Loyola Phoenix

The B-Side: Ric Wilson on his New EP and Activism in Art

Ric Wilson, also known as Disco Ric, chatted with WLUW’s music director Carolyn in the guest area at North Coast.

Ric Wilson is an up-and-coming hip-hop artist who grew up on Chicago’s South Side. The artist dropped his first extended play (EP) “Soul Bounce” in 2016 and has been performing and writing ever since. 

Aside from being an artist, Ric Wilson is also a committed activist. WLUW’s music director Carolyn Droke had the chance to catch up with him the day before his set at North Coast Music Festival. 

Carolyn: You released your third EP in May, called BANBA, which stands for “Black Art Not Bad Art.” Can you tell me a little about where your inspiration came from?

Ric: It was inspired by Basquiat. I remember that after Warhol died, Basquiat went into depression and started caring a lot about black art. Eventually, he went through a lot and ended up overdosing on heroin. This whole project was an ode to him, but it’s also the statement that “black art is not bad art.” Let’s look at black art through an anti-black lens. What does it mean looking at black art through an anti-black lens? Now let’s take off that lens and look at the art for what it is. That’s what I was inspired by. Many of the beats have an abstract feel to it, because I was drawing on inspiration from Basquiat paintings.

Carolyn: I like that. Is he one of your favorite artists?

Ric: Yeah, he’s definitely my favorite visual artist.

Carolyn: So, since BANBA came out only a few months ago, what has been the response to your record?

Ric: Being from Chicago, I think the people have responded pretty well. The Reader gave it four out of four stars, and he even compared me to the Chi-Lites and Curtis Mayfield. It was nice. It was a nice response.

Carolyn: You’ve played at Mamby on the Beach and now you’re here at North Coast. What has been your favorite summer moment since releasing this album?

Ric: My favorite summer moment? Well, I went to L.A. to work on something really special with a friend of mine. I can’t tell you who the friend is, though! But it will be a really big feature for me.

Carolyn: Oh, okay. A secret announcement coming up soon?

Ric: Yeah, pretty much. It’s going to be really huge. I’m really excited for that.

Carolyn: Awesome, stay tuned everyone! I understand you’ve worked with a lot of activist groups in Chicago, and you also got the chance to go to Switzerland, Cambodia and South Korea. Tell me a little about those opportunities and what you took from them.

Ric: It definitely made me a better citizen of the world. In America, we live in a bubble. I remember getting off of the plane in Cambodia and I realized we really live in a bubble. There’s this whole world going on and we act like we don’t know. I gained from it a lot.

Carolyn: How did that realization influence your music?

Ric: In a lot of ways. It made me make music that’s more digestible for people all around the world, rather than just Chicago. But, in Chicago it’s the best music, so I think music expands from here. It’s already world-wide.

Carolyn: What was some of the activist work you were involved in?

Ric: I was involved in organizing several protests here in the city [of Chicago] and I was selected to be a youth representative before the United Nations when I was only 19. Because I worked in several various groups, other organizations would get in contact with me. UIC (University of Illinois at Chicago) hired me to do some social justice research work in Cambodia and study the genocide that’s happening there. My goal was to research what was happening and figure out how to take some of those policies back here to Chicago and better our prison systems. Also, to make our prison systems more humane, which, is really weird.

Carolyn: Was it that Cambodia had better prison systems compared to the U.S.?

Ric: No, they actually had little to no prison systems. The Khmer Rouge and all those who committed these crimes against these people still live in the same communities with them. So, I think it was a big thing for us to research here how they were able to elect people back into their community, to see what that looked like and what that process was.

Carolyn: How do you think your activism interplays with your art?

Ric: I have something to say, and people know that it’s going to be a certain stand when they listen to me. They don’t have to worry about being offended when they listen to me. So, I think that’s pretty cool.

Carolyn: Tell me about some of your other inspirations for your music.

Ric: I like TV shows a lot. I would always like my music to be in something like Insecure. Film has really inspired me a lot so I would love my music to be in some films. I’m also in a film coming up. A Netflix Original. I’m in Easy, I’m a character acting. Someone is at a concert of mine.

Carolyn: Do you have any crazy show experiences?

Ric: I played a JVTB set with Monaco and React. One of the people who works in the office popped a backflip during a soul train at my set. That was really cool.

Carolyn: What are some of your favorite venues to perform at here in Chicago?

Ric: Lincoln Hall and Schubas. Those are my favorite venues. I love those venues. I did a really cool four-way soul train at Metro. Those are my favorite three venues so far. But we’ll see, the more I play at other places.

Carolyn: What about some artists you’re stoked to see here at North Coast?

Ric: I’m excited to see Miguel. I’m excited to see DVSN. I just saw Monte Booker. I wish I could see Jamiroquai, but I have a wedding I have to go to.

Carolyn: If you could imagine a dream collab with anyone dead or alive, who would you collab with?

Ric: James Brown, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Sam Cooke, Pharrell, KAYTRANADA, Monte Booker, actually. All on one album. They’re my friends, but BadBadNotGood and I have been working on some stuff as well. That’s a dream of mine.

Carolyn: Cool. So, I was looking through your tweets, and I saw you just had a tweet about Venus Williams and her dad defending her confidence go viral. Kayne retweeted you.

Ric: *laughs* Yeah, that was crazy actually. What happened was, Chance and I are good friends. Sometimes Chance likes and retweets my tweets. When he retweets them, it’s like a gateway into A-List celebritism. Gabrielle Union saw the tweet, I guess, and she tweeted it. Everyone saw it. Kanye saw it and was like “this is the confidence we need out here.” Maybe the tweet resonated with him because he’s a black dad. But it was cool because he almost never retweets.

Ric Wilson played an energetic set as he opened Day Two of North Coast Music Festival. Even though the set was delayed due to weather, Ric Wilson managed to get everyone to dance in the crowd. 

Ric played several songs from his new EP “Banba,” as well as hits including “Hang Loose” and “Soul Bounce.” He ended the set by starting a soul train the the middle of the crowd. The crowd parted ways to form a line down the center for brave individuals to showcase their dance moves. Ric jumped down at the end and joined. 

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