Exclusive Interview: Vo Williams talks becoming the soundtrack to African-American stories on TV

If you love popular TV, you’ve probably heard Vo Williams’ music. The hip-hop artist has coined his own brand within the genre, “Epic Hip-Hop,” which has earned him a coveted place in the soundtracks of big name shows such as Empire and Atlanta. For Williams, this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Earlier this month, I interviewed Williams about his work and how he feels about his music achieving his goal of showcasing different aspects of the African-American experience. He also discussed a dream of his to be on a certain high fantasy show with white walkers and a hero back from the dead.

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JUST ADD COLOR: What led you to your career in music? What made you want to become a successful musician?

Williams: When I was young, I used to watch music videos of Jimi Hendrix or Michael Jackson performing. Seeing those guys perform, there was something so magical and powerful about them. The influence they had over myself and over their fans really inspired me to feel that way. I wanted to share that kidn of feeling. That inspired me to start making music and sparked my interest in becoming a creator of music.

Your music has been on several big shows such as Empire, Ballers, Atlanta, Lethal Weapon, Saturday Night Live and so on. What’s it been like to have your music featured on these shows?

It’s incredible. I was able to work with Lethal Weapon and visit the set and see some of the production that goes into these shows, and anytime I see something like that I’m incredibly humbled. It takes so much great teamwork on a large scale and for all of that to come down to one scene and my music is chosen to drive that scene, it’s really humbling…It feels amazing for anytime I get that opportunity.

How did you come to describe your music as “Epic Hip Hop”?

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People were looking for a way to classify my sound, and I identify myself as somebody who’s drawn to things that are bold and iconic. In an attempt to describe my sound, people started calling it an epic hip-hop hybrid and “Epic Hip-Hop” just stuck. So any time anyone’s trying to introduce me to someone or introduce someone to my sound, they usually use that a description. It’s an approach to hip-hop that has a bigger sound. It could satisfy a stadium or really a drive a cinematic scene in film. It just has a larger and more impactful sound with more emotional gravity.

I’ve also read that you say that you want your music to provide a soundtrack to what’s going on in the entertainment world as far as African-American stories in entertainment. How do you feel that with the shows that have used your music, such as Ballers, Lethal Weapon, Empire, and Atlanta, which do feature African-American stories, how do you feel about your music being used for these shows’ soundtrack?

That’s a really interesting question. I think one of the reasons my music stands out to filmmakers in this process is that my natural sound and way of expression actually hits some of the notes necessary to drive picture or to drive film. Until now, until some of the stuff that we’re doing with Epic Hip-Hop, it’s been very difficult to find hip-hop that has that kind of scale and size to it. I think if you’re looking for hip-hop to drive a scene, you’re choosing my music because it really does have that sensibility for what film needs in order to be really impactful and lift picture. That’s not to say other forms of hip-hop don’t work because they certainly do…but I think one of the things that has made what we do a staple and a go-to is that it goes the extra mile and it is a great tool for filmmakers while still giving that authentic support for whomever’s story is being told through our culture.

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What are some shows on right now that you love watching or hope use your music?

Oh man. Not to sound braggadocios, but I’ve worked with every show that I love to watch. But I will say that Game of Thrones is one of my favorite shows I love to watch even though I know the probably won’t have hip-hop in it because its orchestral and it’s kind of like a period-type thing with the fantasy . I wish there was a moment where Jon Snow would break out and fight some white walkers to some epic hip-hop would be great. I know that’s not going to happen, but that would be dope. I think Atlanta is dope, I’d love to work with them again. Of course, Empire is dope and I’d love to work with them again. We’ve done the Super Bowl, I’ve got some music played in some spots in the NBA Finals, we’ve really covered the bases. It’s just my dream to continue to work with these great brands, if anything.

What would be your advice to others breaking into the music industry?

One thing I would say is to knock on the biggest door possible. I think it’s also important to work on your craft and make sure you really are providing a level of quality. I think it’s important to stay true to yourself and your authentic voice because no one is going to be able to do you better than you can do you. I also think it’s important to be humble and invest in yourself and invest in relationships because relationships are very important. ♦