to be the fullest production on the album. The No. 7 Kid sounds like he’s playing a carnival barker or a man standing outside a circus tent inviting people to enjoy the sounds inside, but the sounds are inside his heart and his mind. Pure brilliant fun. The harrowing beginning to “Seize The Day” is quite a contrast, and probably the only track that could be described as truly dark. While the other low key numbers on the album have been sentimental reflections, this is emotionally stark, the music sets a mood unlike anything else here, “You’re the lead actress in your own tragedy.” While, ostensibly a biting narration about heartbreak, tragedy and loss, it’s ultimately about moving on and raising oneself from the depths of the situation.

“Control” finishes the album with the heartbeat that began it all and plays like a reprise of the groove found on the album opener, it’s a brilliant short finale that leaves the listener with more than a little upbeat warmth. It quickly delivers more wisdom, “Control is an illusion, you power hungry maniac, please just stop before you give us all a heart attack.” It’s fun rhythm and hypnotic arrangement, belies the message being delivered, but in the end No. 7 Kid, confesses, “You know that I’ll be back.” And the heartbeat pounds to the albums finish.

The Wiley One’s Kill It With Love is filled with masterful strokes and designed on a recipe for success. Not too many artists are able to so clearly convey the raw emotion found here so honestly, much less deliver these reflections and dissertations on life, love and living across an entire universe of musical sounds. Kill It With Love has a consistent sound and The Wiley One’s sound is one that’s difficult to beat, whether you’re looking for a good time, a great time or time just to yourself to sit back and soak up all the grooves generously given here. Every single song just proves the talent and diversity of The Wiley One and I have little doubt this will end up on quite a few “Best Of The Year” lists, because it’s already on mine.

The Wiley One appropriately released Kill It With Love digitally on Valentine’s Day, and ten days later on February 24th they hosted an amazing album release party at Film Bar with Kush County and Catfish Mustache.  Never fear–if you want to spend this St. Patrick’s day in the right way, you can catch them offering support for Flogging Molly at the annual madness and mayhem found in Tempe Town Lake from Noon to Midnight. If you haven’t got your tickets yet, you better scramble to find them, as this is an all day event you won’t want to miss. Check out the flyer for that show below, then be sure to check out the link to purchase their brilliant album straight from iTunes!

Buy Kill It With Love on iTunes

(Editors Note: An edited version of this article appeared in the February issue of JAVA Magazine)